It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.
― Ellen J. Langer, Positive Psychologist
When we go through challenging times, it can take a while to reflect and understand the experience. Once we have understanding, there are two things that usually happen:
We beat ourselves up for not understanding the problem before it happened (fixed mindset).
We use this experience to spark growth and wisdom (growth mindset).
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck developed the belief system of a fixed and growth mindset in her book 'Mindset- The new psychology of success.'
I am an optimist or a person that has a 'growth mindset'. I see my hard times as an opportunity to learn and grow. I embrace challenges. I believe that I can learn. I believe that I can become a better person. I don't know when I developed this outlook or if some of us are born with a growth mindset, but I do believe ANYONE can adopt a more positive psychology. So then why do some people find it so hard to start?
I've broken down my view of the change process:
Change starts with understanding, by taking interest into our habitual patterning and our behaviours and becoming curious into the beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us.
The next step is wanting to change and knowing why. What are the positives of this change? What are the negatives implications if I don't change?
Getting clarity on the desired change. What is my goal? What kind of person do I want to become from these changes? What attributes will I develop? How will my life be positively impacted?
The final step is committing. For many people, this seems to be where they get stuck—committing to having courage—committing to doing the work and committing to take a good hard look in the accountability mirror (often).
If something isn't working for you, it's working against you.
I recently went through a physically and mentally demanding experience shooting SAS Australia. The practice that helped me the most on the course was—believing that I could do something and committing 100% to that belief.
WAIT, but what if what I want to achieve scares the shit out of me?
It's not about not being scared, it's about feeling your fear, then putting it aside and getting on with the task, having resistance and control over the fear—a commitment to courage. Time after time, I stepped forward with no damn idea if I could complete the task in front of me. What I did have a good idea about was the power of my mind. I thought to myself, 'The only thing that is going to hold me back is self-doubt. If I believe I can do this, I have double the chance of doing it'.
Why is it that many people doubt themselves so much?
Maybe it's a lack of self worth or a dwindling fire inside that needs to be reignited. On the other hand, it could be due to the lack of discomfort tolerated in modern society.
However, the only way to improve is with practice. Hence, the practice of positive psychology and the choice to push our comfort zone's time and time again.
Draw your circle of comfort on a piece of paper. Put inside it all the activities and habits in your life that you find comfortable. Draw three more circles outside of the circle, 1, 2, 3 and write these things down.
Things that make you feel a little uncomfortable
Activities or places that excite you, but you are a little scared of trying
Things that scare the shit out of you.
Put this drawing somewhere you can see it, and each month try to do one or two things outside your comfort zone. As time passes, your comfort zone will also start to expand. In 6 months, you may notice that the things listed in circle 2 are now you're new comfortable and so on.
But why? Saying no to our habitual easy ways of living can help us avoid stagnation, keep a child-like vitality for life, expand our mindset, grow and evolve
Note: Don't get disheartened when you 'fail' (I don't love this word; I prefer to use the word learn). Sometimes fear will beat your courage, and that's ok; have compassion for yourself and try again next time.
The reality of life is that sometimes we will go through darn right shit times, or we will mess up and not be the best version of ourselves. We don't have to be happy and smiling during these times, but we do have to practice letting go.
Days pass, the sun set's, the tides change, emotions flow in and out, and pain and sadness come and go. Nothing is set in stone; everything is constantly changing.
How can we enhance growth and gain wisdom from the challenging times? Some things I find helpful are: