Developing a growth mindset

4 ways to adapt and thrive in uncertain times

Growth illustration

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Written by May Busch, the former COO of Morgan Stanley Europe who is now an executive coach, speaker, adviser, author and executive in residence in ASU’s Office of the President. Find her at

My high school volleyball team was filled with first-time players and, most of the time, we couldn’t even return the serves coming over the net. That is, until our coach taught us the game changer: how to stand in “ready position.”

While we didn’t become invincible overnight, that one technique meant we were finally able to score some points.

Being in ready position when it comes to your career and life will help you adapt and thrive no matter what the world throws at you.

Here are four steps to get you in ready position:

1. Cultivate a growth mindset.

With a growth mindset, you’ll be able to adapt to whatever environment you find yourself in. 

According to psychologist Carol Dweck, people with a fixed mindset believe their talents are carved in stone so they tend to focus on proving they’re smart. In contrast, people with a growth mindset see challenges and failures as opportunities to learn and grow, and they achieve more because they put more energy into learning. 

This is similar to ASU President Michael Crow’s concept of being a “master learner” — someone who can learn anything. 

A growth mindset helps you reframe the situation and shift your perspective from one that’s based in fear to one that’s based in possibility. So ask yourself, “How can this become a good thing for me?”

2. Identify your core strengths.

Your core strengths are the foundational resources you can draw on in times of challenge and uncertainty. They’re the collection of attributes, skills and capabilities you’ve developed that make you who you are.  

This includes your experiences and the wisdom you’ve gained from them, your network of relationships, your character and values, and your reputation. 

Make a list and put it in writing so you can remind yourself daily. Just as it’s harder for someone to knock you over when you brace your core muscles, you’ll be better able to stay strong in your career when you tap into your core strengths.  

3. Be future focused. 

When you’re alert to possible future changes, you can get ahead of that change and put yourself in a fundamentally better position as a result. In fact, you can start to look for and see what’s ahead and even create that change. That in turn helps you recognize opportunities to step in and add value.  

Some call this “finding the white space” or identifying opportunities or niches that aren’t already occupied by someone else. 

4. Get ready to thrive! 

We know we’re in for an extended period of uncertainty and upheaval. But it doesn’t mean you need to be on high alert. It simply means staying aware of what’s going on around you and making adjustments as things change.  

Just like being in ready position helped us in volleyball, getting yourself in ready position personally and professionally will help you to thrive in the new normal.  

What will most help you get in a ready position?