Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
An introvert or an extrovert?
Are you open or close-minded?
We like to label ourselves as being one or the other but in truth, we are neither and both. While you may tend more towards one than the other, it is your ability to flip towards one or the other depending on the circumstance that contributes to your ability to adapt and thrive in all environments.
As an introverted, open-minded optimist, I know only too well when the pessimist within tells me, “it’s not worth your while, it ain’t going to work.”
Or the fixed mindset asks, “why do you think anyone would be interested to hear what you have to say?”
And that’s OK.
This is about choice, belief, having the awareness of what’s appropriate and the understanding that mindset is dynamic, not static.
Your mindset determines your outlook, your energy and your outcomes.
When you believe you can achieve your goal, you’re more motivated to take action.
When you choose to upskill or learn something new, it raises your self-confidence and ability to understand.
When I experienced severe burnout and found myself unable to function, I made an appointment to see a local psychologist who I knew well, having referred many people to her during my time working as a general practitioner.
I must have used at least half a box of tissues during my one-hour appointment where I sobbed and spoke about my loss, my grief, and how bad I felt for letting everyone down. The psychologist was very kind and listened attentively to my tale of woe. She was very sympathetic.
But I left the appointment feeling worse. I knew I didn’t need tea and sympathy. I was seeking assistance to get me back on my feet, back to doing what is important to me i.e. being of service to others, to know what to do to stay mentally well in the future and to reconnect to who I was, rather than being someone else’s version of “A Good Doctor.”
Fortunately, my GP knew of another psychologist who would adopt a different approach, who kicked off our first meeting by asking how I had contributed to my experience of burnout. While an uncomfortable process, he showed me how my fixed mindset, limiting self-beliefs and perfectionism had all played a role. But importantly he also showed how I could shift towards operating with a growth-oriented mindset. It was time to change my mind for the better.
Life is never smooth sailing. There will always be challenges and times of adversity.
How successfully you navigate those waters, how you interpret and react to events will very much depend on your choice of mindset at that time.
If you found 2020 difficult, exhausting and frightening, you were not alone. How many people did you hear saying how much they were looking forward to getting 2020 over and done with because they wanted a fresh start, better times and greater certainty for 2021?
The thing is, celebrating the New Year did nothing to change our reality. Many countries continue to battle second and third waves of coronavirus infection. Many people have endured months of lockdown, having to work from home, home school or face enormous financial strain. Our vaccination program isn’t going to fix that. Sorry.
So, what’s the best mindset to adopt?
Too much rosy optimism, “it’s all going to be OK people!” ignores the reality that until we reach the time when the pandemic is declared over and economies around the world have recovered at least to some extent, it’s going to be a while before that happens.
It’s likely to be a tough recovery.
Too much pessimism just makes us feel lousy. When fixed into victimhood, “we’ve lost everything,” “things will never be the same” mentality it’s hard to see beyond tomorrow and that’s not looking that great.
Which is why adopting a realistic optimism, taking the middle ground, gives you something to work with. This is where developing a growth mindset accepts that it will be effort, feedback, stretch goals and curiosity to explore and learn needed to get us all back on track.
This is essential in the workplace to assist in the necessary upskilling, adoption of new work practices, being adaptive to massive and frequent change to be ready for our Brave New World. The risk of staying stuck is loss of potential, delay in the adoption of new technologies to remain competitive and up to date.
If you consider yourself a technological dinosaur, incapable of learning how to use Zoom effectively, being given access to a zoom expert won’t help, because you’ve already decided technology isn’t your thing.
If you’re struggling in one area of your work, a fixed mindset when receiving feedback on your performance may cause you to become defensive, angry even for what you perceive to be a personal attack rather than an opportunity to change and grow.
If a set of new processes and procedures are to be rolled out across the board but in your opinion it’s all totally unnecessary and a waste of time, being sent on a training course to get familiar with these may not produce the desired outcome your manager was hoping to see.
What can you do if you’re feeling stuck, a victim of circumstance?
The first thing is to acknowledge it’s not unusual to have a negative reaction, so cut yourself some slack and show a little self-compassion. You are human after all.
If you’re ready to tackle things differently then:
- Focus on your here and now and ask what’s working, what isn’t and what change would you like to see in yourself and your environment?
- Consider what you’d be willing to let go of, try out or continue to do and do well.
- Check-in on your values, your core beliefs and what you stand for If you haven’t done this before then head over to the viacharacter.org website to discover what’s true for you.
- Mind your language and challenge those thoughts. Are they fact or your opinion? Is underlying cognitive bias getting in your way of making a different decision? If you hear yourself downplaying your own talents, or making negative statements, how can you reframe your perspective to see things in a more positive light?
- Use the word yet, more often. You haven’t succeeded in passing your driving test, yet.
You haven’t created an edible loaf of sourdough bread, yet. You haven’t been selected for promotion, yet. Such a small word with a powerful punch to light up potential and possibility.
Mindset. It’s a choice. It’s never static and it can make the world of difference to how we interpret our world.
When my world turned upside down from burnout, I was initially unable to see past the loss and grief.
Today, I am extremely grateful for what that experience, painful as it was, taught me about myself and how I interact with others and the environment around me.
How do you see your future?
It’s natural to have fears, concerns and uncertainty. What moves us forward to recovery and improvement is to be open to exploring what could be, to be less afraid of risk or failure, to relish what we can learn from others and take advantage of what our marvellous planet has to offer.
Are you ready to step up into a growth-oriented mindset with realistic optimism and a set of actions to take?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) has been longlisted for the UK Best Business Books Awards 2021 and is now available for purchase.
If psychological safety, resilience and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.