Communication Managing Self Neuroscience Wellness

Grit and growth mindset practice – mastery goals

Written by Allison Wolf

Since presenting on Grit and Growth in May to lawyers in Winnipeg I’ve experienced a continued sense of inspiration from the personal experiences of the panellists and audience members. More than ever I’m determined to apply a growth mindset to my own endeavours.

Simply defined, people with a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be cultivated through ongoing effort. Carol Dweck, Ph.D. explains in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

“The passion for stretching yourself, and sticking to it when it is not going well, is the hallmark of a growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

One simple practice to strengthen your growth mindset is to adopt intentional mastery goals.

When you focus only on performance, you attempt to prove your ability by doing something well now.

The goal of intentional mastery, however, is to master a particular skill set over time.

Angela hesitates to ask questions in meetings for fear of appearing stupid..

John is stalled on a project, but doesn’t ask for guidance because he thinks he should know the solution on his own.

Both focus on appearing knowledgeable and proving ability instead of developing and expanding their own experience and skills. They prioritise being good over growing and improving.

The pursuit of mastery encourages and supports us to take different actions to move forward, such as asking questions and seeking help.

We recover from setbacks more swiftly, seeing them as opportunities to learn and understand what went wrong and what can be done differently next time. When we have a loss in court or a client pushes back on advice because we missed something in the analysis, setbacks become bounce backs.

With a focus on mastery we become motivated to take on more challenges, try new things, and to stretch our thinking and ourselves.

Instead of a harsh blow to our self-esteem, tough feedback becomes a welcome source of information on how we can improve our skills and master our lives.

Mastery goals also help us to prioritise. Ask yourself, how is my behaviour or actions helping me advance this skill? Give importance to activities that help you develop your mastery, and say no to things that don’t.

This provides a useful internal and personal guide for making decisions about what to commit to and what choices to make.

Start this month: establish a mastery goal for your legal practice and one for your personal life.

Fill in the blank: My goal is to master the skills involved in….

Write it down.

Track your progress towards this goal with monthly reviews on what you’ve learned, how you have developed, and how you’ve applied your new skills.

Watch for opportunities to learn and develop the abilities you have identified.

Notice the impact of making the shift from performance to mastery.

Take a moment to send me an email with your mastery goal, and then follow up in a month to tell me how you have advanced. I look forward to hearing all about it.

Would you like to develop your Growth Mindset? Join me at the Grit and Growth Mindset on July 20 at The Vancouver Club. Learn more about the retreat at:

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.

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