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Your Mindset is Your Compass

“It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.”— Ellen Langer, Ph.D.

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“It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.”— Ellen Langer, Ph.D. in “Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibilities”

“What? But my world is upside down! I mean, I’m financially stretched way too thin, my waist is getting way too large, my relationship at home is disintegrating, and she’s saying it’s all in my mind?!” 

Ok, let’s dive into this. We can all readily identify with the frustration and dismay hearing “the link is what you think.” “Oh so it’s not real, it’s just the way I’m thinking, huh?” Well, it IS real, and it IS about the way in which you think about what IS real, that matters.

We can understand that we all bring to situations a type of mindset that colors our perception of our life’s circumstances. Some bring a “Fixed” mindset, others bring a “Growth” mindset and still others bring a “Benefits” mindset.

Fixed Mindset

This orientation rests on seeking perfection, avoiding failure and the belief that one’s abilities are innate, fixed, and cannot increase. Best to protect what you have.

Growth Mindset

Those with this alignment believe they can always, well, grow, improve and develop and with the right effort, they can become more educated and talented. They’re always learning.

Benefits Mindset

Folks with this tendency build on their growth mindset with the added drive to use their growth to contribute to others. These people are anchored in doing good for good reasons. Can you appreciate how these mental backdrops, these lenses through which one sees the world, can affect how you see life and respond to it? 

Since mindsets exist deep within our inner lives of thoughts and feelings, they color everything we see, and impact the way we understand and navigate reality. Our mindset, tucked away in the blind spots of our lives, shape the lives we lead and live. Mindset is responsible for our “cognitive bias,” that self-protective logic that protects who we believe we are. Fortunately, mindsets can be changed and change takes awareness and receptivity, openness, being vulnerable.

In their 2001 famed, “Buddha in the Mirror,” authors Woody Hochswender, Greg Martin and Tony Morino quote the 13th-century Japanese Buddhist Priest Nichiren who taught, “suffering arises from ‘looking outside oneself’ for the cause or the solution to problems. The fact that it is you who is suffering means it is your problem to solve, not someone else’s. If you’re looking for others to change, you may wait a very long time. Still, people make extraordinary efforts to modify the behavior of others in an effort to make relationships work. But ultimately this is as futile as cleaning the mirror in an attempt to clean your face. The mirror will just keep reflecting back the same image.” 

Mark Williams and Danny Penman, authors of “Mindfulness,” while writing back in 2011, obviously not referring to our COVID19 pandemic, wrote, “In these times of maximum stress and confusion, we learn the most, for it is when we see the most compelling thoughts as mental events—rather than truly reflecting reality—that we glimpse the possibility of freedom most of all.” 

Re-read that. “…for it is when WE SEE…” Do you see through the adversities brought on by COVID19 as mental events, rather than as truly reflecting reality? We can choose to regard everything in an optimistic light, as a chance to grow, as an opportunity to curate happiness, OR, we can succumb to blaming events and see no way out.  

Dan Seigel, MD, in his 2010, “Mindsight,” noted, “One of the key practical lessons of modern neuroscience is that the power to direct our attention has within it the power to shape our brain’s firing patterns, as well as the power to shape the architecture of the brain itself.” The power is yours.

We create our happiness by attending to our thoughts. 

Carry this “mind-reset” question with you:

What am I thinking that makes me feel this way?” 

It’ll help you develop your life to the fullest. You can stop struggling to be someone else and watch your self-disturbing thinking melt away. By seeing yourself as continually able to grow and progress, you’ll live a far better life…after all, that type of thinking leads to the flourishing, optimistic, belief that tomorrow can always be better.

So along with the question I suggested above, answer these throughout your day: 

“What do I need to do?”

 “What do I want to learn?” 

“What situation do I want to confront?” 

These thought-provoking mind resetting questions will point you in an advancing direction and set your GPS properly.

Go to sleep this evening and review a few things that went well. Wake up tomorrow and think about what might (not will, might) go well today.

You see, it’s not the circumstances in our lives that derail us. It’s our assumptions about life’s blocks that stop us from moving forward. Select a different mental framework, a new mindset, carry it with you and see the extraordinary achievements you find yourself accomplishing.

In his 2006 “Learned Optimism,” Martin Seligman, Ph.D., notes, “People who make permanent and universal explanations for their troubles tend to collapse under pressure, both for a long time and across situations.” These fixed mindsetters, are stuck. But he reassures us “Pessimists can in fact learn to be optimists, and not through the mindless devices like whistling a happy tune of mouthing platitudes (‘Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better’), but by learning a new set of cognitive skills.” 

Another tool to retune mindset and learn a new set of cognitive skills is through meditation. Now, I’m not talking about robes and incense, going off on a retreat, or anything of the sort. Science tells us that frequent meditators are happier and more satisfied, more content, live healthier and longer, than those who don’t take some time to spend time being aware, present focused and free of judgment. Being free to able to comfortably identify your true thoughts, feelings and potential can be life changing. It can certainly help to reset your mind.

From reducing anxiety, depression and irritability, to improving memory, having more fulfilling relationships, managing stress and hypertension more effectively and reducing the impact of serious health conditions such as chronic pain and cancer, it’s worth spending a few minutes a day meditating – peacefully contemplating the joys in life and putting ourselves in touch with the abundance of happiness that is ours to create.

So if you are carrying anything but a growth mindset, it’s time to apply a few of these tools and prosper through these seemingly difficult times – that are actually timely opportunities for growth, when seen through the right mind lens.

Finally, Russ Harris, in 2011, wrote “The Confidence Gap,” that includes 10 simple rules to help shift to a more confident, growth oriented mindset:

1. “The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later.”

2. “Genuine confidence is not the absence of fear; it is a transformed relationship with fear.” 

3. “Negative thoughts are normal. Don’t fight them; defuse them.” 

4. “Self-acceptance trumps self-esteem. 

5. “True success is living by your values.” 

6. “Hold your values lightly but pursue them vigorously. 

7. “Don’t obsess about the outcomes; get passionate about the process.” 

8. “Don’t fight your fear: allow it, befriend it, and channel it.” 

9.“Failure hurts—but if we’re willing to learn, it’s a wonderful teacher.” 

10. “The key to peak performance is total engagement in the task.”

There you have it. Set your GPS with your Growth mindset, grow your Gratitude, Positivity and Sensitivity, and regardless of whatever comes upon you, you can live better, with an expanded sense of hope and optimism.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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