Focus on What You can Control

Many things that happen to us are simply outside our control, even when we put a lot of energy and hard work to influence the outcome.

How we react though to the new circumstances, it is within our control.

epictetus1-2x

Sounds ok you might say but what does it really mean?

Consider the scenario below:

You expect your employer to announce some redundancies soon. What do you do?

A) Adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach

B) Explore options for different career paths that are more suitable in the ‘new norm’

C) Do online courses and acquire news skills

D) See it as a sign for you to start the business that you always dreamt

E) Do volunteer work

F) Connect with friends and family and share with them that you are looking for a new challenge

G) _________________________    (Fill the blank with your own idea)

H) A combination of the above

There is no right or wrong answer. The point is that you have options. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it is up to you to decide how you want to respond. Whatever you decide to do will open the door to a new path.  ‘A journey of thousand miles start with a single step’, as the Chinese proverb says.

The bottom line: Next time something big happens in your life, take time to explore your options. How you respond to any situation is within your control.

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to  make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she wants to join forces with others to help everybody to be a better version of themselves.

 

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Do you have a Growth or a Fixed Mindset?

Do you believe that your  important abilities (e.g. intelligence, creativity, empathy, leadership skills, etc) are fixed traits and cannot be changed or that they can grow and improve? Are you focusing more on ‘how smart you are’ or on ‘how you can get better’?

There is a a lot of research undertaken about the impact of the different ways of thinking about the goals we pursue. When you think in terms of I am good at X or I cannot do Y, this behaviour represents more the fixed mindset. When you  believe that you can further develop an ability with effort and hard work, then this attitude reflects a growth mindset.

In other words, fixed mindset focuses on performance whereas, growth mindset focuses more on learning. 

The big difference in behaviour arises when performance is challenged. When the performance is not as good as expected, the people who are more concerned about validating their abilities (fixed mindset) become defensive, get easier demotivated    and may even give up. On the other hand, those with growth mindset take the feedback (irrespective how painful it is) as an opportunity to work  to further develop their skills. This inner motivation manifests because they believe that their abilities can change with practice and effort.

So next time you give feedback to somebody for a job well done, reflect whether you want to praise them for putting the effort, their determination, their persistence or for their ‘innate’ abilities (e.g. you are so ‘smart’, or a very ‘talented’).

There was an experiment done with children. Those who were labelled ‘smart’ were less resilient when they faced more difficult problems to solve because they thought that they not that smart anymore. The others who were praised for their effort, they thought that they were not there yet but they were engaged and keen to develop their abilities . For more information, check the TED talk by Carole Dweck.

Neuroscientists are hugely in favour of the growth mindset and they are in a position to provide numerous references to justify their stand.

I believe that both mindsets have their advantages. People with a fixed mindset are usually more  competitive and they are more keen to prove that they can perform better than others. This attitude is definitely needed in many highly competitive settings (e.g. in business or politics) especially with short term objectives.

However, when the results of their actions are not the desired ones, then they find it more difficult to build on the learnings in order to become more capable in the future. Also, they maybe more resistant in learning new skills. In the current fast changing environment, this might be a significant obstacle to realise their potential in the long run. This is the reason why the growth mindset has gained so much support.

Let’s go though back to the question of this post; do you have a fixed or a growth mindset?

What do you think?

Growth_FIxed_mindset

 

I tend to believe that we all have both mindsets embedded in our brain even if some of us may lean to one more than the other. For example, Elena may have a growth mindset in how she takes feedback into consideration in order to advance her career. On the other hand, she might be completely disinterested or feel afraid in mastering anything to do with technology or she may not put effort in improving her personal relationships.

Hence, the first step is to become aware of which mindset you use for a specific situation. Then,  depending on what you want to achieve, you may consider making some adjustments in order to use the qualities of the mindset you need. (These adjustments will probably be small at the beginning. But soon the many small incremental changes may have a significant positive impact.)

The bottom line:

It is definitely important for us to learn to identify whether the fixed or the growth mindset is in the driving seat in each situation and reflect whether this is the optimal one.

 

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to  make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she wants to join forces with others to help everybody to be a better version of themselves.

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Remember to Reboot Yourself

Remember the times when you relive an upsetting situation in your mind or when you describe it to a friend. The never ending “He/She said and I said” interactions. By replaying the dialogue, the emotions come back and you become angry and upset.

Although this event has already occurred, you still think what witty answers you could have given or how it would have felt if you had said the things you didn’t dare to say. The more you think about it, the more forceful your emotions become. Instead of trying to figure out what to do differently next time to address the situation more effectively, you fall into the trap in defending yourself to yourself.

The mental downward spiral continues and there is no easy way out. These are the situations where you need to reboot yourself. It is similar to what we do with computers; we just press re-start when there is a problem.

Also, think of a gesture like clenching your fist or blinking your eyes to give a signal to your mind that the rebooting is about to start. This a small but powerful mental trick that can help you to trigger the process and re-balance.

Reboot

When you are in a downward spiral, remember to reboot yourself

If you catch yourself still dwelling on the same topic, reboot again. The positive thing is that you are already aware of your unhelpful thoughts. The more you practice to neutralize them, the more effective you will become. (For the cynics around us: If your aim is to prove that this technique doesn’t work, you will most certainly succeed.)

The bottom line: Next time you realize that you have given free rein to your emotions and you need to get back control, think of rebooting yourself.

 

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to  make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she wants to join forces with others to help everybody to be a better version of themselves.

 

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Is there a future for higher education?

There is so much discussion about how to ‘fix’ higher education. Most proposed solutions are based on individuals’ personal past experiences; hardly the best way to address a topic that will evolve in 5 -10 years in an unprecedented way.

At least now we accept that it is difficult to define the impact of artificial intelligence and technological advancements to the job market. Still though we remain romantic about the importance of higher education at any cost.

digital age

Those with a university degree have higher earnings than those who don’t have one, the data suggest. This statement was true in the past. However, in many countries, the price premiums of these degrees have increased considerably during the last years. Also, the demand for the jobs is higher than the supply. When these parameters are taken into consideration, the reality might be different.

Some advocate about the value of internships as an alternative to the almost only option that currently exists for young people (i.e. universities). The reaction to this proposal is visceral. It is easily labelled as an attempt to reduce social mobility.  People still believe that it is better to have a university degree, a large enough debt and a low paid job rather than… Internships might be an option for some in the short-term. It is not though the solution of the bigger problem of the future of higher education.

Higher education is discussed like it is the end of the journey, although it is only the beginning. Even those who have been in employment for some years, they need to consider how they will up-skill or re-train themselves in order to continue to be relevant and employable. Life-long learning will become a must.

The model of the higher education (at least in its current form) needs to be adjusted to the new reality.

I personally don’t expect politicians to take a meaningful stand on this because there is a lot at stake (primarily their re-election). .

I don’t expect the universities to take the lead either. They have so many vested interests in the current status quo.

At the same time, the big corporations (which already now clearly state that they cannot find skilled employees) are not necessarily trusted.

So, who is best suited to prepare the society for the new norm?

Or is it more convenient to adopt the lets-kick-the-can approach?

Or maybe the change will come from the grassroots…

The bottom line: Technological advancements and artificial intelligence will change the landscape of employment and higher education. It is unclear though how the society needs to get prepared for the new norm.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. This problem will not get away. At some point, we will have to face it. Your views might help shape the response.

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to  make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she wants to join forces with others to help everybody to be a better version of themselves.

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Is ‘Good Enough’ What You Should Strive For?

In a relentless competitive environment, people get overworked; they get involved in many initiatives, their calendar is full with meetings, and the beeping from the incoming emails goes on constantly.

In order to cope, the concept of ‘good enough to proceed‘ has gained momentum. It definitely helps with crossing things from our long ‘to do’ list. Does it result though in our superior performance? Do we end up getting better at specific skill?

“Not necessarily” would be my answer.

The general saying  that ‘practice makes you better’ does NOT hold true. We become better only with deliberate practice. 

Just doing the same thing frequently doesn’t result in becoming an expert. Think about your driving skills. After a while, although you become more comfortable,  the performance reaches a plateau – unless you consciously and intentionally make an effort to improve.

On the other side, is it realistic to always strive for superior results?

We all live very busy lives both professionally and personally. Most of the time, we barely manage to keep it together. Does it make sense to impose ourselves higher standards?

There are reasonable arguments for both positions. Maybe the best way forward is somewhere in between.

My advice is: be selective on where to focus your energy, effort and time.

Identify one or two areas critical for your work and/or your career development and focus on becoming an expert on them. Don’t accept ‘good enough’ standards on these areas. Make a conscious effort to continuously raise them. Small incremental improvements will eventually have a big impact.

Michelangelo-Quote

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Experienced people can provide you with invaluable insights during this journey.

Be patient. It takes time to move from ‘good enough’ to  become an expert. Focus on what you can control. Monitor results but don’t get disappointed if you don’t see the incremental gains immediately.  Remember ‘deliberate practice makes you better.’ Invest time and effort to hone the skills you selected. Persistence is crucial. Do your part of the deal.

You may have noticed that I avoid using the word perfection. Philosophically, I don’t believe that this state is attainable. Hence, I find it more realistic to talk about striving to become better than perfect. But you may have a different view. Whatever motivates you.

The bottom line: Don’t accept ‘good enough’ standards. Identify the skills you want to hone and do your part of the deal.

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to  make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she wants to join forces with others to help everybody to be a better version of themselves.

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