Facing Our Human Vulnerability is the Ultimate Courage
As we learned in this interview with Daniel Ellenberg, we strengthen our resilience when we find our courage to turn inward and accept all parts of ourselves, even those parts that feel the pain of loss and injury. Here’s an exercise from Resilience in Shifting Mindsets to stop “bad-i-fying” or “small-i-fying” yourself and claim your courage to cope.
Exercise in Shifting Mindsets:
In her book Mindset, the psychologist Carol Dweck describes two opposite mindsets that greatly predict the likelihood of our accomplishing our goals: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, we are likely to believe that our success is predetermined: if we’re smart or talented, we’ll succeed easily, and if not, it isn’t worth trying because we’ll never succeed. A fixed mindset makes it difficult to take in any feedback about how we might do better. When we experience a failure or a setback, we’re likely to give up and not bother. We may even blame others or circumstances for our lack of success. This fixed mindset leads to avoiding challenges rather than risking failure.
In a growth mindset, we are likely to believe that success depends more on effort than on talent or intelligence. If we keep trying and work hard, we’ll learn, improve through practice, and eventually succeed. People with a growth mindset don’t blame anyone else when they encounter a setback. They seek out feedback; they are more likely to seek out new challenges and less likely to give up when things get hard or go wrong. As you can imagine, the growth mindset fosters response flexibility and resilience; the fixed mindset derails them.
To practice identifying and shifting your own mindset, follow these steps:
1. Reflect on situations where you faced a challenge or simply encountered something unfamiliar. Reflect on your own thought process and your own behaviors. Recall times when you did operate from a fixed mindset, hanging back, hesitating, or refusing to attempt something you perceived a bit beyond your capacities. Recall times also when you approached a challenge with a growth mindset, with interest, curiosity, and some confidence, or at least a willingness to give it a go. Most of us have had both kinds of experiences.
2. For one of the times when you acted from a growth mindset, reflect on what made possible your decision to try and your perseverance in trying. Identify both internal and external resources.
3. For one of the times when you were caught in a fixed mindset, imagine how you could have behaved differently, finding inner courage and encouragement from others to go ahead and try, engage, and persevere until you experienced some success, or at least a healthy pride in your effort.
4. Identify a situation now where you could try acting from a growth mindset rather a fixed mindset. Choose a situation where you might realistically have a chance of success. Focus on shifting your mindset from fixed to growth. You can use tools you have learned, like changing every should to a could, remembering your traits of resilience, or reviewing genuine expressions of appreciation from others. Reflect on any difference this choice makes on your behavior.
When you choose to shift mindsets, you are choosing to strengthen your response flexibility in a major way. You’ll experience new confidence in your resilience.
Find the complete Conversations on Practices for Recovering Resilience Series here.