Why You Should Do It For Me

For many people, finding the motivation to do something for themselves can be difficult. When the focus is centred entirely on the self, many lose their will.

It’s not enough.

I believe this is especially true for those who struggle with low self-esteem. The little voice inside your head that says you can’t win, wins. And so you don’t.

Fear wins instead.

If this happens to be the case then why not consider doing what you have to for something else?

If you find loving yourself difficult then consider the love you have for others instead.

Use that to motivate you.

Meditate not for your mental health, but for your family. Exercise not for your wellbeing, but for everyone else who will benefit as a result. Eat a wholesome diet not for you, but for the planet and all those who inhabit it.

I’ll make a deal with you.

If you still can’t muster the strength to do what you need for yourself then do it for me.

Let’s help each other by helping ourselves.

Do it for me and I promise to do it for you.

Motivational Mondays – 07/09/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post – The only weekly newsletter to give you a lollipop after forcing you to visit the dentist.

Following a 3:2:1 approach, it contains 3 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 2 admittedly better quotes from others, and 1 thing I’ve been reading or listening to this week that has helped me grow!

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 

Love to all X


3 x Thoughts From Me:

Courage is acting from a place of love, doing what you know to be right, not in the absence of fear, but because of it.

Understand that while you might love the smell of your own shit, it’s exactly that – shit! The same applies to your thoughts. This is why you must analyse, challenge and deconstruct your beliefs continuously. Just how what you feed yourself determines how much your shit stinks, what you feed your brain determines how good your thinking is. Trust me, your shit can always smell nicer.  (How’s that for an inspirational quote?!!)

There is such a thing as post traumatic growth. Many who have gone through some kind of trauma don’t regret it happened because they believe it has made them stronger. That’s certainly my experience. However this isn’t true in all cases. Often it’s a choice. You can either make up your mind to take responsibility for something that’s not your fault or not. If you play the victim you become the victim. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger if that’s your attitude, otherwise it will make you weaker.


2 x Quotes From Others:

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.” – Francis Bacon.

“Vision is the bottleneck of talent. Most talent is wasted because people do not clearly know what they want. It’s not a lack of effort, but a lack of direction. There are many capable people in the world, but relatively few that focus on what matters.” – James Clear


1 x Thing That Helped Me Grow

This interesting Intelligence Squared podcast episode with historian Rutger Bregman talking to author and journalist Helen Lewis on Human Kindness in a Frightened World

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Humankind. A Hopeful History 
  • Religion isn’t about what is true. It’s about something else
  • Nocebo effect. Doctor start talking about possible negative side effects and then you feel them. 
  • What we assume of others people – what we believe of them – is what we get out of them. 
  • If you assume most people are selfish. You will end up with a society that brings out the worst. In its systems and institutions. Racism works this way. I believe we can turn it around. By believing in the best of human nature we can reflect that in our society and politics as well. I want to create a placebo effect for our society not a nocebo effect. 
  • Homo puppy Humans have evolved to be friendly. New fascinating study to come out of biology. Self domestication. We did it to ourselves. What happened? Survival of the friendliest. Turns out the friendliest of us did the best. Had the most kids etc. Had an interesting effect on our biology. We have became more puppy like in appearance. Hence I came up with the term, Homo puppy. 
  • Social psychology- many studies are now being debunked. Idea that normal kind humans put into evil situations will very quickly become savages. Turns out experiments were set up to prove the theory. 50 years later we are learning many of these famous studies simply aren’t accurate. 
  • Interesting how no one asks about a theory for human kindness? People are more interested in explaining the holocaust. People always want a simple explanation. There isn’t one. It was part of a long historical evolution that convinced millions that what they were doing was good. 
  • People were basically brainwashed. That was what was believed. Most people do not do horrible things because they enjoy it. They actually have to overcome strong instincts that go the other way. They simply believe they are right. They are the hero’s in their own stories. It’s very rare that bad guys actually think they are bad. The point is that ideologies take over. Becomes a twisted divine mission.
  • Often friendliness gets in the way of progress. We don’t stand up to racists and bullies etc when we should. 
  • Strange paradoxical situation where left wing parties aren’t having a good time at the moment but left wing radical ideas are. Why? Theory. When you have a radical idea, to move it into mainstream political action eventually you have to compromise. Often on the left you have something called the “narcissism of little details.” The problem with the left is its unwillingness to compromise. It’s not useful if you want to build a broader movement for more people to get behind.
  • On the left it feels likes a competition – who is the most pure – the most correct. Whereas on the right its simply I’d like to be in charge please.
  • What I hope to come out of this crisis is the question – do I want to live somewhere like Germany or NZ or somewhere with a very aggressive capitalist system like America with patchy welfare? It’s hard to look around at the moment and not see what good governance does for you.
  • The answer to cynicism is realism.
  • If you write about the story but don’t include the metta analysis then I think you have failed as a writer.
  • Summary of my book is most people are nice but power corrupts. A lot of powerful psychology backing up this claim – research by Dr. Dacher Keltner who wrote the power paradox shows that people prefer to have nice leaders – but often these nice people become corrupted by power. Powerful people become disconnected. The parts of the brain responsible for empathy stops lighting up.
  • How is it possible we have this survival of the shameless situation? Where people who definitely wouldn’t have survived during the age of hunter gathers can become our leaders. What has gone wrong with our modern political systems? The super viruses of a shame culture. Where being shamed is so prevalent it becomes a super power to be completely shameless.
  • We’re the only animals in the world to blush – to involuntarily give away our feelings. Why? Probably a mechanism designed to establish trust. Maybe political reporters should ask our leaders the question – when was the last time you blushed?
  • Pessimism or optimism? I don’t like either of them – I believe they are both forms of laziness. Biggest danger with optimism is complacency. ‘It will be ok so I don’t need to worry about changing anything myself.’ Biggest danger with pessimism is apathy. ‘The world is doomed so it doesn’t matter either way. Might as well drive my SUV etc.’ Realism is to say we can save the planet but it’s going to mean making radical changes from all of us.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

I’m struggling for a good story this week so thought I’d leave you with this old Gary Larson Far Side Comic Strip. This is one of my faves…


Till next time…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus questions for you all of you to think about:

Are negative emotions the problem or our intolerance of them?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about this weeks post I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 31/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 24/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 17/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – AUGUST 2020 – The Question To Ask Before Every Decision, The Only Thing The World Needs From You, How To Overcome To-Do List Anxiety and More…

Hello lovely readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter! Included is a round up of what I’ve written about this past August. To begin with are some thoughts on what has been a difficult month for me personally. I hope that you can draw some inspiration from my words. Love to all X


AUGUST REFLECTIONS:

To be honest with you I’ve been struggling recently.

My spirit has taken a hit after returning to a long-haul roster for first time since January. Having to spend my layovers confined to some very tired looking hotel rooms – including a week at an airport hotel – has been difficult for me.

The joy of getting lost in some of the world’s most exciting cities has always been one of my favourite pastimes. To get out of the hotel room always provided my mind with the outlet it needed to remain sane despite the loss of sleep.

Getting lost in the back streets of Roma, watching the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea from a beach in Tel Aviv, hiring a bike and riding across the golden gate bridge on a beautiful summers day in San Fransisco…

Need I remind myself of how extraordinarily privileged I am to have enjoyed all of these things as part of my job.

Yet, as I sit from my hotel room admiring the city scape over Sydney’s darling harbour, I can’t help but pine for the outdoors. It would be a perfect day to climb the harbour bridge or head down to bondi beach. The world is a forbidden fruit at the moment that makes me want it even more.

I feel I’ve done extremely well to make the most of this year but the truth is it’s beginning to catch up with me. I feel so sad as I sit and write these words. As wonderful an outlet as blogging has been, the human spirit struggles in isolation.

There’s something else that’s been bothering me since returning to work. Something that’s become much more apparent since returning from a long period of regular sleep. That is just how important it has been for my mental health. The body simply isn’t designed to miss a nights sleep, let alone 3 or 4 times a month as is so often the case.

When you start to do the maths it becomes a little scary.

3 to 4 nights of missed sleep per month is roughly equal to 1 year’s worth of sleep lost during the course of 10! A milestone I will reach very soon. At the age of 33, staring down the barrel of doing this for another 30, makes me want to pull the trigger now.

The warning signs are present – both physically and mentally. My body has started to tell me things my heart doesn’t want to hear. Winning the battle against depression and anxiety in my work is one thing, saving my longer term health is another. There is nothing more important than your health.

I already know I can only do this job for a handful more years. Still, I desperately don’t want the last of those years to be like this. I want to leave on my terms – knowing that it was because I chose to leave, not because my health forced me to. I want to leave simply because I know in my heart that it’s the right time to do so, with no regrets. Unfortunately this may well be out of my control. Whether it’s the coronavirus or my health that forces my hand, I have to be prepared to move on. To accept that some things are simply out of my control.

With all that said, today, I still have a job and it’s never been more important to remain grateful for that fact. To remember how my job helps the world keep ticking at a time when it’s all but ground to a halt. To remember that beyond all of this I still love to fly aeroplanes.


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING: 

The Only Thing The World Needs From You

An opinion piece about following your dreams while simultaneously telling society to go fuck itself. I think you’ll enjoy this one!

5 Counter-Intuitive Ways To Find Your True Calling

Some follow up advice to the previous post about how one might actually find their true calling in life (whatever the fuck that means).

Why Freedom Demands Responsibility

Some thoughts about freedom and responsibility. From the article:

Freedom demands we choose our responsibilities. The same way that having a life demands we protect it. If you want freedom of choice then you have to choose to take responsibility for your life. If you don’t someone else will choose your responsibilities for you. The danger is they will use that for their own profit and power by forming a narrative you refused to take responsibility for forming yourself. In doing so they will shut your mind from your heart. The moment that happens you’ve lost your freedom.”

5 Simple Tricks For Overcoming To-Do List Anxiety

I had a lot of fun writing this one – dishing out some timeless advice about how to write a to-do list that doesn’t make you want to jump off a building. As I wrote:

“Why exactly does writing out our responsibilities on paper cause some us to run away from them faster than a teenage boy climaxes? After all we know this kind of behaviour doesn’t help us, yet we can’t help ourselves. Sometimes all we want is to tell life to go fuck itself and so we do, even if that means fucking ourselves in the process.

The Question To Ask Yourself Before Every Decision

A more heartfelt piece that explores that question, “Am I doing this because of love or fear?” As I wrote:

“I felt it was such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something – whatever that may be – as you go about your day. The more I contemplated it over the following weeks, the more I realised how powerful it was as a guiding force in keeping the values I hold close to my heart, clear in my mind. After all, I believe all our feelings and actions are driven, on a basis level, by one of these two underlying emotions. This question is a great way of bringing to light, exactly which one of these two emotions is driving your actions at any particular moment.”

I Am The Fly

A short but sweet poem to finish the month.

Motivational Mondays

My weekly newsletter designed to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week and to get you in the mood for the week ahead. Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to in the week that have helped me grow. It finishes with 1 something silly to designed to make you lovely readers smile. The link above was this weeks post. Below are from the rest of the month. Enjoy!

Motivational Mondays – 24/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 17/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

ALSO…

A couple of milestones this month including my very first blogging award and reaching 200 fine followers!


CLOSING THOUGHTS

That’s everything from me for the wonderful month of August guys and gals. I’d like to finish by thanking all you lovely readers for taking the time to read my pokey little blog. Although it’s not been the best month of the year for me mentally – you have all helped tremendously. You really have given me strength to carry on.

For anyone else who is struggling may I add that it’s perfectly ok if you are. It’s very important to allow yourself to feel sad when you do. We must mourn the past if we are to live freely in the present. To do that you have to show up for your emotions. Ultimately that’s what I believe courage is, showing up for your emotions however they are, however difficult they may be.

If you want to drop me a line in the comments section please do. I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please don’t be afraid to speak up. I’m a stupid man but I have a big heart. All I want is to help all of you as you have helped me. Together we are better.

Love to all,

AP2 X

The Ultimate Form Of Taking Responsibility

I read a quote the other day that said, “Enthusiasm is worth 25 IQ points.”

It got me thinking about my attitude towards work in the past. 

It’s easy to see how limiting the story in my head has been when I’ve shown up to work and told myself things like, I’m not going to enjoy this. 

How I dragged my heels when wishing, I didn’t have to fly with that particular captain. 

How I made everything so much harder than it needed to be because the narrative I repeated was so heavily rooted in what was happening to me

How I had to fly through the night again. 

How I had to fly with the difficult captain. 

How I got the crappy rest…

What happens when you complain about having to do something?

You suffer twice.

Once in imagination and then again when you have do it.

What’s the tendency of someone who complains about something beforehand?

They point the finger and blame others. 

This makes things worse because it puts yourself in a position of not wanting to learn. It closes your mind. It puts you in a fixed mindset.

One golden rule for life that forces you to take responsibility:

GIVE UP BLAMING AND GIVE UP COMPLAINING!

(FYI constructive criticism isn’t the same as complaining. One offers a solution the other is simply a judgment.)

Easier said than done of course…

So what if we looked at this from the angle of adopting an attitude rather than giving one up?

What if, instead of trying to give up blaming and complaining, we said to ourselves, this week I’m going to show up with as much enthusiasm as I can muster?

Instead of trying to catch yourself out for being negative, instead of beating yourself up for acting like a child, you simply set the intention to go about whatever it is you have to do (whether that’s work, doing taxes or washing the dishes) with an attitude of ‘fuck yes.’

After all, if it’s something you have to do, why wouldn’t you make the most of it? Why wouldn’t you try to see how much you can squeeze from that bastard lemon!

Let me go back to the quote I mentioned at the beginning.

Enthusiasm is worth 25 IQ points. 

Of course the idea of gaining 25 IQ points, which is a lot, isn’t meant to taken literally, but it gets the point across succinctly.

If you show up with enthusiasm. If you turn a reluctant yes into a fuck yes the benefits can’t be understated.

Just this week I had a simulator that signed on at 11pm and finished at 3am followed by a flight that signed on at 6am just two days later. Not exactly the roster I would have chosen for myself but you know what – I didn’t let myself complain about it – I just got on with it.

In fact I told myself I was gonna be the keenest motherfucker on the flight deck.

I reminded myself of my loving motives for doing what I do – that I was there to help others and to be part of something bigger than me.

I reminded myself that enthusiasm is worth 25 IQ points.

How do you think I performed?

I can tell you I’ve done much worse.

I’m sure you can relate.

Think about a time when you’ve arrived somewhere you really wanted to be – in which you really wanted to learn something.

How did it go?

I’m guessing pretty fucking well.

Conversely remember those times when you wanted to be somewhere else – when you simply wanted to be at home although you couldn’t.

Did that attitude help?

I’m guessing not.

We don’t alway get to do what we want to or, indeed, choose what life has in store for us. But if we make out that these things are what we wanted. That the struggle we find ourself in is what was meant for us, so we can learn and grow into the resilient mother fucker we were meant to be. Well, I suspect that such an attitude might just be the ultimate form of taking responsibility for your life.


SOURCES:

The quote is from Kevin Kelly‘s viral post ‘68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice‘ that he wrote on his 68th birthday. Can highly recommend reading!

Why A Basic Understanding Of The Mind Helps To Let Go

A basic understanding of the mind helps.

To understand our mind is a tool we can use – it isn’t who we are – we are not our thoughts.

The mind is simply a vessel that continuously delivers thoughts based on everything that it’s been fed.

That doesn’t mean your thoughts are accurate – it means the exact opposite.

The vast majority of stuff we are fed and told, the concepts, constructs and expectations of society are largely bullshit – they’re just ideas. Your mind is always going to project that stuff to some degree or another and that’s perfectly ok – you should understand and accept that!

But! BUT BUT!!

You should not accept such thoughts as accurate – you should treat them and the beliefs you have with a HUGE amount of scepticism – remain open to the possibility that what you think and believe – that what most people think and believe – is largely bullshit! Because, and I’ve got news for you, it is.

That doesn’t mean you should create an inner dialogue about what you are thinking or currently believe – that only serves to strengthen the thought you are having anyway! What I’m getting at is because of this understanding, you should let go of the VAST majority of your thoughts.

Let them pass.

Your mind is simply generating ideas continuously – by letting them pass and not fixating on anyone of them – they lose their power of being able to define you! This also allows you to see those thoughts more clearly – for what they are.

It’s from looking at them this way that we can gain greater insight that helps to shatter the illusions our clever minds love to make up!

FYI These are just some thoughts from my mind – feel free to let them go/treat it as largely bullshit (probably just echoing something I fed it anyway).

9 Golden Rules For Cultivating A Growth Mindset.

“There is no such thing as a natural-born pilot. Whatever my aptitude of talents, becoming a proficient pilot was hard work, really a lifetimes learning experience… The best pilots fly more than others; that’s why they’re the best.” CHUCK YEAGER

Following on from a previous post: How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free, I decided to put together this list of 9 Golden Rules for Cultivating a Growth Mindset, that I compiled from my notes of Carol S. Dweck‘s brilliant book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Here they are:


1 – Make A Concrete Plan.

To do this think about the goals you want to achieve most -ones that align you closest with your values – then write out a detailed plan by asking yourself where, when and how. The more detailed the plan the better. Finally review & modify as necessary everyday.

2 – Show Up Everyday.

It’s important you form the habit by showing up every single day. Remember you’re telling yourself something important when you show up on the bad days as well as the good. Even if all you can manage is 10 minutes, 5 pushups or 1 paragraph – whatever it is you’re working towards – make sure to show up!

Dweck advises the “next time you feel depressed, think about effort as a positive, constructive force, not a drag – try it out.”

3 – Don’t Let Any Failure Define You.

Remember you’re not your failures. Remember you only ever really fail when you decide to give up. Remember to keep the idea of a growth mindset in the forefront of your mind.

As Dweck points out, “When people believe their base qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. When depressed it is only more of a reason to hang on and do what’s necessary to keep your life on track.

If you keep going, keep learning, keep growing – you will prevail.

Don’t. Give. Up.

4 – Study To Learn Not Simply Pass.

“Those with a growth mindset take charge of their learning and motivation. Instead of plunging into unthinking memorisations of course material, they said, “I looked for themes and underlying principles across the lectures… I went over mistakes until I was certain I understood them.” – CAROL S. DWECK

Loving the process is key. Find your passion by defining the values that mean most to you, then build your life around them. If you can do that, you will have a natural hunger to learn. Success will then come about naturally as a by-product of simply doing what you love. You’ll also realise that ‘success’, as defined by society, is something completely different.

5 – Seek feedback/Ask for help

“The person who asks is a fool for five minutes, but the person who does not ask remains a fool forever.” – Ancient proverb.

True self confidence is the courage to be open – to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source. Real self confidence is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.” – CAROL S. DWECK.

Seek constructive criticism, not praise. You can always improve. You can always grow. Forget about feeling stupid or disengaged and think about learning and how to improve instead. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to put up your hand.

6 – Praise effort not talent.

 “Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.” STEPHEN GROSZ 

Make sure to praise effort for trying to achieve something difficult, even in failure. Never praise natural ability or talent, especially when they complete something easily.

One of the worst parenting compliments to give, is telling children how clever they are. Far better to apologise for something being too easy and then challenging them to do something more difficult. Following that, praising their effort even, or perhaps especially, if they fall short. Then encouraging them to think about how they could have done things differently. Finally encouraging them to keep going.

7 – Be honest but be constructive.

When criticising it’s important we give our honest assessment but equally important we offer advice on how to improve. Don’t simply judge, teach. Think of helping that person to grow by giving them the tools with which to improve.

Be sure to tell them how you really feel. It’s not always easy but honesty is ultimately the kinder thing to do.

8 –Find the time to reflect.

Look back at bad experiences and understand that it doesn’t define your intelligence or personality. Instead ask what can I learn from it? Do this every day if you can. Ask how could I have done better? What are the lessons I need to learn? How can I grow from here? Show up the next day with those lessons fresh in the mind.

Don’t settle for good enough when you can be great. Don’t settle for great when you’re capable of being extraordinary. Keep going and form the habits of champions.

9. Take Ownership Of Your Mistakes.

“Unfortunately people like things that work against growth. People like to use their strengths to achieve quick, dramatic results – they don’t take their weaknesses as seriously as they might”Morgan Mccall

Dweck says, ‘you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.’ Blaming and complaining get you nowhere. If you stand up and take responsibility for your mistakes, you’ll gain the respect and admiration of others. You’ll also put yourself in the mindset of wanting to learn and grow. This is what it means to be a true leader.

Dweck notes, “Leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by external needs.” That means taking full responsibility for your life and your mistakes.


SOURCES/ARTICLES:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Presence, Not Praise: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement by Maria Popova

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz

How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free.

“A few modern philosophers assert that individual intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protect & react against this brutal pessimism… With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgement and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.”ALFRED BINET (early 1900s)

I’d lived with a fixed mindset for years.

It was a mindset driven by a deep seated belief of not being good enough. Not being smart enough.

Simply not being enough.

I told myself all sorts of lies based off this. Lies that sounded so strongly I became crippled with depression and anxiety.

My mind tortured my heart until it shut off completely.

I’m happy to say I’m in a much better place now.

I’m more productive than I’ve ever been. I’m calmer, more confident. My thinking is clearer. I trust in my heart again.

I’m beginning to wake up to who I truly am.

One of the reasons, I believe, is an understanding that nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent.

Through true insight gained from asking for help, I’ve been able to gradually change the harmful narrative I’d spent over a decade strengthening.

I didn’t realise it then, not in these terms at least, but one of the major reasons I managed to overcome depression was because I started to cultivate a growth mindset.


For those who’ve never heard the termonolgy before, Maria Popova from her blog post: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives explains it well:

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behaviour, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.[1]

Much of our understanding on the idea stems from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck as outlined in her brilliant book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Through her research Dweck demonstrates just how limiting a fixed mindset can be in stalling motivation and progress, especially following failure or when facing challenges. Conversely she demonstrates that those with a growth mindset see failure not as a confirmation of being unable or unintelligent, but as something from which they can learn and improve.

At the crux of her argument is the idea that those with a growth mindset understand just how valuable effort is over any sort of innate talent.

They understand effort = intelligence, and so fall in love with the process of improvement. On the other hand those with a fixed mindset are so worried about what failure might say about them, they come to dread doing what they have to in order to succeed. In extreme cases they avoid doing all together so as to avoid the pain of failure.

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

When I began to think back over my own life in these terms, I began to see how damaging a fixed mindset had been throughout my life.

Failure to me was confirmation I was one.

I hated doing certain work from a young age. Languages, in particular, were difficult for me. I was led to believe, by many teachers nonetheless, I wasn’t good at English and/or Languages.

The result?

I didn’t bother putting any effort into those subjects. I remember thinking what’s the point. I’m not any good so might as well concentrate on what I am.

The trouble is it worked in reversed too!

I was regularly told how good I was at math – that it was something I should pursue because it will open many doors. This was drilled home to me.

The result?

I completely lost interest in a subject I once loved. I still managed to scrape an A during my GCSE’s, but much to my father’s disappointment, I decided not to pursue it as an A level. I didn’t want people to find out, that if I put in the effort and failed, I might not be that good after all.

My parents, who I know believed were doing the right thing, didn’t realise how harmful praising my natural abilities were. It turns out that praising a child’s natural ability, or telling them how clever they are, is extremely damaging because it fixes a child’s mindset.

As Dweck notes,

“The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent… In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.”

I’ll tell you a story of another teacher who never made mention of my abilities in English. She had me moved into her English class for the top peers in our age group (even though I belonged in the bottom). She made sure I sat at the front and paid keen attention (she was somewhat terrifying which helped). Despite not putting much effort into my coursework during those years, because of her, because of what I learnt through the effort I was forced to put in, I achieved B’s in both English Language and Literature.

You might think so what?

Well given my coursework material, which counted for a large percentage of the final grade, averaged between a C and a D, I must have aced the final examinations. I would also point out, before I joined her class, I was far, far behind the rest of the pack. On top of which I was going through some very difficult times in my life (I’ll get to that shortly). To this day they’re my proudest grades from secondary school.

Forgetting the grade, however, what she proved was far more important, even if it didn’t fully register till years later. She proved that if I chose to apply myself I was more than capable. She helped plant the seed for developing a growth mindset that would bear fruit many years later.


Image Source: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/

Prolonged bullying can instil a fixed mindset. Especially if others stand by and do nothing… Victims say that when they’re tortured and demeaned and none comes to their defence, they start to believe they deserve it. They start to judge themselves and to think they’re inferior.

I would love to say from this point everything got better. That I understood and moved forward with a newfound belief and started to grow.

But it didn’t.

I didn’t.

It got worse. Much worse.

My problems stemmed from many variables, but bullying played the biggest role. Those years of secondary school were brutal for me. I was bullied every day at school for years.

This was compounded by the fact my parents couldn’t see what was happening. I was at boarding school halfway across the world. They didn’t know.

They couldn’t.

The trauma of being bullied repeatedly hardwired my response to withdraw from everyone and everything. I shut down as a way to repress the overwhelming emotions I didn’t know how to process. It was depression in the making.

Ultimately this was a major problem because it prevented me for doing what I needed the most.

Ask for help.

What followed makes perfect sense to me now.

When my first love of two years broke up with me during University, I fell apart. I had no confidence I was capable of being on my own. No belief I was lovable, or that I’d be capable of finding it again.

Similarly, when I messed up a landing so badly during my early Junior First Officer training as a pilot (that the Captain had to take over and go around), it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I put on a brave face but when I got home I broke down. The feelings of inadequacy came flooding up. It was too much for me.

(For those who don’t know in aviation, a go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on final approach.)

Carrying on afterwards, whenever I faced failure of some kind, was extremely, extremely difficult. Difficulties would often trigger a bout of depression that could last for weeks if not months at a time.

What my fixed mindset always wanted was to give up. To retreat into my shell. To shut down rather than fail and confirm what years of bullying had led me to believe.

It took everything I had to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To understand these were just lessons on the road of life which all of us go through.

Still, something in my heart kept my head above water.

The small voices of a growth mindset, planted there by various people including my parents, my high-school English teacher and my wife, to name a few, who all understood I really was capable, were enough in the end to pull me through. To all of them I am, and always will be, extremely grateful.

Yet it was all much harder than it needed to be. The major problem wasn’t my fixed mindset, but that the depression and paralysing anxiety it caused, prevented me from reaching out for help. I knew I needed it but for years I simply couldn’t find the strength.

It wasn’t until after my son was born, when I came home from work one day consumed by a regular bout of depression. As I sat with him and looked into his eyes, I realised I didn’t want to be around him.

I didn’t want to father him.

The familiar feeling of wanting to runaway and hide, to withdraw into my shell, to shirk all my responsibilities – including that as a father – broke me. The remorse and guilt was too much to bear. I left the room and the tears fell.

I let the sadness consume me.

I cried and cried. I cried until nothing was left but a strange peace. Something inside me changed. Something that said this time I couldn’t let depression win. I won’t. I didn’t think about what to do next. I simply picked up the phone.

I reached out.

I asked for help.


“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives”

I rate it as both the most courageous and important decision I’ve ever made. Since then the changes have far exceeded what I thought possible.

Am I out of the woods yet?

No, not a chance.

But I can honestly say after I sought help, after over a decade of suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as long-term depression, I’ve not had an episode since.

I still struggle with anxiety and other emotions that surface, especially in the face of adversity. However the difference is they don’t consume me like they used to.

I’m acutely aware of where those emotions and the false narrative are coming from. This has helped me to gradually let them go.

I also realised through the flooding of my subconscious with positive thinking and reading (the same way bullying can flood your subconscious with negative thinking), you can change the narrative in your head. You can literally grow out of a fixed mindset. You can literally grow out of depression!

Of course I don’t want to underplay how difficult this all was or, indeed, still is. To this day being bullied remains one of the most difficult topics for me to talk about personally, let alone publicly, but I now understand the need to do so.

In not facing your demons, you only give them strength. You only strengthen your fixed mindset. By not asking for help you only make it harder to do later on.

Ultimately if there was just one message I could convey to those struggling with depression – to those who suffer from an all consuming self-doubt – it would be to ask for help.

To somehow find the courage within you and reach out.

I know how hard it is.

Trust me!

But please remember, asking for help is simply asking someone else to help you grow. We all need help from one another – from the day we’re born till the day we die. The last thing it shows is that you’ve failed or that you’re incapable.

It shows the exact opposite.

It shows that despite everything you’re still willing to show up. It shows you’re not willing to let past demons fix in you any false belief. It shows that you understand that within you is another voice. Another mindset that knows you have so much more to give. A mindset we all have.

It is only you who can set it free.

It starts by asking for help.


SOURCES:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova


Dear readers, thank you so much for listening to what I have to say! In the interest of growth, I’d love to hear any comments, suggestions, questions or criticisms you may have in the comments sections below. Thanks again. Yours, AP2.