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Growing Pains

Applying a Growth Mindset to Personal Development

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal and professional growth just lately. It’s so hard to step outside our comfort zones, isn’t it? We feel fear, anxiety, even shame, in case we make a mistake, make a fool of ourselves or get attacked on social media for putting ourselves out there.

One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan, puts it this way...

What Jordan is alluding to here is what psychologists call a Growth Mindset (Dweck, 2015). He doesn’t believe that you get there just on raw talent alone, you get there by putting yourself forward, working hard, trying, failing and trying again. With a growth mindset, the individual works hard to develop their skills and talents, taking risks, trying new things and facing new challenges. By taking a series of incremental steps, just beyond the current comfort zone, the individual expands their comfort zone and grows towards success.

Just adding the word “yet” to a statement can make the impossible seem more achievable. “I can’t do that” seems final, whereas, “I can’t do that yet” seems far more possible.

Having specialised in the treatment of psychological trauma for much of the last 20 years, I have been particularly drawn to EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (Shapiro, 1989). EMDR is a very effective model for the treatment of trauma. I have received EMDR as a therapy client and delivered it as a therapist. I have been blown away by the power of this way of working to resolve past trauma.

Applying the growth mindset to my own professional development, especially in the field of EMDR therapy, I have moved through multiple levels of training and accreditation. This has required being assessed and observed at intervals along the way to ensure I am fully competent at what I am doing. Nobody likes being assessed, or receiving criticism, however constructive it is. I find I am particularly sensitive to criticism, having had experiences of excessive criticism in childhood. Nevertheless, by taking an incremental approach, I have moved through the levels over a period of time, pushing myself to face those challenges and learn and develop.

Eleven years ago when I initially trained in EMDR, I could not have imagined becoming a Consultant or Training Facilitator. Back then I could not do that - YET. But I have taken the steps and moved beyond my comfort zone time and time again and now I have reached that stage. So, as I adjust to this new role and it becomes more comfortable for me, what will be next? Maybe I’ll train as an EMDR trainer and set up my own EMDR training school as a lead trainer. I can’t do that yet, but I will!

⭐ Growth is an incremental journey - just add yet to those "I can’t" statements

⭐ Growth takes hard work and commitment

⭐ We have to step beyond our comfort zone over and over again

⭐ We may fail, but two steps forward and one step back is still a step in the right direction

⭐ Celebrate each success however small it may seem 🥂 🎉


Dweck CS (2015). Growth. British Journal of Educational Psychology 85 (242-245.

Shapiro F (1989) Eye Movemebtr Desensitisation: a new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 20 (3) 211-217.


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