Your mindset determines how you interpret the events of your life. Having the right mindset can be the difference between anxiety and action or disaffection and drive.

You get to choose your mindset. You can even choose different, complimentary mindsets at the same time to great effect.

The Growth Mindset

Persistent, focused effort is the only path forward.

The research of Dr. Carol Dweck that identified the benefits of the “growth mindset” has been widely publicized, popularized, and—like many concepts in pop-psychology—stretched beyond recognition in the process. The core idea of the growth mindset is that if you believe achievement comes from effort and perseverance you will continue to grow and improve over time–even when faced with setbacks, challenges, and failure. If you focus on performing actions in your control that keep you moving in the right direction you will continue to grow and change over time.

Instead, if you believe that your performance, aptitude, or achievements are because you are a certain kind of person or you do not believe that making an effort can lead to change, your potential for personal and professional growth is limited.1 If labels like “smart”, “gifted athlete”, and “good person” are a core part of your identity—especially if you’ve held onto these ideas of yourself since childhood—your attachment to these labels can limit your performance.

Once a label becomes a part of your identity, preserving that label becomes more important than challenging yourself. You cannot keep improving without challenges.2 It has also been demonstrated that people whose identity is threatened by an event or circumstance are willing to lie in order to preserve their self perception.

The “Stress is Enabling” Mindset

Stress prepares the body for action.
Stress prepares the mind to focus.

The physiological manifestation of stress is rife with unpleasant sensations. Your muscles tense. Your gut clenches and churns. Your senses are on high alert. This is not how we feel when we are still, relaxed, and at ease.

The “stress is enabling” mindset uses the sensations of stress as a call to action. Your mind is ready to focus. Your body is ready to perform. Step through the unpleasantness, find the decisive action in this moment, and channel your amplified abilities into taking the next step.

This reframing of stress is complementary to the growth mindset. If success is achieved through directed effort and stress amplifies the amount of effort at our disposal then stress can be an ally. Capture, harness, and direct stress or acknowledge it and move on; don’t let it roam freely in your mind.

Call to Action

Persistent, focused effort is the only path forward.
Forward towards success.
Forward towards mastery.
Forward to stillness.

Stress prepares the body for action.
Stress prepares the mind to focus.
Embrace it.
Channel it.
Step through it.

Stop. Be still.
What, in this moment, needs attention most?
What is important now?
Do it.

  1. This idea has been called a “fixed mindset” but I don’t think that’s a particularly helpful concept. I think something like “identity mindset” makes more sense—or just the converse of a growth mindset. 

  2. It’s like progressive overload for the mind.