Today’s topic shall be about mindset, particularly what it means to have a growth mindset and how to think about stress. I’ve been asked about how I deal with stress & anxiety, considering how strenuous the degree I’m undertaking is. (I’m studying chemical engineering at the University of Cape Town). So I’ll also discuss certain techniques that could be useful when feeling overwhelmed by life’s adventures.
Let’s first differentiate between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset assumes that our intelligence, abilities & characteristics are static givens. Meaning they’re biologically fixed and that our innate skills can’t be changed. Contrary to that, a growth mindset emphasizes the ways in which we can constantly change and adapt when faced with challenges, and has a completely different outlook on success and failure. The diagram below clearly illustrates the 2 different mindsets.
A mental technique that I’ve learned this year is “Not yet”. Whenever you encounter a new challenge or something that you’re currently unable to do, tell yourself not yet. It’s the best way to keep optimistic whilst embracing the challenge. When you can convince yourself that no matter what it is you’re trying to achieve, you’re just not there yet, the hope stays alive and the dream lives on. I’ve tried this several times and it’s been extremely powerful, especially when pushing for things that seem impossible. Basically don’t ever tell yourself that you can’t. Just not yet :).
Adding on to the topic of growth mindset, complimenting people for their effort and dedication instead of the results or outcomes. Part of having a growth mindset includes realizing that it’s about the journey not the destination. That is especially true when it comes to academics. Parents & teachers need to realize that the effort and dedication students put in, matters just as much or even more than the results produced. The skill of pushing yourself and working hard is something to be admired and can help you in every aspect of your life.
Stress and anxiety often occur as a result of uncontrolled thought patterns. Essentially overthinking. From my own experience of dealing with intense project weeks and exams, I’ve learnt a few tricks that helped me get through them. The most important in my opinion, is staying present. When you have a deeper understanding of the Now, you’ll learn to accept that overthinking is just thinking about things that don’t really exist. When you have a certain amount of time to get something done, give it your best within the present moment. There’s no use worrying about how little time you have left or how much work there is to do. All you have is right now, so use that to your advantage. Cultivate a belief system and program your mind to make the most of the time you currently have. When you can filter your energy and time into that, instead of overthinking, you’ll be able to achieve all that you need. There’s also no use in stressing over things out of your control, so whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, always start with recognition. Once you learn to acknowledge the feeling, accept it, write it down and let it go. Clear your thoughts and get back on the grind. Watch a motivational video or do something that’ll help distract you in a positive way, such as exercising or reading.
Another trick I learnt, was changing my mindset towards stress. I like to think of stress as my body’s way of getting me ready to take action, gearing up. Whenever you realize you’re stressed, think of it as a reminder to get things done. When you form a healthier relationship with stress, it definitely helps you deal with it better.
I’ve discussed the difference between a growth and fixed mindset, where the former allows you to constantly seek challenges to grow & the latter makes you feel threatened by obstacles and difficulties. How we should change the way we compliment people and focus more on the effort, rather than the results. How stress can be your friend and just a simple change in perspective can go a long way in dealing with the infamous feeling. I’ll end off with another brilliant quote that I love:
“We suffer not from the events that occur to us, but rather our perception of them.”