Stress management often starts with having a greater awareness about our surroundings in our personal lives and society at large so we not only focus on the positive, but be conscious of the negative in a way that allows us to flip the bad things on their head. For example, awareness that stress is a natural, genetic thing that we all share together allows us to look at stress with more positive energy (For more, see Part I and Part II of "You Are Not Alone."
Awareness starts with understanding 1. the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset and 2. Knowing that a growth mindset, even at a mature age, is absolutely possible.
A fixed mindset is the idea that once we have reached a certain point of maturity, our brains have been permanently wired to a point where growth plateaus without much room for change in habits, abilities or behaviors—We are stuck where we are whether we like it or not. Conversely, a growth mindset is the idea that with enough hard work and repetition, we can re-wire our brain into desired habits, abilities and behaviors—we can go anywhere if we really want to. While a fixed mindset attempts to weigh us down into a mediocre status quo, a growth mindset lifts us into a state of evolution. Simply knowing that the growth mindset is a scientifically proven possibility opens our eyes beyond the fixed facade and raises awareness about the opportunities above.
Our potential growth, however, can often get weighed down by negative surroundings that attempt to remind us of our fixed mediocrity and anchor us down to the average median. Unfortunately, modern society is engulfed in negativity. Regardless of political affiliation, turn on the news for five minutes and it is guaranteed to make our blood boil. Most popular TV shows and movies are primarily focused on morbid and overwhelmingly serious topics that make us wonder if the world—and our tiny existence—is almost over. Social media is a constant reminder of how boring and problem-filled our lives are compared to those of all of our friends. It is not a coincidence that people who spend more time watching TV, looking at the news and spending time on Facebook are on average more likely to be depressed.
There is also your work situation, whatever it might be. A legal career, for example, is often filled with dispute, dark situations, difficult adversaries and unhappy clients often suffering some of the hardest times of their lives. Any career will be filled with anchors you could probably immediately identify in your field. And none of this includes any personal anchors unique to each individual
With so many anchors attempting to keep us grounded, what is the solution?
- Identify the anchors. Write them down and practice training the mind to identify when they spring into action. Being both consciously aware of their existence and their motivations alone can be an incredibly powerful tool to limit their impact.
- When they do spring into action, literally imagine them as physical weights trying to pull us down. Imagine being strong enough to lift up and pull out of it.
- Limit exposure to the negative so that more exposure is focused on the positive.
- Find a way to turn the unavoidable anchors into a positive, growth mindset.
How do we flip anchors into floats? That's for next time.