Have you been following my Resilient Teacher Series of blogs? This year I have been working to support teachers and leaders to change their thinking about their wellbeing. My aim is to give you tools and strategies to build your resilience and enable you to make yourself more of a priority.
Why am I doing this?
Well for many reasons really. However, my number one motivator is to remind you about how important, precious and powerful you truly are as a person and as an early childhood education professional.
I firmly believe that the biggest influence on the wellbeing of our children (and future society) is the wellbeing of all the significant adults in their lives.
How intentional we can be as a teacher, leader or parent depends on how intentional we are with ourselves.
A fixed mindset about our wellbeing
I would like to challenge you to consider whether you have a fixed or growth mindset about your resilience and wellbeing.
Mindset is the attitude that underpins your thinking, feelings and behaviour. How you think about yourself has the power to make or break any new habits or behaviours that you are trying to embrace as part of your life.
If your mindset sees the amount of effort required to change your behaviour as “too hard”, then this could mean that you have a fixed mindset around this area of your life.
A fixed mindset is rigid and causes you to say things like, “I can’t”. We then put up walls that are a barrier to growth or change. A fixed mindset can cause you to self-sabotage your efforts and to see problems as unsolvable. When we have a fixed mindset we allow mistakes or minor setbacks to completely derail us.
In my previous blog; Getting Clear With Your Why – I discuss how the labels we give ourselves and the meaning that we attach to these labels can hold us back from making changes that we would like to make in our lives. This is a fixed mindset that we can have about our identity.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about how our habits can shape who we are or become part of our identity.
Our fixed belief that these habits are simply part of who we are can easily cause us to fall into the trap of saying things like:
“That’s just the way I am”
“I’m just not a gym person”
“I’m terrible at math”
“I’ve always been like this, I can’t change now”
Once you have adopted an identity, it can be easy to let your allegiance to it impact your ability to change. Many people walk through life in a cognative slumber, blindly following the norms attached their identity… The more deeply a thought or an action is tied to your identity, the more difficult it is to change.James Clear – Atomic Habits
Can you think of a specific time when you allowed your fixed mindset about who you are to hold you back?
The power of a growth mindset
While a fixed mindset has the power to hold you back, a growth mindset has the power to transform your life. Within a growth mindset, there is flexibility. It recognises that although things might not be achievable right now that this will not always be the case.
A growth mindset about ourselves and our identities leaves the room for us to think of ourselves as ever-growing, ever-evolving beings. We view ourselves as capable of adapting, learning and mastering new healthier habits. A growth mindset sees mistakes or setbacks as temporary and provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow.
Changing our mindset can be very tricky as some of this thinking can be deeply engrained, as discussed in my previous blog. How we think of ourselves or speak to ourselves takes self-awareness, work and time.
According to author James Clear in order for us to change our habits we need to change our perception of who we are or our identity.
For example instead of saying things like:
“I would like to start running” we should say “I would like to be a runner”
or instead of saying:
“I would like to eat healthier food” we should say “I would like to be a healthy person”
The same goes for our resilience. In order for us to be more resilient, we need to first believe that we are a resilient person.
We then need to assume this new identity and to ask ourselves “How would the person I would like to be, act?” “What choices would this person make?”
For example; if we were wanting to become a healthier person and we were faced with a decision between a pie or a salad – we could ask ourselves, “what would a healthy person eat?”
Or if we were faced with the choice of going for a walk after work or watching television, we could ask ourselves, “What would a healthy person do?”
The more we start acting in accordance with our new desired identity, the more this identity will be affirmed. As we gather more evidence for this new identity we learn to trust ourselves and it becomes part of the fabric of who we are.
The act of simply catching ourselves and correcting a fixed mindset thought with an empowering growth mindset thought can move us towards the growth and change that we desire.
Using the superpower of “Yet”
We all have a mixture of fixed or growth mindsets about various areas of our lives. The quality of our thoughts and internal dialogue matters.
I have found that the word “Yet” although small and unassuming in its make-up packs a powerful punch!
By simply using “Yet” at the end of a fixed mindset sentence we can transform it into a growth mindset statement.
“I can’t do this” becomes “I can’t do this yet”
“I don’t know how to do this” is transformed into “I don’t know how to do this yet”
By adding this little word to the end of a sentence it signals to our brain that although what we are wanting to do might not be achievable at this moment, our brains have the capacity to grow and learn new ways of being, thinking and doing.
This is a powerful example for our children because they learn how to be by watching us.
Children learn to learn in the way their parents, carers and teachers learn… If they watch adults being experimental, inquisitive and tenacious in their learning, these habits will rub off…If their role models have no time for ideas or become angry the minute their efforts are frustrated, that too is what they will learn.Guy Claxton – Learning Power
Putting this into practice
Are there habits in your life that are part of your identity?
Is it time to rethink these habits or to perhaps open yourself up to the possibility that you could change them if you wish?
Perhaps, the next time when you catch yourself having a disempowering fixed mindset thought you could:
- Become the objective observer of your thought
- Ask yourself, “was this a fixed mindset or growth mindset thought?”
- Evaluate if this thinking is part of the new identity you would like to embrace.
- Reframe your thought to be more in keeping with your new desired identity or end the sentence with the power of “Yet”
It might be a bit tricky at first because some of your labels might be a wee bit sticky, but keep going. Once you become more aware of your fixed mindset in certain situations and the more you practice, the better you will be able to shift your thinking.
Look out for my next blog which will give you tools and strategies to support you to create more intentional habits.
Let me know how you go. I am always grateful to receive feedback or to hear your stories.
James Clear – Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (2018), Penguin Publishers
Guy Claxton – The Learning Power Approach: Teaching learners to teach themselves (2018), Crown House Publishing
Are you part of my wellbeing community? Why not join me and other heart-led professionals making their wellbeing a priority?
Look out for my new book due to be released on 31 March 2020.