What do Kung Fu Panda 3 and Stanford Research have in Common?
Finally, I watched Kung Fu Panda 3. My favorite part is the authenticity of Chinese culture embedded in the movie: Mandarin pronunciations such as Oogway (“turtle” in Chinese) and Shi Fu (“master” in Chinese), Po using chopsticks to eat dumplings, and traditional ribbon dance.
My second favorite part is what’s in common between the underlying message and a Stanford research. At the beginning of the movie, our beloved and huggable Po was put to the task of teaching Kung Fu to the Furious Five. He failed terribly. Later, Po had to train dozens of pandas with no prior knowledge or practice of martial arts to fight against the monstrous evil Kia. He became the master trainer. How did Po do it, especially with those dumpling-shaped and laid-back pandas? As Po put it, “I’m not teaching you how to be me, I’m teaching you how to be you”.
Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues have conducted researches over the past decade to study the impact of mindset on our achievements. According to Dweck and her colleagues, part of our mindset is our beliefs about ourselves and our intelligence. Those who view intelligence as fixed (“a fixed mindset”) lack the motivation to learn and improve while others who believe intelligence can be improved through learning and hard work (a growth mindset) strive to become better versions of themselves.
When Po learned that he just needed to learn how to be himself, subconsciously he gained great confidence about who he is and, more importantly, who he may become. Beyond his own growth, he applied the power of mindset to his training in the Panda Village. Each and every one of his trainees was encouraged to embrace who they are, and they did.
When I work with international students, I learned the same effect of confidence on their performance, persistence and their efforts in looking for creative solutions. Many of them feel less confident in the U.S. than in their home countries, as confidence is not the most transferrable character from one culture to the next. It takes self-reflection, coaching and training to restore, maintain, grow confidence “muscles” so that it can be ready to support them in their job search or next turning point in their academic and professional development.
How can you, as an international student, develop the mindset for success?
Remind yourself of your past achievements: Don’t be humble. Sit down and write a list of accomplishments that make you feel proud of yourself. They can be either small or big. Think of what you did and how you were to be successful then and how you can transfer those actions, attitude and traits to your life as an international student.
Reflect on your mistakes: Mistakes are part of the journey and our learning. Think about how a mistake happened, what could have prevented it from happening, and what you could have done differently. Take one action to make up for it (if possible). Pack it up and put it away. Don’t ever beat yourself up for a mistake.
Watch out your saboteur voices: Do you talk to yourself? How do you talk to yourself? Most of the time we think we are having a conversation with ourselves, we are listening to our saboteur voices, which are deliberately damaging your confidence and creating your self-doubt. According to Shizard Chime, author of “Positive Intelligence”, there are nine saboteur voices including pleaser, controller, hyper-achiever, and avoider. Gain awareness of your dominant saboteur voices is the first step to managing them. Take a free saboteur assessment.
Break your vision into small actionable steps: You probably have a vision of what you will be doing when you graduate. Vision is inspiring when you have the positive mood, but it may seem so impossible and demotivating when you are not in the right place. Break it into small steps so that you can track your success and applaud your effort. If you do all the steps right, you will achieve your long-term plan.
Celebrate your small milestones: Humility is such a virtual in many cultures that you may not have a habit of celebrating winning small battles. Some form of celebrations, no matter if it is having dinner at your favorite restaurant, buying a beautiful dress, or just taking a walk to congratulate yourself, charges you with positive energy and motivation to work towards your next milestone.
Hire a coach: You may have heard of a coach in the context of sports or high profile CEO world. A coach is someone who guides you to achieve self-realization, break through your misperceptions and misbelieves about yourself and others, and help you to make the new high record in your personal or professional life.