Motivational Mondays – 21/09/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my weekly Motivational Mondays Post!

The only newsletter to force feed you your recommended 5 a day before offering you a cupcake…

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 this week that have helped me grow.

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

Much Love,

AP2 X


4 x Thoughts From Me:

The cost of convenience is your resilience.

The trick is not to think win or lose. The trick is not to think success or failure. The trick it is not to trick good or bad. The trick is to think about being better because every single one of us always can be. 

Anger as an emotion is intimately linked to our “fight, flight or freeze response.” It’s about survival. This is why reacting to it is inappropriate in most situations. When it comes to anger, thinking high emotions = low intelligence is a good rule of thumb. I wonder though, when it comes to the survival of our planet if it’s not entirely justified – if we’re not angry enough? After all, the power of action one can harness from such an emotion is enormous. It can drive us in a way that few other emotions can. Instead of ignoring our anger about climate change, maybe we need to consider how to use it instead? People forget that anger, if responded to mindfully, can be used constructively. Anger can be used to make positive changes. The caveat, of course, is that we need to allow ourselves to feel it. We need to accept it as a valid emotion.

Competition is meant to be about pushing each other to improve. It’s about personal and collective growth. When we glorify it and make it about ‘winning at all costs’ we turn many people away. This defeats the purpose. Not only are those who still compete weaker because they have less competition, those who don’t compete lose the ability to better themselves altogether. Don’t compete to win, compete to grow.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching” ― Gerard Way

“Most people think they lack motivation when they really lack clarity.”James Clear

“Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This Tim Ferris Podcast episode My Healing Journey After Childhood Abuse with Debbie Millman. This might be the most important Tim Ferris episode I’ve ever listened to. To come out and publicly share what happened to him takes an enormous amount of courage – more courage than I suspect most of us will ever know. I would implore anyone to give this episode a listen, but especially those who have previously experienced sexual abuse. The list of resources available – as he and Debbie talk about extensively – extend well beyond conventional therapy. Please look under the list of resources via the link above for more information on a number of potential tools and reading for help to deal with trauma.

2 QUOTES FROM THE POD:

Your path to the healing is very much your own in the same way that you have your own path to love or to family or to success.”

Debbie Millman

“There is only one question that matters and this is, what are you unwilling to feel?”

Tara Brach

2 – This brilliant Happiness Lab Podcast with Dr. Laurie SantosHappiness Lessons of The Ancients: Aristotle. In this episode Dr. Laurie Santos talks to Yale professor Tamar Gendler about “Aristotle’s wellbeing insights and how he recommended taking daily “baby steps” towards becoming the sort of happy, moderate person we aspire to be. A kind of ancient “fake it, ’til you make it” ethos.” Notes and quotes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Aristotle and other Greek philosophers were given free reign to pursue the question, what makes humans flourish, as their profession. As a result they were able to come to a greater understanding about it than many others have at different times during our history. 
  • Aristotle can be looked at as the father of modern positive psychology. – He was brought to Athens at the age of 17 to study. He liked school so much he stayed for another 20 years! 
  • He was one of the greatest polymath thinkers of any generation. He was the inverter of physics as a field. Biology as a field. He was a great theorist of poetry and theatre. 
  • 2 distinct notions of happiness. 1 hedonistic happiness. The indulgence of short lived happiness or pleasures. Eating or sex. This is an important of what it means to be human. To take pleasure in the physical world around you. 
  • 2 Aristotle was interested in a richer and more robust and lasting notion of what happiness is. 
  • He philosophised that in the same way a knife is designed to cut our primary function as humans was to express virtue and reason.  This is a lasting rather than short lived happiness. 
  • We are getting the same insights Aristotle did 2000 years ago from behavioural science and modern psychology about what it is that gives us lasting fufillment and happiness. 
  • Being clear that indulging in great food, having sex and watching NETFLIX isn’t what will make you happy long term is important. If anything an overindulgence in these kind of activities leaves people feeling empty. 
  • Theoretical wisdom vs practical wisdom. Theoretical wisdom comes from reading about something like the science of psychology to understand what makes us happy or not. This isn’t enough. 
  • Aristotle said we need something called practical wisdom – this is the skill that comes from practising the activity in which you want to make progress. 
  • The way we find this deeper level of thriving in Aristotle’s opinion comes from a strategy of practicing being the kind of person who is virtuous and takes pleasure in being virtuous. 
  • Self education project. You make yourself into the person you want to be. The soul you want to inhibit. You practise being the kind of person you want to become and then the act of practicing becomes pleasurable to you. 
  • The same way you want to learn the violin or raise good children you have to put the work the same applies to bumping up your happiness. You engage with it and build it up like a skill set from the ground up. 
  • We become just by doing just actions. We become temperate by acting so. Brave by doing brave actions. This is how we come to having practical wisdom. We practice the skills we want to inhibit until they become natural to us. 
  • Aristotle was interested in developing a moderate character in the right ways.  What does he mean? Taking braving as an example. One extreme is being a coward. Another is being reckless. In between is braver. The perfect moderate virtue. Humour. You can be a Baffoon or somber or someone with a good sense of humour. 
  • If you want to be a brave person, act the way a brave person acts and you will start to manifest bravery and you will be reinforced in your experience about how pleasurable and possible it is for you to act bravely. 
  • Virtuous life – life is not just a moral life but brings happiness and thriving – how to live well morally, happily and part of harmonious society.
  • The data suggests that if you want to live a happy life you want to live a moral life. For Aristotle pleasure is derived from seeing others around them doing well.
  • Friendship is incredibly important – the young need it to prevent them for error – the old need it for protection and companionship, to look after them – those in their prime need it to do fine actions.
  • 3 different kinds. 1 shallow utility based – we both gain something from one another – a service or product. 2 we enjoy each others company. 3 based on mutual deep appreciation of one another’s morals. The latter provides self reinforcing cycle. Aristotle calls this kind of friend “a second self.
  • Surrounding yourself with those who are committed to same things – the same values. Put yourself in a setting where others are trying to achieve the same kind of spiritual transcendence.
  • Acting as if you already have the virtues you wish to embody is incredibly powerful and liberating. Having a second self available makes you much more likely to stick to those values – to hold you accountable.

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

Struggling for a story this week folks so thought I’d leave you with this rejected New Yorker cartoon that made me chuckle.


Till next week…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

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

One bonus question for you all:

What is one thing you can do for the environment today that will help it tomorrow?

(As always 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 at the bottom.)

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.