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How to shift from fixed to growth mindset

originally written for Eden Magazine

· growth mindset,mental health,wellness,fixed mindset,eden magazine

For the past two years we’ve all been living in a heightened state of fight/flight/freeze. The emergency response system in the body is what has kept humans alive. It’s designed to autonomously and instantly respond to threats. The nervous system kicks in (things like GABA and adrenaline) start pulsating to suppress our appetite, send extra power to our muscles and dilate our pupils. With the pandemic, cortisol spent a little too much time running on high alert, creating a world where everyone is in a heightened state of response. It’s the reason people seem to have less patience with one another and most people seem a little on edge.

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Most of us turned to loved ones, and some of us had very few people to turn to. Many of us were stripped of the things we love to do to take our minds off things (like going for happy hour with friends) and unable to set our thoughts forward in a hopeful way (planning a vacation).

As we work out way out of this “emergency response” mode, some of us find ourselves asking, what now? The landscape of our work lives, friendships, and hobbies have all changed, often in more ways than one. Many of us have been living in a fixed mindset, focused on “surviving” the pandemic rather than thriving. In order to move toward a growth mindset, we need to get in touch with things that will enhance our lives, what we see for ourselves in the future, and what type of legacy we want to leave behind.

The biggest thing you can do to help yourself realign with your inner purpose is to ask yourself WHY?

Often we do things in life because it seemed like the next right thing, or it was something someone else wanted us to do. We all have a unique opportunity to begin to reconnect with ourselves by asking, am I doing this for me, or am I doing this for someone else?

If you find yourself frequently doing things because others expect you to, there are a few things you can change about your language to start setting better boundaries and saying YES to things that align better with your goals.

It can be helpful to avoid saying “I’m sorry but…” and instead say, “Thank you for understanding that I can’t…”

It can also be helpful to pause before saying yes, and instead say, “I’d like to do that, let me check my calendar and see if that will work out.”

A tangible way to move toward a growth-oriented mindset is to simply ask yourself a few questions…

Why am I doing this? – When we understand our why, we are far more likely to push through when times get tough. We are more likely to maintain a certain level of passionate perseverance. Especially when our “why” is intrinsic. What does intrinsic mean? It means being motivated internally. We know at our core that we are doing it for ourselves.

What do I want my experience to be? – When we reframe goals from this perspective they become more about the journey and less about the end-game. The benefit to this is that we no longer have to put as much weight on the final result. If our goal is to lose 10 pounds, and we want to experience better sleep daily (removing that soda before bed), and more energy (that twenty-minute hike every day) we can feel our achievements as we go along. Likewise, we can feel our setbacks and make adjustments as needed.

Creating happiness is a simple process of knowing what feels good to us. Does that morning cup of coffee in silence before the kids wake up to bring you happiness? Then embrace it. Acknowledge that the day might fall apart but you experienced peace and happiness today. It can be helpful to actually journal or write down things that bring you happiness. It’s amazing what happens when we take floating concepts and see them in tangible form. Suddenly, we realize that while things are difficult or times are tough, there are tremendous opportunities to create happiness.

Create your joy by carving out time to do the things you love. People love to get stuck in a victim mentality of “I’m just too busy for self-care.” No one is too busy. If you take a look at your daily activities, and your week, you’ll quickly see places to insert things that lighten your mood or bring you happiness.

Remember that happiness is a constant reset. That cup of coffee you just got at the drive-thru might be making you smile, but there’s a good chance traffic is going to upset your mood and put you late for work. Use those moments to tap into a space of grit and resiliency and notice the way the clouds are moving in the sky, or the giggly baby in the backseat of the car next to you, or even better, the screaming child and be grateful for the peace and quiet in yours.

Each day is an opportunity to create happiness, there’s no magic solution, but there are simple ways to experience it. The creation of happiness comes from being able to switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. How you look at the life in front of you determines how happy your life can become, and how much success you achieve.

If all else fails tap into a space of gratitude, dig deep if you have to, to find something grateful for, it might simply be fresh water from the tap, where in some foreign countries they don’t have that. Or perhaps it’s for a friend you can call anytime. Maybe it’s just simply for a beautiful sunny day.

Michaela Renee Johnson is a licensed psychotherapist, host of the top iTunes podcast Be You Find Happy and best-selling author of Empowered a Motivational Journal for Women and Growth Mindset a Workbook for Adults.