Pressing Pause Podcast episode 35 One little word that can change how we think and feel
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Hello and welcome to episode 35. Today I want to talk about how one word can change your mindset, how you think and feel, from being closed down and self-defeating to open with potential and possibilities.
Professor Carol Dweck is the leading authority on mindset, she’s written a fantastic book called Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential all about fixed and growth mindsets. I’ll link to it in the show notes. In the book she says, “When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world – the world of fixed traits – success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other – the world of changing qualities – it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.”
So where someone with a fixed mindset sees themselves failing, a person with a growth mindset sees themselves learning.
We develop a predominantly fixed or growth mindset from an early age. Developing a growth mindset is being addressed in our primary schools right now which is fantastic. But us adults have some catching up to do. So if our ability is praised when we do well at a task we believe that we’re naturally talented or clever. And then if we struggle or fail at something we believe that we’re not so smart after all, we don’t have the ability and so we can’t do the task.
When effort is praised we learn that the result is because we tried, we worked hard and this is something that we can build upon and improve. So the next time we come up against a challenge we’re more willing to have a go at it because we believe that we have the potential to improve and learn.
Think about how this applies in real life. Let me give you an example. Through childhood and into adulthood I’ve found foreign languages difficult to learn so I tell myself that I don’t have the ear for them, it’s simply not something I’m good at. That’s the fixed mindset talking. Because others seem to pick up another language more easily than me they have the ability and I don’t. So I won’t try to learn Italian because I won’t be any good at it.
With a growth mindset I would realise that yes, it’s going to take hard work and perseverance to learn Italian but there’s no real reason why I can’t pick up the language if I make an effort and try.
Think about the mindset you have when it comes to everyday challenges in your life. When you’re considering doing something new, whether it’s going for a job interview, asking someone out on a date, joining a sports club or painting with watercolours, think about how you talk to yourself about it. Is the fixed mindset telling you that you don’t want to look a fool, that this isn’t something you’re good at, that you’ve no natural talent and so you should just not bother pursuing it any further? Or is the growth mindset telling you to try, that this could be the start of a new adventure, nothing ventured, nothing gained and that it’ll be fun to learn and to stretch yourself?
And when you’ve taken that step, pushed yourself into your stretch zone only for things to not turn out as well as you hoped, what mindset are you adopting then? Do you tell yourself that you should have known you would fail, that it’s not something you’re capable of and you won’t put yourself at risk again? Or can you look at it as a learning experience, think about what you can do to help yourself next time, consider what you might need to work on developing or put more effort into?
While we may not approach everything in life with one mindset we do have a dominant one. I know that I come at challenges with a fixed mindset more often than a growth one and it’s something that I’ve been working on for quite some time to change. When I automatically dismiss something as being too hard or out of my league or worry that I’m going to look stupid I catch myself and ask what’s really going on here. What’s behind these thoughts, what story am I telling myself and which mindset am I approaching this challenge with?
And then, this is where the one little word comes in. I state what I think I can’t do or don’t have the ability to do or don’t know how to do and I add the word ‘yet’ on the end. So, for example, my initial thought could be I can’t speak Italian. Well, no, I haven’t put the effort in so actually I can’t speak Italian yet.
Another example could be that you don’t sleep well, you always wake up during the night. It may be true that you have woken up during the night a lot in the past but that doesn’t mean that one of the nights yet to come won’t see you sleeping well. The potential is there for you to get a good night’s sleep, you can try different things to help so you don’t sleep well yet. But maybe you will.
Or perhaps your thought is you don’t know how to stop overthinking everything all the time. I hear this one a lot and variations of it: you can’t calm your mind, you can’t stop feeling responsible for everyone. And that may be true for how you feel right now, I’m not going to tell you that this isn’t how you feel. What I will tell you is that this is your fixed mindset talking. It feels like this is how things are and how they’ll always be. Other people don’t worry, it’s okay for them because they’re naturally able to feel relaxed and calm and not stress about stuff. But you’re not like them so you aren’t able to stop the worries flowing through your head 24/7.
But, here’s another but, this is not true. It may feel true but it isn’t. You don’t know how to stop overthinking everything all the time yet. You haven’t known how to do it in the past but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to in the future. The future is not set in stone, there is nothing that says how the past has been is how the future will be.
With time, effort, guidance and tools you can learn to stop overthinking and to worry less. Or to speak Italian or to ski or make samosas, or whatever it is that you want, you just don’t know how to do it yet. You are a work in progress and you can make the changes in your life that you want to. You’re listening to this podcast so you’ve started already! As I spoke about in last week’s episode 34 we have neuroplasticity so we can learn and adapt and move from a fixed to a growth mindset at any time in our lives.
And if you’re listening to this and thinking, it’s okay for her, she doesn’t know what it’s really like to get stuck in your head going over and over the same worries, feeling like you have to take care of everyone and everything, worrying what people think of you, having the weight of the world on your shoulders, with no-one to talk to who really understands what it’s like to have all these thoughts whizzing around your head – I do.
I do understand, I really do get it. Because you’ve described how I felt for a long, long time. I thought that this is how things are, I’m an overthinker who will worry about everything forever. It’s something I’m just stuck with. Over the years, I became more and more fed up with this feeling, I wanted things to be different, I wanted more from my life, I wanted to be free from the trapped inside my head feeling. And as I learned from positive psychology, as I tried out different ideas and techniques, as I fell down and got up to try again, things changed. I changed. I learned how to untangle myself from my thoughts, I became more practiced at calming myself and my worrying brain, I got better at dealing with challenges and, the big bonus of it all, I found myself relaxing and enjoying my life more.
I am still a deep thinker, don’t get me wrong, I still care greatly about the people around me and the world at large. There are times when I catch myself what if-ing and the thoughts beginning to spin but it’s okay because I can recognise when it’s happening, whether it’s helpful or not, and I know how to help myself before my brain runs off into an overthinking whirlwind.
You may not know how to stop your overthinking yet but that yet is what matters. You have the potential, it is possible for you to stop overthinking, to worry less and enjoy your life just as you want to.
If you’re looking for support to help you do exactly that I am here for you. We can work through the overwhelm and stress together and forge a path forward for you to break free of the worry burden and feel calm, confident and equipped to thrive in your life.
As your coach I will be with you every step of the way so you don’t have to figure this stuff out on your own. By working one-to-one we can focus on your specific challenges and needs to free you from your worry chains so you can live your life as you want to. Go to theoverthinkerscoach.com, or follow the link in the show notes, to find out more and to take advantage of my special offer while it’s still available for a couple more weeks.
As always you can find the show notes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast and I’d love to hear what you take from this episode.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.