From my heart to yours, I just want you to know that your impact is special. You deserve to make that impact and you deserve to have a business that actually aligns with an impact…Don't be kinder to other people who you don't know, than you would be to yourself, be your own biggest fan. Be your own cheerleader. We spend far too much time as our own worst enemies.
I know, I know. It’s November. Isn’t it kinda early to start planning for next year? I used to wait until January to have my annual business retreat and make all my big plans for the year.
But now I don’t do that anymore. Now I kick into gear in the fall and I’m so glad I do!
Why you should start your annual business plan now:
You get your brainstorming wheels turning
Once you begin brainstorming for next year, you’re bound to keep thinking of ideas to test out. It’s just how your mind is made to work. You’ll start noticing something a competitor is doing that you really like. You’ll see an ad on TV or hear somethign on the radio that inspires you.
If you’ve started the process in the fall, you’ll have plenty of time to sprinkle in your fun ideas in the coming months.
January is an ideal time to SELL not PLAN to sell
If you’re hoping to begin planning in January, you’re missing out on trying new ideas during one of the heaviest booking months of the year. Having a plan already in place for January means you’re building natural buzz and momentum around your business and your new offers.
So, how do I prep for my new year? Here are 3 simple ways to prepare your business for the new year NOW:
3 ways to prepare your business for the new year now
Grab yourself a dry-erase friendly 12-month wall calendar and a white board, and get creative! Here’s what goes on my calendar first:
Plan your booked work
The first…and most obvious thing I get on a calendar right away is any work I’ve already got booked. I want to see what I’ve already got going on for next year so I can plan around that and factor in any lead time for client work.
Plan your marketing
Next I plan my marketing. This has been a fun addition to my yearly planning and I can’t get over how much it has made me feel like the Wizard of Oz in my own business. I used to be scared of marketing. I used to think that selling was “sleezy.”
But making a yearly marketing plan has helped me let go of those MAJOR limiting beliefs and instead, have tons of fun trying new things in my business.
Why? Because I know I was put here for a reason. I know there are people I am here to help, love, and serve. So, learning how to get my business in front of those people is so so important. And it is for you too, beautiful friend.
I’m hosting a LIVE online workshop to help YOU master your marketing plan for next year. Reserve your seat for this live online workshop now and get direct time with me to brainstorm, map out your marketing plan, and learn how to create an offer that will sell.
Plan your goals
One of my FAVORITE things to do is to plan my goals for next year. This part is probably great for your whiteboard. For now, schedule time to make your goals-whatever you really want from next year, write that out. I’ll share more on my goal-setting approach in a future post, but here’s the big thing I want you to think through:
How do you want to feel a year from now? What does success really look like to you?
Get in touch with that and then make your goals that will get you from where you are now to that feeling a year from now. Think through what you’d like to accomplish in your business, your personal life, your health, and your spiritual life.
And ask yourself-do I want this or do I think I’m supposed to do this? Often we get a little tangled up thinking that there’s a formula we’re “supposed” to follow in life and business. This is the perfect time to do a check in and see if you’re doing what YOU want to do, or if you’re doing what SOMEONE ELSE does thinking you’ll get their results.
(OH, heads up, you won’t.)
So as you prepare for your coming year, let’s jumpstart your year together! Join my Master Your Marketing workshop today!
Chances are, you're your own boss (even if this is a side gig). You're the engine that grinds this whole business thing forward and you're where the buck stops. I've gotta be real with you-sometimes that terrifies me. Anyone else feel that pressure sometimes? It used to look like these thoughts swarming around in my mind:
- "What if I have an off day?"
- "What if I'm sick?"
- "What if what I'm doing doesn't work and I have NO clue?"
So, for a while, I wouldn't do ANYTHING. Obviously, that didn't get me too far...at least not FORWARD! It took me a year of mindset work and creating routines and habits to see how to create a week filled with intention and success.
Here’s my secret sauce that create a work week that allows for coffee with a friend, taking care of my baby, and still driving profits to my business.
Secret #1: Create your morning and evening routines
Think of a garden-if you're planting vegetables, you first make the container or bed to plant your vegetables in. Your morning and evening routines are your containers! Now, what you put inside them is where you'll start seeing some magic! Because once you have the container, you can plant seeds and see growth!
When you've got a killer morning and evening routine, all that mindset and energy work you're doing will start to take hold in your life.
While I'm a mama and my morning and evening routines are flexible right now, here's what I'm doing for my growth:
My morning routine
I get up before my son's first morning feeding (he's sleeping through the night now) and go for a walk. During this time, I listen to nature, focus on breathing, and begin practicing gratitude.
When I get back, I make or enjoy my coffee and read for a few minutes. Honestly, my reading time is pretty brief right now-I don't have a ton of stamina here but reading stamina is like muscle-you can increase it over time. Right now, I'm happy if I stay awake to read for 5 minutes, but I look forward to when it's 6 minutes...then 7...you get it!
After reading, I take time for prayer and meditation and follow up with journaling. And of course, journaling leads to brainstorming, which is when I have my best ideas!
My Evening Routine
Why make an evening routine? Your subconscious mind controls 95% of your actions...WHOA. And it's most active while you sleep. So...if you want to shift your subconscious thinking, the best time to do it is right before it's most active! Give it some fuel! During this time, I do some specific reading, affirmations, and meditation. Then, as Stephen and I fall asleep, we share what we're grateful for.
Secret #2: Make space for your best ideas
Even if I only do this on Monday mornings (which totally happens), I take time to journal. I write prayers, get burdens and stressors off my chest, make mind maps, lists, and write out dreams. Then I breathe for a minute.
I know I’ve talked about journaling...like so much forever but what about the breath before the journaling?
That’s the magic!
During that time, ideas flood my brain. Why? (tell me you already know why!) Because there's ROOM for them now!! Making SPACE is seriously when the magic happens. I've drafted numerous course outlines, coaching content ideas, and marketing plans during this deeply powerful time! That's some mega brainstorming!
Secret #3: Focus on your top 2-3 goals for the week and day
I ask this in our private facebook group often because I ask myself every monday: "If I only got 2-3 things done this week, what are my big goals?" I focus on tasks that first serve my core purpose, second connect me to the people who need my message, and third that drive my bottom line.
You can get a million tiny tasks done, but what if you could do 2-3 BIG things that resonated with your tribe and really shifted your business? Wouldn’t you rather have that?
How about you? What's the secret sauce to creating your intentional week?
Every year since 2012, we've taken a weekend in late January to plan our business for the year. Sometimes we get away for the weekend, other times, we make hardcore reservations on our couch...you feel me? But each year, we create a plan that drives our business for the entire year.
But what if I don't have time for a weekend of planning?
It's been a complete game-changer for us, but it can be tough to find that time. Whether you have a family to take care of, a busy business you can't step back from, or just a crazy pace of life, taking a weekend away does mean hitting the pause button on a few things that can feel too important to pause.
But you really can't afford not to! Here's what you're missing out on if you're not creating a yearly plan for your business.
You have nothing to aim for
In the "go" and "do," it's natural to start going through the motions! In fact, it can be so easy to "book-shoot-deliver" that you don't pull yourself up for a breath. It's in that frantic pace, in that focus on the minutia that you lose your point of view. When YOU lose your point of view, CLIENTS will be repelled from you because they don't really see and hear what you're all about.
You don’t know what’s broken when something isn’t working
One year, I was running on autopilot and stopped to look around in September of that year. No one was booking us and all of a sudden I felt a cold, hard panic! I had NO CLUE why! Why didn't I have a clue? Because I was just going through the motions, doing the next thing and not tending to my big picture. When I realized that there was a problem, not only was I clueless about WHAT the problem really was, but I was so frantic to change something, that I tried to change everything and still didn't see results! I spent time choosing new website templates and platforms. I curated my portfolio, asked for reviews, posted on social media each day, etc. But still...no one was finding us, so I churned harder!
What I hadn't yet learned was that a good yearly plan includes ways to test and troubleshoot to know how to get your desired responses. When I learned and began implementing this skill, I was in control. I knew how to chart, test, and change things in my business!
You’re just going through the motions
There's something to be said for automating your business. But automating and going through the motions without emotional investment are two different things! Why is this a problem? When you're going through the motions, potential clients and booked clients start to feel it. You'll start hearing people complain that you are "checked out" or "don't seem to care" about them. Creating that yearly plan allows you to stay focused on those dear clients and give them your best because the REST is running like a machine.
You feel burnout and anxiety
I've mentioned above how you can miss problems, go through the motions, and run a business with nothing to aim for. Those things can happen, yes. But how do they impact you, dear entrepreneur? That precious creativity you'd like to foster, that energy you want to have in reserves, that vision and focus you envision yourself having...you trade that all in for anxiety and burnout. Why? You're spending your time grinding, keeping your head down, facing problems you don't know how to fix. It wears you out. And you deserve better.
There’s never a feeling of “enoughness” in your business
When you don't have the focus that a yearly business plan can give you, how do you ever know when you have enough? When you can reward yourself? When you can be proud of your accomplishments? You can't because there's always one more thing. Don't do that to yourself!
So, what do you you really want from this next year? Go ahead, comment below and share in the conversation: What do you want from your business in 2018?
Ready to learn what types of goals to make in your business? Attend my FREE live training by signing up HERE
I run a seasonal business and we’re headed into our slow season. Sometimes slow season can bring on the financial scaries. It used to make me want to hibernate until busy season again and keep all that money I have stored up to make it through.
I used to struggle a lot with a very scarcity-driven mindset surrounding my slow season income. You feel me, don’t you? I mean, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees! All I know is that giving up this money in front of me means I have to shortchange something else, right?
WRONG! I learned this huge lesson over the past year about money in business:
There’s a difference between spending and investing!
When I spend, the money leaves. When I invest, I should see myself get paid back somehow. So, I made some of my biggest investments yet, and I got to see firsthand how they paid off in big ways! Let’s take a look at them and see just how big the payoff was!
(head's up, if you're unfamiliar with the term ROI, it means "return on investment.")
My biggest business investments in 2017 and their ROI
Seeing a counselor
January brought me the painful loss of my second baby. Add in some additional trauma a month later and I quickly realized I was struggling with depression (more like my caring husband realized it and encouraged me to seek help). I probably owe this dear woman about 17 boxes of tissues...but with her help, I began healing and finding hope again. If you take nothing else away from this, I just want you to know this: Sometimes life is hard. Get help when you need it. We were never meant to do life alone.
My ROI: hope, realigned priorities, healthy relationship with God, community in my church
Finding the right accountant
This one was a massive ROI for me. My previous arrangement caused me to suffer some severe fiscal losses, so you can imagine my relief when I immediately saw an ROI on this investment and change!
My ROI: 10x my investment. I cried in my accountant’s office. So grateful!
Hiring a business coach
Want to know which investment I spent the most on? And which one KEEPS paying off in dividends? It's business coaching-easily my strongest investment of my year. I was so embarrassed and terrified to hire a coach-I didn’t want ANYONE to know I needed help! But I quickly realized that we ALL need help!
I had some intense mindset issues to work through. But I worked hard and quickly started seeing breakthroughs. Within 2 months of the end of my coaching, I had created 2 new businesses (Stephanie Booth Photography and The Successful Creative), monetized both, and repaid my coaching investment...but check out that ROI!
My ROI: 3x my coaching investment in two months, generated from completely new avenues. Think about that. I spent the MOST money here. Which means seeing money come into my life at that rate means...I welcomed a lot of money into my life after letting a lot go! In addition, the most powerful ROI I gained was the strength of mindset to recognize and own my strengths and build out a diversified business. How much would those returns be worth to you? What's the pricetag?
Hiring an assistant
After months of struggling to find time to send out client gifts, it made sense to hire someone to assemble my client print boxes and send them out. It was a test idea-while at first I was hung up on letting go of money for something I could technically do, paying her (and paying her well!) allowed me to make 6x that amount during the time she worked for me. Ummmm...What the heck took me so long?
My ROI: 6x-because someone was doing this valuable work for me, I made time to meet with a potential freelance client and they booked me on the spot
How will you invest into your business in 2018?
It’s the time of year where a lot of people start thinking about their education for the coming year. What will you invest into that will bring you lasting value? And how much is that return worth to you? If you knew now that you could get a return of 4-10 times your money, what would you invest into? If I could give you one tip it's this: consider business coaching. You won't regret it!
Want to pick my brain about any of these investments? Let's set up a free 30 min call and chat!
Every business owner has a nightmare client-the kind that makes you wonder why you left your stable job to work with these people. I've had a handful in the past few years, but quitting was never a more serious consideration than in two particular cases. Both times left me with sleepless nights, a bitter taste in my mouth and a feeling of hopelessness. I felt like the only light at the end of the tunnel was closing the doors and going back to substitute teaching.
The two clients that made me want to quit
I attracted two clients into our business that made me want to quit. Both were ugly scenarios-low pay, high work, degrading treatment, and ultimately left me asking if owning a business was really worth it. Both clients left me asking “why did this happen? I genuinely cared for these people and wanted to serve them!” While I can’t change another person, the reality is, when I took a step back, I could see ways I could take responsibility even before they booked with us.
The one mistake I made to attract my worst clients
While I may have tweaked our sales call format, and finessed our client care process since then, the reality is that the single misstep I made was this:
I was desperate.
And because I was desperate, I wasn’t confident in my value. I wasn’t comfortable with each of these clients walking away from us and felt like my business depended on them booking us. We felt like we NEEDED them to hire us...even though it was a bad fit.
3 lessons I learned from my worst clients
Lesson #1: Trust your gut
I recently read about a study done on a group of women who were well versed in the luxury handbag market. They shopped for, owned, and resold luxury handbags regularly and, in this study, they were shown two identical looking bags-a designer and a knock off. They were divided into groups and given two chunks of time to identify the real designer bag. The first group was given 5 seconds to identify the designer handbag and the second group was given 30 seconds. The 5 second group identified the designer bag with startling accuracy while the 30 second group always struggled to choose the correct bag.
Moral of the story: when you’re well-versed in something, trusting your gut will prove more accurate than spending time contemplating all the options. When you're experienced, more time to choose a plan usually leads you to overthink things. If you have the experience to back you, trust your gut reaction.
Lesson #2: Be the expert guide
Because I was learning and growing, I didn’t know how to guide my clients. I went through adolescent phases of trying to do so-eagerly agreeing with them and letting them feel like I was their enthusiastic cheerleader, trying to be aloof toward clients until they worshipped me (isn’t that like, super luxury??), but ultimately, the best approach for me was to be an expert guide.
This means that I’m fully confident in my value and expertise, but I guide my clients with recommendations and experience. I use helpful words like “recommend” and “suggest” instead of “should” and “only.” This allows me to share my knowledge when it’s wanted, but still gives my clients full decision making liberty.
And ultimately, I’m not God-things could go far differently than I thought-there are always precedent-setting circumstances in my line of work. I don’t want to have pressured my clients into something and then have it come back on me afterward if something goes poorly. I want my clients to have the best information to make the decisions that make them happiest.
And when I started applying this approach, my clients trusted me even more as a vast wealth of knowledge and a trusted resource they could rely on.
Lesson #3: Believe in your value
Believing in my value ultimately came down to needing to change my mindset. Instead of a scarcity-driven belief that the client in front of me was my golden ticket to my next paycheck, I began adopting the belief that the clients I wanted were already out there for me and they’d find me in the right time. There was plenty for everyone and I’d have enough (clients, pay, work, publicity, etc). Just this shift in my thinking created a much more relaxed, positive, and confident approach.
Now our meetings have become much more like a great date. By the end, I’m willing to leave without a kiss goodnight and they are only leaving if we have a second date scheduled. Ideal, right?
You'd better believe that these lessons created massive shifts in our business! Drop a comment below-have you been burned by a client before? What have you learned from it?
If you’ve followed and/or identified with my story about recognizing my fixed mindset, (my childhood story and my business story, 6 signs you have a fixed mindset) you’re likely wondering “what can I do about it?” Thankfully, with dedication, these 3 simple tools will help you start catching your fixed mindset and choosing a growth mindset! Do you already do any of these? Which has been most helpful? Comment below and share!
3 simple steps you can take to adopt a growth mindset
1. Journal toward a growth mindset
Journaling itself can be deeply therapeutic, but specific techniques in journaling can help reveal and release long held blocks and old mindset patterns. Here are a few techniques that helped me:
I would get up in the morning and journal freestyle for 10 minutes. For me, this looked like a lot of prayers. It allowed me to unload the negative thoughts I woke up with, worries, fears, and general overwhelm off my brain and give it someplace else to live. You can get Morning Pages journals like this one, but I personally just got up and wrote in my "ugly purple notebook." That notebook is filled with heartbreak, hope, prayers, ideas, growth, and change. It's ugly, but I love it to death!
Story Brand Productivity sheets
I’d follow up my morning pages time with a productivity sheet, helping me assess procrastination, and separate the important tasks (things that moved my bottom line forward) from the frenetic pace of the everyday to-do list. For those feeling like they're constantly spinning wheels and not actually moving their business forward, try this tool-it's amazing!
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a deeply powerful (and simple!) way to begin retraining your brain on how to think surrounding problems themselves. People with fixed mindsets often view problems as insurmountable. Any form of a next step is unlikely because just the fact that they faced opposition was a sign of failure, so the only response to a problem is to freeze. CBT suggests that you should record the problem, along with 3 truths surrounding the problem to reframe how you think about it.
I never knew how to brainstorm. This reinforced the idea that I could think of solutions to my problems and I could solve them for myself. Since problems or opposition was a sign that I was a failure, I would meet a problem and just freeze. Learning to brainstorm was the most powerful tool I developed! All of a sudden, I was making progress and these massive mountains became small mounds to simply step over.
2. Speak out loud to shift how you think
There’s a profound connection between what you talk about and what your brain subconsciously wants. The more you talk about something out loud, the more likely it is to happen.
I found that, once I listened to myself, I was extremely harsh on myself. I’d regularly walk around my home saying things like “Stephanie, you stupid idiot. Who does that?” It’s so sad to think that those are actual words that I regularly spoke to myself-things that are too unkind to even say to others. But I believed it.
I began catching myself saying those harsh things and correcting myself out loud, like this: “No, I’m an intelligent woman, created lovingly by God. I am doing too many things at once and lost focus, because I’m human. It’s okay.” It was like giving myself a little side hug and giving myself permission to be imperfect and regroup. I had no clue I was so hard on myself until I listened to myself and began changing that.
If you're not someone who talks out loud to yourself like me (haha!), it's still deeply powerful to speak truth about yourself, God, your goals, and your abilities.
3. Seek professional help
I saved the scariest for last. Asking for help is so tough-it feels like a failure or defeat! I felt like if I told people I was seeing a counselor or working with a business coach, they'd judge me as crazy or incapable, like I was admitting to everyone I was a mess. Aren't we all? Why did I think admitting that should be a problem? But, when I swallowed my pride and reached out to people, asking for help, I found that my biggest growth happened during that season. I needed that extra support and felt proud that I asked for it! (as should you, if you do!)
Please know that if you are working to change your mindset, it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to ask someone to walk that journey with you and it’s okay to be vulnerable with someone you trust. You don't need to share that with anyone-just take the next right step.
I sought help after my last miscarriage and after realizing that my business was in an 8 month lull of no bookings. I was broken hearted and burned out. So I sought help. For me, that looked like seeing a counselor in my church to help me mend my heart along with working with a business coach who specialized in mindset and removing blocks. I worked on my heart, my mind, and my business and it moved me forward with support, and love. I couldn’t have made such massive shifts in my life without these two precious women.
Should we work together on your mindset?
If you’d like support as you work to shift your mindset, let’s talk! I’m a business coach who’s been there and I have resources and support ready for you.
Here’s how you can work with me on releasing your fixed mindset and embracing a growth mindset as you build your business:
I got called a perfectionist every so often while growing up. I thought it was a badge of honor, to own, but inside I knew it didn't truly describe me.
Perfectionists have an internal drive to be great at everything. They put pressure on themselves even if no one saw their work and they made sure their work was it’s best from start to finish.
I on the other hand only cared about what people saw. I hid an impressive stack of incompletes, rarely got a “clean desk award,” and often got in trouble for my messy bedroom.
I only did my best work at the beginning and then, when it felt like no one would see it, I’d stop trying. While I was called a perfectionist, I was more frequently called “lazy.” I felt like I was both a perfectionist AND lazy, but couldn’t figure out why.
Now I know that I was neither lazy nor a perfectionist. What I actually had was a fixed mindset.
I’ve already received an influx of messages and comments from people identifying with my story and wondering what to do about their fixed mindset, so let’s break down the pieces: how do you actually spot a fixed mindset? Here are some of the key traits-all of which describe who I was perfectly. Is this you?
Are you a perfectionist? Or just struggle with a fixed mindset like me? Comment below if this resonates with you—I’d love to hear your experience!
1. A fixed mindset believes their talent and traits are fixed assets
The real rub comes when these fixed assets are challenged. When you believe you’re permanently “good” at something and then you experience failure, it’s personally devastating. For instance, that time I sang in public and my voice cracked? I had a personal meltdown. I had a crisis because if I thought I was good at music and still failed, was I really just a self-deluded washup? Often people with fixed mindsets experience mid-life crises and other feelings of worthlessness and self doubt after failure.
2. A fixed mindset is risk averse
This person avoids challenges, especially if there’s no guarantee they’ll be successful. My literal worst nightmare was team sports. How could anyone want to play team sports? Even if you’re “good at sports,” you may still lose. Losing is failure. Failure only happens when you’re bad at something.
3. A fixed mindset believes effort is for those not smart enough
You'll likely never catch someone with a fixed mindset studying for tests, prepping for lessons, presentations, or other public performances. Though they appear careless as they brush off studying, etc. the fixed mindset person carries around continual anxiety and inadequacy. Going into a test, knowing you didn’t study is your ultimate personal challenge. But the stakes are high and you can’t be sure you won’t fail. And failure can look like anything less than an A, perfect review, or glowing feedback from your new idea.
4. A fixed mindset covers their flaws and is defensive if they’re pointed out
Flaws may be human, but to the person with a fixed mindset, they are fatal and must be hidden at all times. Often, pointing out flaws in any way to a person with a fixed mindset will result in a diversionary tactic, an over reaction, or even a vicious response, depending on the threat level.
5. A fixed mindset views feedback as a personal attack
This person will sweat more over their reviews than the actual reason they’re being reviewed. In my case, I would be sick to my stomach knowing I had a teacher review of my teaching demonstration, even though I hadn’t been terribly nervous to teach.
I also held a job requiring that I garner feedback every other year from the people I managed. Each year, I would start knowing “this is review year.” It would loom over my entire year, causing me anxiety, and shading everything I did. I would have been scheduled to administer and review these 100 feedback forms twice while in this position and my superiors forgot each time. Each time it was forgotten, I’d be so relieved that I’d celebrate. For a while afterward, I counted it one of my biggest accomplishments in that job that I got through 3 years without the bi-annual feedback forms.
6. A fixed mindset is threatened by the success of others
Since your traits and talents are fixed, you tend to believe that your success is also fixed. If someone else finds themselves experiencing exponential growth, success of any kind, or just happiness apart from their success, you feel both threatened and completely confused. What is their magic sauce and why don't YOU have it??
Isn't this a tiring way to live? If this is you, you feel like your life is a constant game of showcasing strengths and desperately covering weaknesses. You may not have all of these traits, but the ones you do seem debilitating, manifesting themselves in the form of anxiety, headaches, stomach issues, jaw problems, social issues, etc.
It’s hard to be a business owner with a shoulder full of constant doubt and anxiety. In fact, it’s common for people with a fixed mindset to burn out in business ownership after they experience their first difficult form of opposition. So, if you’re a small business owner and need help shifting your mindset, know this: it’s possible! As Marie Forleo often says “everything is figure-outable.”
If you’d like personal help shifting your mindset, I'll be sharing some of my favorite tools for change next. But one of the single most powerful agents of change is having someone walk that journey with you. If you'd like help breaking your fixed mindset, let’s chat! I’d love to walk with you on a journey diving into your mindset, finding and shifting core beliefs about yourself and your business. It has been life changing for me and I know it will be for you too.
Do you need support letting go of your fixed mindset so your business can grow? Here are the most popular ways you can work with me:
Growing up, I was naturally successful. I always got 100% on my spelling tests, I never had to study, and, if I did, I’d never admit it to anyone. You see, I believed my intelligence was a fixed trait and needing to study was only for the kids who weren’t smart enough. (Before I get too far, Mom and Dad, if you're reading this, know that I have NO regrets about my childhood-it was pretty amazing and I grew up feeling very loved :) God knew I'd process failure in the unique way that I do and He used it to draw me to himself in a beautiful way.)
a fifth grader with a fixed mindset
Let's travel back in time and survey a fifth grade classroom in the 90's to see if you can spot me. You don't need to know what I look like. It's time to pass back the graded spelling tests and you'll see me soon. This happens to be the first and ONLY spelling test in all my formal education where I misspelled a word. Did you catch that? I got a word wrong on a spelling test once in all my education. It was a bad day. (an actual photo of a photo of me around 5th grade. That 90's hair ;)
I spelled Cinnamon as Cinammon. As soon as I saw the -1 on my test, I frantically scoured the paper for my mistake, devastated that my deskmates could see that I didn’t have that 100% at the top of the paper (the one where the teacher made a smiley face using the 0’s as googly eyes.) I remember thinking “wait, this isn’t me! I ALWAYS get 100’s! I’m the 100’s girl! Take this back, it can’t be mine!” My whole identity was shaken because of one misspelled word!
You can see me now, I'm the girl frantically air-clawing at the teacher, begging her to wait, explain how this happened, and asking her to prove that I'd actually misspelled the word. You see me now, don't you? I look frantic and desperate and I resolved to never let this happen again-my identity depended on it! Maybe you're like me-you probably feel kind of sad for that little girl that she's taking this so hard. It's just a word! I feel like giving her a little hug.
I started hearing words like “perfectionist,” and, though I didn’t understand what it meant, I was often classed as a perfectionist for acts like this. However, I was far from a perfectionist. I’ll get into that more later, but at this point, knowing my classification in a neat little compartment meant a lot to me, so, even though it secretly annoyed the heck out of me, I’d make sure my pencil was perfectly lined up on my desk, fix my stack of papers, and try to make my little fifth grade friends say “she’s such a perfectionist!” Because inside, I didn’t understand why I would care that much about a spelling test but have a messy desk and a stack of incompletes. Things about who I was were already not making sense to me, but I wouldn’t put all the pieces together for a few more years.
An eight grader with a fixed mindset tackles algebra 1
After a cross country move from the east coast to a remote portion of northern Minnesota, I jumped into all the advanced placement high school courses because I’m smart, joined volleyball, and made new friends.
I felt successful at all new things until I started that blasted math course. I struggled all year through algebra 1, staying afterward every day for extra help and running home to get more help from my patient mother. I was devastated that all my studying and hours of hard work only produced C+/B- grades. I was shaken and at that point, classified myself as permanently “bad at math.” (photo of me celebrating graduating from Calculus. I did it! But in Algebra 1 it seemed impossible!)
A fixed mindset and an epic voice crack
I developed a beautiful singing voice early in life and immediately found a reputation for being a natural talent. I began singing in public and always got perfect scores or left people with an emotional impact. Of course I did! It was who I was, right? I was a natural talent who just blew people away without even trying. And then there was the year my vocal coach forced me to sing the song “I wonder as I wander” for the holidays. I already loathed the song, but it was such a tough song to perform. On top of just adding it to my weekly repertoire, she required me to perform it in public.
So, I scheduled myself to sing it at my church. As a kind of awkward 11th grader, I got all dressed up, practiced secretly (no one could know that I needed to practice!!), and then got up in church to sing it. My crush was there-I HAD to nail it! But alas, on the final phrase of the song, as I belted “I wonder as I Waaaaaaahn-DERRRRRR…” my voice cracked approximately 3 octaves. In front of my crush.
My identity as a musical savant was crushed and that guy was probably laughing at me, right? Oh girl, I wish I could have given myself another little side hug and said “loosen up and laugh! That was legit funny!” But I wasn’t laughing because everything I believed about myself was again shaken. Isn’t that sad?
From that point on, I didn't understand how to view my musical skill and felt deeply conflicted about spending any more time on it because this one incident publicly betrayed who I thought I was.
Are you starting to sense a theme here? I'd glide on my natural skills until I reached their limits and needed effort. But effort was an admission of failure, so it was off limits. So I'd fail at something and be shaken, scrambling to re-identify myself.
Little did I know that I’d already boxed myself into a mindset so riddled with limits that years later I’d wake up each day with anxiety, devastated yet again with the feeling that I was deeply unsuccessful and letting down everyone I loved most. It wasn't until I experienced a series of devastating personal losses that I recognized this mindset and began seeking change. And though it's going to be raw, I cannot wait to share that part of my story. Because now, I see beauty in it!
Tell me below-what does "mindset" mean to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts!