The seeds of doubt were planted at a young age. I can’t tell you exactly when, but I know it started in childhood. I was lead to believe I wasn’t capable, that I would struggle in this life. In particular, concerns surrounded my abilities in English. At first, my parents worried that I had a … Read more Why I Write
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman (Source: The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman: A Visionary for Our Time) I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘what do you mean the ONLY … Read more The Only Thing The World Needs From You
The other night, while I was trying to sleep, I started thinking about the post I wrote last week where I stated that hatred is driven – at its core – by a fear of death. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something fundamental. Naturally this started to make me feel a little anxious. … Read more Why Everything Scares You To Death
That’s the most liberating, wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you’re an ass. It’s wonderful. When people tell me, “You’re wrong.” I say, “What can you expect of an ass?” S.J. Anthony de mello – SOURCE: AWARENESS “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent … Read more The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation
“The principle of freedom must be our first commitment, for without this no one is immune against the virus of aggrandizement – the impulse to grab power, wealth, position, or reputation at the expense of others.” – Herbert Douglass – SourCE:The Cost Of Freedom True freedom is a commitment to experiencing the very real limitations … Read more Why Freedom Demands Responsibility
The most successful people in this world understand the importance of cultivating a growth mindset.
They understand failure does not mean they are one, only that they have something to learn.
They understand that success is not found in achievement, but from falling in love with the process of self-improvement.
They understand that intelligence and capability are not fixed qualities but things which – with practice, training, and above all, method – can always be improved upon.
I think we all understand this on some level yet many of us can’t help but think we are less than. That we simply aren’t as intelligent, or as capable, or as courageous as other people.
The question is how can we do guard against having this kind of fixed mindset? How can we cultivate a growth mindset instead?
Of course we need a point of comparison. We need standards to measure ourselves against otherwise there would nothing to point toward and nowhere to go.
But why make other people that point of comparison?
It’s important to remember we are all individuals with a very unique set of life circumstances. The conditions of our lives are rarely comparable to others of a different age, race, gender, background…
They are rarely comparable, even, in our moment to moment difficulties. When dealing with the very specific traumas of our past.
Simply getting out of bed for some of us is an act of immense courage given the circumstances. Perhaps demonstrating far greater strength than someone who appears to have his or her life together.
So what to do? Who should you compare yourself to then? What should be your point of comparison in a world that only broadcasts the best of the best (or the worst of the worst)?
As a rule for life I’d say, “Compare yourself only with the person you were yesterday.”
Here’s the trick.
At the end of each day take the time to reflect. Think deeply about the ways in which you have failed to live up to your values and how you can do better. Then find a small way to better yourself and go do it (the following day). Finally when you reflect on that day, reward yourself for having done (or at least attempted) what you set out to do.
That’s worthy of a pat on the back and an ice cold beer!
But don’t you dare forget to reward yourself either! Rewarding yourself for the things you did well at the end of the day is equally important.
Do this everyday, and then watch as compound interest takes care of the rest.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to myMindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that expresses gratitude after forcing you to concede…
Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.
As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…
Expressing gratitude might just be one of the single best ways to interpret reality – for the fact that we are alive is an extraordinary miracle. That this is lost on us for the majority of our lives shows a sad and astonishing disconnect from the reality of what it means to be alive. Practising gratitude shouldn’t just be something you practise everyday but something you strive to practise every waking moment of your existence.
Isn’t it amazing that you can fail an unlimited number of times in life but still succeed? I find that reassuring. Sadly many of us allow repeated failure to grind us down. To tell us we are failures. It’s simply not true. The most successful people in life are the ones who have failed the most. It’s actually a measure of effort. It’s actually a measure of courage.
If there’s one thing I could get you to learn – I’d want you to see that you don’t need to achieve anything anymore. You don’t need to keep pushing for some goal to complete. You have everything you need. You’ve achieved it already. Slow down and look. Observe. See and experience what you have. Enjoy it. That’s the part of what it means to be truly successful that most of us fail at. Many people believe they’re successful yet can’t understand why they’re unhappy. People will never realise what true success is until they learn how to enjoy what they’ve already achieved.
3 x Quotes From Others:
“As we express our gratitude we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”— John F. Kennedy
“It is only from such a place of gratefulness that we can perform beautiful acts — from a place of absolute, ravishing appreciation for the sheer wonder of being alive at all, each of us an improbable and temporary triumph over the staggering odds of nonbeing and nothingness inking the ledger of spacetime. But because we are human, because we are batted about by the violent immediacies of everyday life, such gratitude eludes us as a continuous state of being. We access it only at moments, only when the trance of busyness lifts and the blackout curtain of daily demands parts to let the radiance in, those delicious moments when we find ourselves awash in nonspecific gladness, grateful not to this person, grateful not for this turn of events, but grateful at life — a diffuse gratitude that irradiates every aspect and atom of the world, however small, however unremarkable, however coated with the dull patina of habit. In those moments, everything sings, everything shimmers. In those moments, we are most alive.” — Maria Popova(Source: https://www.brainpickings.org/)
2 x Things That Helped Me Grow
1 – This Mark Manson article – Shut Up and Be Grateful. In it Manson explains the why gratitude is linked to happiness and why all of us should be practising it. Well worth the quick read!
“For decades, research has tied gratefulness and appreciation to happiness. People who are happier tend to be more grateful and appreciative for what they have. But what they’ve also found is that it also works the other way around: consciously practicing gratitude makes one happier. It makes one appreciate what one has and helps one to remain in the present moment. Practicing gratitude increases accountability which directly leads to higher self-esteem and happiness.”
– Mark Manson
2 – Since we’re on the subject, this TED Talk video with monk and interfaith scholar (and Jedi master) David Steindl-Rast – Want to be happy? Be grateful. Well worth watching – just in case I haven’t labelled the point enough…
“It’s not happiness that makes you grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes you happy
“Become aware that every moment is a gift. You haven’t done anything to earn it… it was given to you.
“Opportunity is the gift within every gift. If you miss the opportunity of this moment another one is given to you. If we avail ourselves to this opportunity it is the key to happiness.”
– David Steindl-Rast
1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:
We decided to start potty training this week.
Progress has been non existent.
So you can imagine my surprise when I heard my boy cry out from across room, “Daddy! Look at the shit!”
At first I didn’t know whether to tell him off for swearing or express how proud I was for doing a poo all on his own.
And then I thought, ‘there’s no way he’s managed to do it on his own so soon… is there?’
But sure enough, when I walked over to have look, there it was – my son stood proudly, pointing at a picture of a ship in one of this books.
Then I thought, Thank God I misheard him.
Thanks ladies and gentleman. I’m here all week!
I want to finish this weeks post by taking a moment to express my gratitude to all of you – for everything. For all your support. For helping to keep my head above water this year. For giving my life greater purpose and meaning. For making me a better person. Connecting with each and everyone of you is what has made blogging so incredibly meaningful. You are why I will continue to do so for a long time to come.
Till next time… Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!
P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!
A couple of bonus questions for you all:
What are you grateful for this year? What has this year given you that others haven’t?
(Thank you all so much for reading.If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.)
“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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.