Use Growth Mindset to Craft the Job You’ve Always Wanted

Adopting a growth mindset can help you find meaning and purpose in your work.

Authored by

NLI Staff
In moments of disruption, there's an opportunity to shift our mindset to find deeper meaning in our work. Brain science can show us how.

Has your news feed been filled with advice for how to create the perfect work-from-home office? Or how to create a home workout routine to manage stress while gyms are closed? Or even the best guided meditations to help you fall asleep?

The uncertainty of the last few months has refocused us on the importance of basic self-care, but many of us may not have addressed deeper and more personal ways to sustain ourselves. Especially in moments of disruption, when we are tempted to stick to old ways of operating and avoid the challenges facing us, there is a rich opportunity to shift our mindset and craft our job to find deeper meaning—and brain science can show us how.

Growth mindset as the foundation

The desire to avoid hard questions or challenges right now is normal, and we see this borne out in the science. During times of change and upheaval, there is a tendency to respond with a fixed mindset, where we focus on proving our abilities and shy away from taking risks for learning and developing. Having a fixed mindset about your role, more than unsuitable home offices, can lead to burnout, an experience of deep exhaustion, lost enthusiasm for work, and lower confidence in your abilities.

Knowing that we may have months of readjustment ahead of us, we need a solution for sustaining ourselves beyond the critical basics of good sleep and nourishment. One of the best buffers against burnout, or any kind of stressful or challenging experience, is in finding a sense of meaning in the work you do.

While we may not be able to shift the global challenge facing us, we are able to manage ourselves and our mindsets to find meaning and show up purposefully at work. Shifting to a growth mindset can be the first step in feeling more deeply engaged rather than drained. Growth mindset is the belief that your skills and abilities can be improved, and that ongoing development is the goal of the work you do. (It also happens to be the subject of our latest white paper, “Impact Report: Growth Mindset Supports Organizations Through Disruption,” which features five case studies of major organizations finding tremendous success using growth mindset.)

What job will you create?

A guide for using growth mindset to create more meaningful and purposeful work comes in Berg, Dutton, and Wrzesniewski’s research on job crafting, the “process of employees redefining and reimagining their job designs in personally meaningful ways.” Job crafting takes growth mindset and provides a framework for anyone to, as the researchers note, “proactively reshape the boundaries of their jobs” and develop a stronger sense of purpose.

Job crafting is based on the premise that you see yourself and your job as malleable, something that you can continue to shape and craft in a way that aligns to your values and strengths. And while job crafting is a personal exercise, the sense of autonomy and psychological safety to experiment with your role can come from many sources. If you are in a leadership role, opening a dialogue around job crafting using the steps below could provide the permission your team needs to personalize and more deeply engage in their work.

The foundational first step in crafting your job is refocusing on what is deeply meaningful to you by identifying your motives, strengths, and passions. These will become a guiding force for how you make decisions, built on what deeply engages you and uses your best gifts. The questions below offer a starting point to identify your core drivers:

Motives: When was the last time you felt really satisfied at the end of a project? What made the outcome so meaningful?

Strengths: What activities are naturally energizing to you or where you feel you contribute something unique?

Passions: What’s been a topic that has captured your interest lately, pulling at your attention unexpectedly?

Building on your motives, strengths, and passions

From here, you can exercise a growth mindset by reconsidering the tasks, relationships, and framing of your job to better align them to your drivers. Are there opportunities to think about your role differently, to change where you focus your attention, or even reengineer some of your tasks?

Tasks: Are there ways that you can emphasize or reengineer some of your tasks to use your strengths better? Or even add tasks that you find more meaningful?

For example: John takes an hour a week to investigate new project management approaches, allowing him to tap into his passion for ongoing learning and connecting to a deep motivator, the desire for efficiency.

Relationships: Is there potential for adapting your relationships to help you have a more meaningful contribution?

For example: Kathleen could adapt her relationship with the finance team to be mutually empowering instead of feeling like she is reporting to them. By asking them for new ways to support them, there may be opportunities to build higher quality connections with the finance team that tap into her strengths in building relatedness.

Reframing: Can you reframe how you think about your work to highlight how it helps you live into your values?

For example: Joaquin could start redefining his role to see himself as a coach rather than a supervisor. This plays into his strength of asking good questions and connects to his motive of becoming a transformational leader.

The opportunities to shape and redefine your job are greater than you might imagine, and the practice is ongoing and ever evolving. With reflection on what fundamentally matters, you have an opportunity to shape your role to be deeply meaningful not only through disruption, but through your career.

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