Wobbling with the world…

Right before our eyes, the world has become a wonky place. Unpredictable and unthinkable events have occured. Things we thought were firm and stable aren’t.

And we don’t like it!

Living in uncertainty is hard. It requires us to be flexible, lest we snap under the pressure. Yet the systems of Western culture do nothing to cultivate our inherent flexibility and resilience. Indeed, materialism, competition, and our cultural notion of success all reward a rigid approach to living. And we’ve become so used to living this way that we often don’t realize it’s a cultural meme and not an immutable fact of life.

We have two choices…

In uncertain times, we can cling tighter and push harder in hopes of getting things back to the way they were. Or we can change our mindset about how things are meant to work, what is possible, and what’s to be expected in the new circumstances in which we find ourselves through no choice of our own.

As my Tasmanian friend Gill so aptly put it, we have to wobble with the world. She should know. Gill has lived through plenty of wobbles including a broken neck and open heart surgery. Yet she is still here, after 84 years, with an inspiring curiosity and zest for learning and growing. I think it’s fair to say that Gill’s mindset is what made it possible for her to wobble with her world while it lurched along through her share of adverse events.

Times of change, such as what we are experiencing in 2020, call for resilience. Some of us seem to have it, many do not. How does that happen? How is it that some people are able to wobble with the world and others are not?

It depends on your mindset…

Mindset is a lens or frame of mind that orients us to a particular set of associations and expectations. We adopt mindsets to filter and organize the flood of information that could be overwhelming. The mindset we choose automatically excludes a lot of what comes at us every day, simplifying what we take into consideration and thus making our lives more manageable.

Carol Dwek is a leading researcher in personality and social psychology. Her best-selling book, Mindsetdescribes two types—a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. As you might imagine from the name, a fixed mindset is the one that makes it difficult for a person to cope when confronted with change and uncertainty. This video illustrates fixed and growth mindsets as identified by Carol Dweck,,,


Simply put, a fixed mindset leads to failure and lack of confidence, whereas a growth mindset is the basis of success in the broad sense—not just about money, possessions, and achieving goals but also feelings of happiness, joy, and satisfaction.

How to shift your mindset…

The video you just saw ends with general thoughts about changing your mindset. For a more practical discussion, I’d like to introduce Stanford professor, athlete and psychologist, Alia Crum. Director of the Mind & Body Lab at Stanford University, Dr. Crum has done  groundbreaking research demonstrating that our mindset determines how our body responds to physical activity, food intake, and stress. Her aim is to understand how mindsets can be consciously and deliberately changed.

Below is a full-length presentation she made to the Gladstone Institutes, an independent biomedical research institution. Dr. Crum described how a person’s mindset is directly linked to their stress, and encouraged the Gladstone community to explore how stress impacts their work and personal life. In her practical way, she ended the presentation with explicit steps we can apply to change our mindset.

If you only have time to dip in and out of Dr Crum’s presentation, here are some highlights:

  • Two fundamentally flawed assumptions about stress  7:15
  • Mindset 16:22
  • Hotel room attendant study  19:26
  • Milkshake study  21:50
  • Changing mindset about stress  24:02
  • 3-step approach to shifting mindset  31:40

If you’d like to be walked through the 3-step process in short bites, with questions to help you rethink stress in a practical way, go here for their rethinking Stress Toolkit.

And so…

if you find yourself thinking how hard it is to live with the disruption caused by a virus that isn’t going away any time soon, what if you changed from this fixed minset to a growth mindset instead?

What if, like my friend Gill, you adopted the growth mindset that the world is wobbly right now and that you are willing and able to wobble with it instead of resisting?

Which do you think would lead to a happier life?

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