The Importance of Dealing with Stretch when Tackling Big, Audacious Goals

Have you ever noticed that people tackle big challenges and opportunities really differently? I’ve been observing this lately as I hang out with a bunch of entrepreneurs and there appears to be a common approach amongst the entrepreneur set.  When approached with a new idea or big opportunity, they will frequently say "Hell yes, of course I can", then work out how to do it if and when they win the business.  And yet much of the rest of the population (including many women) are far more likely to demure until they feel better prepared.

The “Hell yes!” approach – so what do these people know that others don’t?

#1 They have a growth mindset

Dr Carol Dweck, Stanford University, introduced the concept of fixed and growth mindsets - with a growth mindset meaning those who understand that their abilities, capabilities and IQ are pliable, can expand and increase with challenge and stimulation. This growth mindset means you are far less likely to hesitate than those with a fixed mindset and understand you can do almost anything you put your mind to as long as you are prepared:

  • to make mistakes,
  • to be distinctly uncomfortable and
  • to do the work.

#2 They are agile learners

They understand that just in time learning is equally as valid (if not more) as old school learning. The ability to be agile represents the “ability to respond quickly to the fast pace of change” in your market or area - and to learn from experience without becoming rigid.  According to research by Korn Ferry:

"Companies with the most agile learners among their executive ranks have profit margins 25 percent higher than those of other, similar companies." (bold added)

Interestingly female entrepreneurs and C suite executives score really well in agile learning according to an Inc. article entitled Why Women Entrepreneurs Make the Best Leaders.

 #3 They understand of the “rules of the game”

It's as though these people have been let in on some different rules than others - and they have some innate understanding that this is actually the way the rules of the game are played. According to them, the rules of the success game include putting yourself out there whether you believe you are fully prepared or not.  Tara Sophia Mohr, author of Playing Big, writes about how men and women might interpret the rules of the success game differently with her research into the much quoted statistic from some internal Hewlett Packard research indicating that;

men will apply for roles knowing they only meet 60% of the criteria while women will only apply if they meet 100%.

And while in this instance I'm not writing about the differences between male and female brain biology, according to Mohr's research, it would appear that more men than women understand these rules.

 #4 They realise the importance of stretch

When you stretch, you grow and your brain operates much like your body. It’s an awful lot like training in the gym. When you push yourself a little harder or further each time, you achieve more - becoming stronger, fitter or more flexible. When you stretch your brain i.e. expose yourself to new ways of thinking, tackle new projects or big goals, you actually help your brain grow and your brain loves it - with the reward centres of your brain lighting up like a Xmas tree.  

#5 They understand the success and confidence correlation

These “champions” understand that success correlates equally as closely IF NOT MORE closely to confidence as competence.  It's as though they don't allow feelings of fear an discomfort to distract them from their main goal or trigger a flight back to compliance and competence based thinking - according to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in The Confidence Code.

So what's your style?

So when someone offers you a big opportunity that might be outside of your comfort zone - how do you respond?   

Vive la révolution! 

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor ambitious men and women to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.

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