Adversity is an inevitable part of life. There will always be challenges to overcome and changes to endure. Contrary to what one may think, this is actually a good thing. It is said that we learn more from our failures than from our successes. Why is this? Because failure is painful. But all pain isn't bad. Oftentimes, pain births change. And studies have shown that as humans, we are either running towards experiences that lead to pleasure, or running away from experiences that cause pain (Robbins, 1993). However, if we don't encounter challenging situations in life, we don't grow. And if we're not growing - we're not really living.
Imagine living in a world where everything always went your way. There was no opposition. Everyone always said Yes to you. No one ever rejected you. You won at everything you competed in. You never failed a test - literally or figuratively - in life. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Sure it does. Easy, breezy...but also very boring and unrealistic. Without any setbacks, controversy, criticism, rejection, losses, "No's", or failures in your life, you would not truly grow nor develop your character to its fullest capacity. Our experiences, once lived, cannot and will not ever change. But our perspective about those experiences can. And that's what makes all of the difference; because if we can shift our perspectives about a situation, or our mindsets, we can affect the outcome of our experiences in a much more different and powerful way. Learning ways to embrace adversity for what it is and developing a mindset that wants to grow and learn from these experiences, can create a much greater impact over one's life experience, versus simply shying away from adversity or avoiding challenging situations at all costs.
Your Mindset determines your Attitude; Your Attitude determines your Approach; Your Approach determines your Outcome.
Carol Dweck, a world-renowed psychologist and professor from Stanford University, discovered this particular groundbreaking theory of the power of one's "Mindset." In her similarly titled book (2006), she discusses the findings of the research she has done over the last 20 years regarding the differences in people that embrace a "growth mindset" versus those that adopt a "fixed mindset." It was found that people who had a fixed mindset (or had fixed beliefs about themselves) were more likely to believe that success defined you. You were either smart or you weren't. If you failed at something, it was because you were not good enough at it. In contrast, Dweck (2006) found that those people who embraced a growth mindset were more likely to believe that if they tried hard enough at anything, they could succeed; if they failed at a particular task, they could always try again with a different approach. For them, it was always came down to their effort (pp. 6-9).
Overall, those with growth mindsets were likelier to deal with challenges, adversity and setbacks in a more positive way. They were likelier to ask questions like "What can I learn from this situation?", "How can I improve next time?", "Is there anyone I can seek out for support that has lived through a similar experience and overcome it?" In the video below, we hear about a few famous celebrities that encountered failure and chose to rise above it instead of giving up due to the supposed setback.
These examples show us that mindsets play a pivotal role in the experiences people encounter in their lives. So what do you do if you realize that you tend to steer towards the Fixed Mindset side more than the Growth mindset? You make a conscious decision to change that. And yes, mindsets can be changed; but it will take work. Neuroscience has taught us that although the brain is a very complex and fascinating organ, it is malleable and constantly renewing itself with new neurons. According to researcher Athena Staik (2013), "To adapt a new behavior, a conscious-you must necessarily train your brain to sustain an optimal state of mind in the most taxing circumstances....Your willingness to pay attention, therefore, and to stay focused on your goals is especially vital to learning new behaviors."
This affirms Dweck's findings that changing one's mindset is possible if one has a desire to do so. Knowing all of this, I'm still curious to discover if any research has to be done on the effects of brain trauma, substance abuse or one's environment or support system on mindset development and this potential to change. If changing one's mindset was as simple as being conscientious about how and what you're thinking, wouldn't everyone choose to adopt a growth mindset knowing that the pros would outweigh the cons if you did?