If this is your first time reading this series you’ll get the most value by starting with the first article. Note for the already tech savvy, IT professionals, and our regular readers: this is designed as a resource as you help others or for those looking to become tech savvy on their own.
Background, Expectations, & Best Practices
I have yet to find any books or resources that discuss the foundation and most important factor in becoming tech savvy (or learning anything), your mindset. Research shows that people with a growth mindset are more likely to achieve success in part because they believe they can. Alternately, people with a fixed mindset, who believe they can only achieve according to ingrained talent or aptitude are more likely to give up on their goals.
The reason having the right mindset is so critical is because your state of mind controls your thoughts and your thoughts directly impact your behaviors. Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck has been researching this topic for over twenty years and is credited with popularizing the term ‘growth mindset.’
Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has created a highly influential movement, but a fixed mindset and a focus on the results instead of the process are still common in mainstream culture. No matter our age, experience, or in what context we’re learning this is the heart of what holds us back or moves us forward in any endeavor and we often don’t realize it.
Here’s how these two mindsets sound and feel different:
Image source: Project Happiness
Science has found the most important factor in our achievement of any endeavor is not talent, but more specifically how much we apply deliberate practice to our work. The belief that you can improve paired with deliberate practice is what creates success. This is the topic of Geof Colvin’s Talent Is Overrated and also an article he wrote for Forbes Magazine called What it takes to be great. Colvin explains how a fixed state of mind limits us:
The critical reality is that we are not hostage to some naturally granted level of talent. We can make ourselves what we will. Strangely, that idea is not popular. People hate abandoning the notion that they would coast to fame and riches if they found their talent. But that view is tragically constraining, because when they hit life’s inevitable bumps in the road, they conclude that they just aren’t gifted and give up.
Just as Colvin found in his research, Dweck has also shared that having a growth mindset is not enough on its own. You need an effective strategy for your goals and deliberate practice and effort to achieve success. Here are some of her cautions:
“But the growth mindset movement has pitfalls, too. Prodding students to increase effort alone, telling them they would have done better if they had tried harder, isn’t enough,” Dweck said. Without suggesting learning strategies when students are stymied and judiciously offering help at the right time, a student may feel more incompetent if more effort doesn’t work. Telling students to “keep trying and you’ll get it” does not instill a growth mindset, Dweck said. “I call it nagging.”
This is why we’ll cover effective and efficient strategies to becoming tech savvy as we continue on in this series. It’s definitely important, but first let’s continue on with the foundation of your success.
These findings about the value of a growth mindset are most exciting because it means our behaviors (choices) are the biggest factors for success, not genetics, age, happenstance, or external circumstances. Sometimes our feelings and beliefs can seem so concrete and immutable, but they can be changed by adjusting our mindset and the stories we tell ourselves (and repeat over and over).
Here is a great visual, on the left is a popular romantic view of how success works through a fixed mindset lens and often the ‘if you have the talent’ misperception. On the right, how success really works with a growth mindset, this will work for anyone with belief and deliberate practice.
Image source: TheLeaderinMe.org
Tony Robbins talks about how our strategy for a goal rarely holds us back, but the culprits are usually our state (mindset) and our story (what ideas to we keep repeating). He illustrates the power of these factors with two perfect examples in this video. He says:
You need a different state of mind, because the state you’re in will determine your story. Did you ever notice when you’re really really angry with somebody, suddenly you can remember every story of anything they’ve done that’s upset you?
Did you ever know when you’re totally in love with somebody…when you’re in that state what’s wrong in your life? Nothing! And when you’re in that state with somebody what will you do for them? Anything!
Is it true that we get in habits of the states we’re in? You bet we do. It’s easy to get in the habit of being pissy or angry or sad or feeling depressed. And here’s the worst part, it feels terrible, but you’ve gone there so often that it feels like home for you, meaning, it’s comfortable because you know it and you’ve gotta break out of that.
So you can break out of that in the most simple ways…the fastest way to change your state is a radical change in the way you move. Because emotion is what creates motion. Fear is physical, so is courage, so is energy. And if you want to know the simple solution to fear, there is only one, massive action.
One way Robbins recommends changing our state is by doing twenty jumping jacks, pushups, or squats. This instantly changes our biochemistry and get us in a better state to create a helpful story.
Children are great models for positive states of mind as they are usually taking action and confident they can acquire new skills. Excitement, optimism and natural curiosity for growth drives their learning. They are eager to try themselves, even if they fail the first time, or many times. They are also not content to watch others do something for them or be helped for too long.
I love this video as the little guy exemplifies learning and exploring life with zest and a helpful mindset. Can you feel the momentum he created by talking about his effort, failures, and success? We won’t always feel exactly like this, but I always keep this in the back of my mind when I come up against challenges and ask myself, ‘how can I view this as a cool opportunity?’, ‘what perspective would make this seem fun?’, or ‘of course I’ll figure this out eventually!’
We can make up our minds to feel how we want, but like Tony Robbins says, we may need to recondition and put in some effort to change our ‘home’ or default state. As you become more consistent with keeping a growth mindset, remember not to be too hard on yourself, it isn’t a fixed thing for anyone. Our feelings, people around us, the weather, and all sorts of external factors have the potential to influence us.
Don’t worry if you notice yourself thinking through a fixed mindset lens. The goal is to become more aware of your mindset and choose a beneficial perspective as much as possible. This will be the cornerstone of your success. The awesome part about building your growth mindset is the more you use it, the more momentum it creates and the easier it is to keep using.
Shawn Achor describes why this happens in The Happiness Advantage:
When our brains constantly scan for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and optimism. The role happiness plays should be obvious—the more you pick up on the positive around you, the better you’ll feel—and we’ve already seen the advantages to performance that brings. The second mechanism at work here is gratitude, because the more opportunities for positivity we see, the more grateful we become. Psychologist Robert Emmons, who has spent nearly his entire career studying gratitude, has found that few things in life are as integral to our well-being. Countless other studies have shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely. And it’s not that people are only grateful because they are happier, either; gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes. When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.
Next week we’ll dive specifically into creating a positive narrative about yourself as a technology user. But now that we’ve covered how important a growth mindset is to your goals and how it works, here are your next steps.
1. What children around you can be a model for choosing a growth mindset? How do they uniquely approach learning and exploring?
2. Reflect on your past growth. What new skills have you learned in last few years? How will that success transfer to your success with becoming tech savvy?
3. List three reasons why you’re able to become tech savvy.
4. Even if you didn’t realize at the time, when have you used a fixed mindset and when have you used a growth mindset? How did the two experiences feel different? What was the process like? What were the results like?
5. Spend 3-5 (or more) minutes imagining yourself using technology with ease and confidence. What are you accomplishing? What are you creating? How does it feel?