The words of Romans 12:2
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
give us ancient clues that the wonders of modern research have now confirmed: our mindsets are instrumental in shaping our lives. Carol Dweck proves the implications of a growth (versus fixed) mindset. It makes a profound difference that we believe we are able to learn and that our capacity for change is not limited.
But how can a mind that is ‘set’ adapt? (Language matters, right?)
Evidence for the brain’s plasticity is compelling and it is supremely hopeful news that new neural pathways are grown in response to the experiences and challenges we face. This is NOT the power of positive thinking. Rather it is a noticing when we go into fear and scarcity, and then finding what genuinely influences us towards faith in what we don’t yet know, and what is not yet seen. Nor is this toxic positivity; possibility and abundance are indeed vital to our vitality navigating a VUCA* world.
So, what allows a generative adaptation of mind, moving us from helplessness to hope, in the midst of uncertainty?
In my work as a leadership coach and facilitator, I get a ‘privileged peak’ inside the interior world and workings of client’s mindsets. The stories we tell ourselves are POWERFUL. We know we have an inbuilt negativity bias – supposedly aimed at keeping us SAFE. In my experience our stories are mostly harsh and keep us STUCK, rather than any hope filled expectation of renewal.
What I also experience, is that most change is not generated first in the mind; rather it resides in our language, emotions and the body. It is only when we feel SAFE and SUPPORTED in all parts of ourselves – that we are enough at ease to reframe our mindsets. Bessel van der Kolk supports this finding that, ‘People can learn to control and change… but only if they feel safe enough to experiment – the body keeps the score.’
SO, what helps us to feel safe? The adult leadership resilience research can help us:
Get Calm: Tune in to what genuinely enables you to FEEL emotionally regulated, grounded and to come into the present. Music? Movement? Meditation? Or simply standing up, looking outside and taking three deep-belly breaths? Its ok to just to be.
Get Curious: Manage and map your energy regularly in all the ways: physical, mental, emotional, creative, social and spiritual energy. Be curious about how, in each, you are drained or sustained daily. Be encouraged that small investments in EACH of your energy stores can make a profound difference to the story you tell yourself. It’s ok to set limits.
Get Clear: Do a quick review of your preferred learning style and clarify where you normally spend most time. Spend at least some time in each, celebrating your learnings and noticing your capacity for change, boosting your mindset. It’s ok to celebrate learning.
Get Collaborative: Connect, little and often, to what is genuinely meaningful for you in this season, and seek out at a number of diverse perspectives to counter your own. Human isolation (whether real or perceived) is arguably the most devasting thing we can be subject to. Our social connectedness and supports are linked to life expectancy, not only mindset! It doesn’t get much more potent than that! It’s ok to seek help.
Mindset is not thinking ourselves into hope. As Bertie says ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them’. We need to account for our language, emotions and bodies if we truly wish to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
*VUCA: Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity