How will you feed the info-system today ?

How will you feed the info-system today ?

We all tend to be overwhelmed with information. It is said that we get in a day as much information as our ancestors used to get in their entire life. “Infobesity” lurks! When I consume and produce information with more awareness, I cultivate presence and focus.

So here is a resilience practice we invite you to cultivate this week:
I watch my info-diet and pay special attention to the information I consume, produce and share.

Resilient Mindset

Resilient Mindset

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
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A journey to flexible, resilient minds

A resilient mindset appears as a simple, compelling concept. If we could just acquire such a thing – perhaps with a pill or an app – life would magically become better. A resilient mindset could solve all sorts of problems.

For a critical mind, the concept is complex and confusing. Is there even such a thing?  If there was such a thing, how might we develop and apply it?

In this article we try to understand and define what a resilient mindset might be and explore whether it is possible to develop such a thing.

What is a resilient mindset?

First, we must define a mindset. The catchy answer is to tease out Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. A fixed mindset takes the position that things cannot be changed – even with dedicated effort. For example: “There is no point in me trying to do mathematics. My mind is just not built for mathematics. I simply cannot solve these problems.” This built on Martin Seligman’s learned helplessness. Research demonstrates that it leads to a less fulfilling life.

The growth mindset, previously called learned optimism by Seligman, takes the position that if I apply myself, I can learn to master this. For example: “Mathematics is challenging for me and many others. If I apply myself and practice hard enough, with the right support, I can learn to solve these problems.” Research demonstrates that this belief leads to fulfilling and successful lives.

We cannot see these mindsets in a brain scan. They are beliefs about our abilities and the challenges presented to us. We could say that a mindset is a strongly held belief. There is evidence – primarily from twin studies – that some beliefs have as much as 50% genetic origin. Conservative views, pessimism, risk taking, and anxiety correlate with inheritance.

Nevertheless, we can become more aware of our beliefs and through this learn to challenge and adjust our beliefs. In this way cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can cure depression as well or better than anti-depressants. Likewise, a belief that ‘those people’ are evil and awful can change with constructive engagement to a belief that ‘those people’ are just like me.

In summary, a mindset is a mental representation of how things do or don’t work. Here are some mindset tests.

Which statement describes your mindset?

  • People are selfish
  • We should be self reliant
  • Humans cause climate change
  • High taxes are good
  • I will take care of myself
  • Empathy is a hardwired trait
  • I believe I can master ‘x”
  • Life is brutal, solitary, nasty and short
  • People are kind and generous
  • We should support people
  • Climate change is random
  • Tax should be minimised
  • Others should care for me
  • We can learn empathy
  • There is no point trying ‘x’
  • Life is a creative advance into novelty

Does one really want a mindset? Perhaps in this age of polarisation, what we need more are flexible perspectives. Rather than having set beliefs, we might learn to explore different perspectives thus testing the pros and cons of each. The BBC advocates a paradox mindset. There is no one right way and therefore, “mindset” may be misleading. We vote for flexible minds.

Second, we must define resilience. Is it a genetic attribute which is fixed at an early age? Alternatively, is it a learned set of skills that we can all acquire with effort and support. Some believe that it is ‘bouncing back’ from adversity. Others believe that adversity stimulates post traumatic growth.

While we must each come to our own definition, our research shows that the learned ability to bounce, grow, connect and find flow is an integrated set of skills. A skilful performer takes on increasingly difficult tasks. Adversity and failure are inevitable. They must learn to bounce forward fast. As they learn bounce, they grow physical, emotional and mental skills. These skills are connected in a team, game, or specific situation to achieve the flow state. Whilst super-productive and fulfilling, there will be setbacks.

Right here we face one of the conundrums of our time. Should we protect our children and people from adversity? Shall we make sure we are physically safe, emotionally coddled, and mentally complacent? In this mindset, adversity is the problem. People must be protected. Pressure and challenge must be avoided. We must support people at all costs and ask little of them.

Alternatively, should we challenge people with adversity and risk? Evidence shows that adversity stimulates awareness and growth. Further, serious adversities connect communities and increase collaboration. Rather than seeing people as vulnerable and victims, we view human ability as noble. We expect dedicated self-improvement and altruism.

Either one can become a fixed resilience mindset. These are the polarised perspectives of liberal humanism versus stoic self-reliance. Taken to extreme, both perspectives have risk. If we press the first, people can become frail (unwell), fearful (anxious) and fragile (depressed).  If we press the second, people might feel isolated, exploited and distressed.

A flexible, resilient mind might ask when safety is the priority versus when challenge and accountability is a better solution. Pick your battles with wisdom and learn to adjust with new information.

How to build a flexible, resilient mind?

The bad news is that it takes time, effort and repetition. A pill or an app is not the solution. Hard work over thousands of hours defines the path. The good news is that we can learn and master well established, defined skills. There are even some bio-hacks (short cuts).

The goal of a flexible, resilient mind is:

“to construct a conscious, deliberate alignment of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual resources to engage effectively with a defined situation”

Conscious and deliberate cognition is essential. Our thinking must be clear, ordered, flexible and creative. In approaching the situation, we must have a clear view of the complexity of the situation, master our own state, and be able to generate creative options to solve it.

The All Black rugby team has drilled this under the name of ‘red or blue, decide, do’. Articulated well by Ceri Evans, it is the discipline of engaging with a challenging moment knowing that we can choose between a ‘red’ emotionally reactive approach or a ‘blue’ thoughtful and deliberate approach. Players practice selecting the ‘blue’ by stepping back, up and in. They ‘step back’ to calm the ‘red’, then step up to get a clear view, and then step into the situation fully committed and deliberate.

In a challenging situation, the body will often react with fear (flight), anger (fight) or withdrawal (freeze) reactions. These strong negative emotions disable clear thinking and decisions. They can set the mind in stone.

The challenge is to restrain strong, negative reactions. To do this we have to name them, tame them and reframe them (step back and up). It is only when our emotional state is calm and positive that we can activate the mental skills required to assess, analyse and solve the challenge.

Our physical wellbeing is essential to support this effort. Good quality sleep, adequate rest and recovery, physical fitness and smart nutrition are required.

We can think of our spiritual resources as faith. Faith that with deliberate practice I/we can learn to master this situation (grow and flow).  Faith that self-care is an ethical imperative (grow). Faith that people are fundamentally good (connect). Faith that flexible and creative work can solve the toughest challenges (bounce, grow, connect and flow). Faith that those who love and support us will be there regardless of the outcome (connect).

To apply this approach in your own life, think of a specific situation or challenge you are facing right now. Describe the situation clearly in writing. Reflect on the last time you confronted this situation. What were you thinking? What emotions were in play? What did you experience in your body?

As you describe how your mental, emotional and physical resources lined up to the situation, you can see with clarity how the situation evolved. This is called situational awareness and is the foundation of a resilient mind, emotions and body.

Next, define in writing what sort of outcome you would like to achieve in this situation. When you can define clearly the current versus desired outcome, you have created tension – a gap that you intend to close. This is the purpose of a flexible, resilient mind. We can apply willpower to close the gap.

Then, you must apply the creative solutions that help you close the gap. There are many variations that you might consider and explore. What new thinking might you introduce? What emotions will motivate and inspire action? What sort of physical wellbeing and engagement is required? This is called situational agility. This is the work of a resilient mind, emotions and body.

Once you can build a few potential solutions to the challenge, you are applying integral resilience and situational agility. It may not work on the first attempt. Be willing to test and trial these options with a colleague or a coach. The first time you apply it, it will feel awkward and may go astray. Sit down and reflect following the steps described. What do you need to be more aware of? What other options are available? How can you practice that particular part of the solution?

If you have made it this far, you are on the path to a resilient mindset – sorry – flexible, resilient mind.  Well done.

Suggested Reading:

  1. Mindset: updated edition, Carol Dweck, 2017
  2. Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman, 2006
  3. The Coddling the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt, 2019
  4. Perform under Pressure, Ceri Evans, 2019
FULFILMENT

FULFILMENT

Research Highlight: Fulfilment is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 91% scored “I am contented, joyous and fulfilled” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Sadness (disappointment), fear (anxiety) and anger (frustration) are easy emotional traps to fall into. Far too many indulge in these destructive reactions. They will leave you in perpetual freeze, flight and fight states. This is deep suffering and ineffective.

Only 4% of the least resilient people score fulfilment with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What is the constructive emotion for this moment?

Condition: Be intolerant of complaint, frustration and blame

Discipline: Actively seek positive emotional expression

Caution: When necessary, tell your truth with courage and empathy

What you can do right now?

  1. In every moment – even the darkest – there is a positive response. In sadness there is learning and growth. In fear there is courage and calm. In anger there is tolerance and altruism. Be assertive in searching and expressing the positive response.
  2. Complaint spreads discomfort. Reject it. Frustration disables you. Reject it. Blame steals your power. Reject it. Respect, experience and name these negative reactions. They are real. Use the signal to say “NO”. Seek the positive angle.
  3. Learn to strengthen your positive emotions. If sad, seek the lesson learned. Be grateful. If afraid, seek calm presence. Be content. If angry, seek kindness. Be compassionate. If fatigued, seek energy. Be resilient.

Positive emotions are like muscles. If you work on them, they will get stronger. Even the toughest moments can be fulfilling. Enjoy your discomfort. Appreciate the moment. Strengthen your joy.

In the background:

  • Secure your sleep
  • Stay physically fit
  • Relax, breathe or meditate
  • Work on connection with those who matter to you
PURPOSE

PURPOSE

Research Highlight: purpose is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 96% scored “my purpose in life is clear and meaningful” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What is my purpose? Describe with clarity and meaning

Condition: Step back, up and take a wide view of what matters

Discipline: Connect and leverage all you do to your purpose

Caution: Keep a sense of humour, laugh and play

If you cannot define and describe what matters to you, you leave yourself exposed to distraction, seduction and procrastination. You will become a victim to the purpose of others. Your success will be compromised.

Only 6% of the least resilient people score purpose with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’. Poorly defined purpose leads to suffering.

What you can do right now?

  1. Your life is rich and diverse. There is no right or perfect purpose. Each of us must seek to define what really matters. Consider the times that you felt your life or activity was optimally on track. Joy and engagement are the signals to seek. Imagine your life with more of these times. What purpose would you be serving?
  2. It is essential to step back and remove the daily busyness and distraction. Find a perspective where you can take a wide view of life. What work needs to be done. Where are your particular skills best deployed? How do you want to feel? Who do you want to contribute to? What would you most love to achieve? Right down what this purpose would look like in action.
  3. Be courageous and look for ways to reduce those parts of your day that are not on purpose. Where could you increase the amount of time that would be spent on your purpose. Do what is not on purpose in the aim of getting back on purpose. Share your written purpose with others. Seek helpful feedback. Ask for help.
  4. Being on purpose all the time can be boring, overwhelming or intimidating to others. Don’t be too serious. Welcome failure and learn. Laugh when you go off track. Forgive yourself and make time to play. Seek nature and creative expression.

Building purpose takes time, experimentation and setbacks. The more accurately you can describe your purpose the more you will access your motivation and intuitive decision-making.

FOCUS

FOCUS


By 

Research Highlight: Focus is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 94% scored “my mind is clear and focused” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What meaningful activity will I complete today?

Condition: Clear your mind of distraction and clutter

Discipline: Hold intense, steady and sharp attention on task

Caution: Take regular breaks to rejuvenate and keep perspective

Distraction, uncertainty and self-doubt rule. Every day, thousands of interruptions, concerns and risks will present. For those who do not understand, train and continually improve focus, it is a very dangerous time indeed.

Only 4% of the least resilient people score focus with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’. Lack of focus leads to suffering.

What you can do right now?

  1. Select a meaningful task each day of the week. Start with making your bed or eating well. Once you have your basic daily routines sorted, then shift to one meaningful work or career goal. For example: today I will complete my new CV. Rest at least one day of the weekend – no important task.
  2. Clear your mind. Focus is impossible when lost in floodwaters of distraction. One by one, clear it away. Select your focus window during which your phone, e-mail, music, food and drink options are not available. Be comfortable but alert. Relax your awareness into the moment. Allow all frustration, anger, anxiety, fear, disappointment and sadness to drop away. Detach your mind from thoughts that arise and gently return to the present moment.
  3. Build intense focus. Select the focus required for the immediate task in front of you. Direct your attention fully at this task. Zoom in so that you can see the detail in fine granularity. Keep the beam of attention firmly on the current execution of your skills. Learn to recognise when focus fades, take a break and refocus.

Building powerful focus will take time and practice. Select achievable goals and define your time periods carefully. Pay attention to what works.

In the background:

  • Secure your sleep
  • Stay physically fit
  • Relax, breathe or meditate
Safetyism, Snowballs and Fragile Youth

Safetyism, Snowballs and Fragile Youth

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

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Book Review: Coddling of the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt, 2018

We parent, teach and support. We want the best for young people. What we are seeing is a collapse of mental well-being. At the same time, events of intimidation, violence and witch hunts increase.

Lukianoff and Haidt take us on an evidence-based and carefully considered journey through modern parenting, teenage mental illness and education. They describe how we are losing the pursuit of truth and growth. Society is being pulled apart by partisan politics and intolerance. Young people are not coping well with this.

Most importantly, the authors detail what we can do to improve this situation. What they describe is American but the signs are global. The solutions are practical and immediately applicable in families, schools, universities and societies.

The book is excellent.  Three ideas:

Safetyism

Overprotective society, parenting and education is depriving young people of growth. They are missing the opportunity to engage skilfully with truth, diversity, risk assessment, empathy and situation agility (the authors use Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)). The i-Generation, born after 1995, suffers rapidly increasing rates of anxiety, self-harm and depression. They are poorly prepared for the challenges of work, relationships and politics.

The authors recommend using safety for physical risk only. They encourage us to help our youth take risks through free play, debate, conflict resolution and respect for truth. Social media must be limited – particularly for young women.

Snowballs

A school demands that student never touch snow because it may produce a dangerous snowball. Similarly, we have invited and expanded the concept of threat to include diverse views, free speech, “micro-aggressions” and “avoiding triggers”. Thus universities have, since 2013, experienced an alarming increase in mental illness and campus violence. Research from left-leaning perspectives is all that remains. Moderate views have been silenced. Social media helps us name and shame those who voice disquieting views. If that does not work, students increasingly resort to violence. All because someone touched the snow.

Fragility

Young people are complex adaptive systems. Genes create a rough template upon which the challenges of life – most specifically play and direct social interaction – work. We must play and practice to develop our neural wiring and the skills required to thrive. Jean Twenge shows that teen development is now delayed by three years. They are physically safe but mentally vulnerable.

The authors recommend that we rethink and look for proven wisdom. Treat our youth as antifragile. They have specific suggestions for parents, junior and senior school and universities. Much is based on teaching young people to own and master their emotional and cognitive responses. “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”

Bravo!