Imagine you are standing in front of your bathroom mirror first thing in the morning. Your hair is a mess, your breath stinks, a pimple is beginning to form. What do you say to yourself?
“You are enough!”
Not my first thought either.
In fact, when I interviewed Christina Skyers, MS, LPC,* of Christina Skyers Counseling Services, and she brought those words up as a potential affirmation, I got uncomfortable, even teary at the idea! What’s that about?
I am nearly fifty, and I have much more confidence as an adult than I did as an adolescent (thank God) but apparently, I still have some work to do.
January 2022 was themed “Mindset Month” and each person interviewed for the weekly Wellness Wednesday webcast inside the Facebook Group Brain Wellness and Dementia Prevention spoke on that theme. The guests were chosen because they have been personally influential in my life, and in the lives of many others, in regard to mindset. The conversations were broad and casual but some common and overlapping themes emerged.
A mindset is a set of beliefs that influence how we see the world around us and how we see ourselves in that world. These beliefs are formed over time and are influenced by our genetics as well as our environmental influences.
Eliot Speigel*, a Life Coach and owner of Root to Crown Yoga and Wellness and the Why Weight Transformation Center, explained beautifully how beliefs shape our thoughts, which create the emotions that impact our actions. The powerful part of that equation is that our beliefs can change, and thus, so can our mindset.
With effort, we can update our beliefs and move from “victim” or “suppressor” to “master.” As a master of our emotions, we learn to “take a breath” which Eliot compares to adding additional car lengths when traveling in wet or icy road conditions. We can learn to see “failures” as opportunities for learning and growth and develop a greater influence on our emotions via our thoughts.
Mindset is changeable
We can learn from mistakes
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Dan Gourley* reflected the language from Stanford University researcher and professor, Carol Dweck, when discussing how a growth mindset promotes hope and perseverance and vice versa.
As a multi-sport athlete, guidance counselor, coach, and sports psychology instructor, Dan often uses sports analogies as a guide. He shared practical ways to encourage transitional thoughts when attempting to move from a fixed mindset (skills are innate and unchangeable) to one of growth (our effort matters).
When a fixed mindset thought appears:
“I failed at this test because I am stupid.” / “We lost this game because I suck.”
Ask how to transition from this belief. What can be a transitional thought? Perhaps…
- “Well, I have been successful in the past so maybe I’m not totally incompetent.”
- “This material/ team is more challenging and I didn’t study/practice that much.”
- “Maybe I can ask for help and spend some more time trying to master this topic/improve my skills?”
We also need to have what I refer to as a Just-Right Challenge. We can’t learn Calculus without first understanding numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. To be a star lacrosse player, you first need basic fitness and movement skills and then have to learn how to hold a stick, how to catch, throw, and how to do that while in motion. There are a finite number of skills required to be successful at calculus or on the lacrosse field. But in these scenarios, Dan explains that we must first start at A and then go to B, slowly moving along the path with a challenge that is not too hard and not too easy. We will build on skills and improve over time–stick with it and be patient.
What are your transitional thoughts? What is next?
Build skills in order: A then B then C…
Translating Strengths & Positive Self-Talk
Tracy Coyne*, an honored and accomplished collegiate and International Women’s Lacrosse Coach, emphasized that strength in one situation can be translated to other scenarios. For example, demonstrating resilience on the lacrosse field can lead to resilience when battling a health crisis. A small effort may be required to first notice our past successes and then to use language, either in our heads or spoken aloud, similar to that which we would use to encourage our best friend. “Remember when you practiced for 2 hours in the rain and then took a 5-mile hilly run through mud and persevered?” “Remember when you cut your mile from 7:30 to 6:40?” It is OK to pat ourselves on the back and celebrate our successes!
Be your own best friend
Celebrate your successes
Resilience, Empathy & Synchronization
Oury Sztantman*, French national Paralympic Taekwondo coach, brought in the themes of love, synchronization, trust, empathy, and care. What supports resiliency (the ability to advance despite adversity)? Oury shared that if we are cared for, loved, supported, are synchronized with and feel empathy from our coach/teacher/support network, we have the ability to move through inevitable change, hardships, “failures,” peaks and valleys.
A lover of people who places a strong emphasis on connection, Oury is also a lover of history and the great thinkers of the world. He shared quotes and stories from Jaques Derrida, Louis Aragon, Nelson Mandela and Zen Master Ryutan each highlighting a different yet relevant sentiment related to the general topic of mindset and resilience.
Be an empty vessel, willing to learn.
Seek the support of someone who can empathize and synchronize with you.
A positive, resilient wellness-focused mindset is not something that we achieve and then put on the shelf to admire. It takes practice, effort, and intention over a lifetime. I have been fortunate to have amazing mentors, friends and coaches in my life to lead by example and nourish a healthy mindset. Yet, I am still a work in progress.
I am going to see if I can go muster the energy to speak aloud those words in the mirror now…and mean it.
*Click the link to see the full interview.