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Hey Doc: Does mindset matter when life sucks?

Does Mindset matter when life sucks? Q & A with the coach

My day-to-day is filled with questions… mostly ones that I ask others to answer. Questions designed to help them understand who they are, what they need and how to move forward to build and live kick-ass lives.

Every month I’m going to turn the tables and answer some of your questions both live and on the blog.

This month we’re talking mindset with two questions from Life in Focus followers or Lifers as I like to call them. One will be answered here on the blog, the other will be answered during a podcast…

Does mindset really make a difference when life is actually going to hell in a hand basket?

This question comes from Cate who contacted me via email some time ago to ask about a friend who was going through some tough times. 

The short answer is YES, mindset always matters!

It matters because mindset determines how we appreciate and then address a situation. Remember that  what you think becomes your reality – regardless of circumstances – which means that your outlook or mindset will determine what you perceive, how you experience it emotionally, and what you do about it.

Imagine you just got laid off from a job you needed to make ends meet. We could all agree that this situation would be worrisome, depressing, possibly infuriating and overall destabilizing and stressful.

Now meet Joy, she is generally optimistic, and usually sees potential and possibility in things. Joy approaches life’s roadblocks like puzzles rather than impenetrable barriers. When Joy gets laid off like the rest of us she spends a period of time in shock. She frets about paying her bills, finding her next job, and what it says about her that she wasn’t able to keep her position. Joy is stressed and down… who wouldn’t be in her position.

Meet Bane, Bane is pretty pragmatic, although he tends towards the half-empty end of the thinking spectrum. Bane sees bad things happen, and he’s just not surprised. He could have told you that life wasn’t fair and that if you wait long enough the other shoe is bound to drop. Bane like Joy is anxious about making ends meet, he feels robbed (once again) by the injustice of a system that can leave him high and dry. He even questions what it all means about and for him that this is happening. Bane, however, is not really surprised that all this happened.

Both Bane and Joy are experiencing a painful situation, one that is stressful and demoralizing.  Here is where mindset makes a world of difference, however:

Joy has a growth mindset, she believes that things can change, that there is hope. This mindset allows her to bounce back from these types of events a bit more rapidly. After a few days of wandering aimlessly in her apartment and crying on the shoulders of her friends, she realizes that she has a choice, she has agency, and she has hope.

She moves forward with looking for jobs, and touches base with contacts she’s made in her field. She decides to use this time away from work to do some introspection and figure out what she really wants out of life. Joy still experiences doubt, sad days, moments where she feels more hopeless than hopeful, but she has cultivated a possibility based mindset that allows her to navigate through (not avoid) those feelings and see roadblocks like this as possibilities rather than dead-ends.

Bane has a fixed mindset – things like this are bound to happen, life’s unfair, nothing will change. He’ll get to looking for a job, but not for several weeks. He’s angry and mad at the unfairness of it all and just expects it to happen again. He eventually does a job search, also touches base with a few contacts, but the whole thing is done slowly and in a state of demoralization and hopelessness.

Bane will likely look for the exact same position he’s just lost, not because he loved it, but because it’s what he knows. Things will work out, they usually do, but the experience provides neither growth nor relief of any kind.

When life is down it is down, there is no amount of positive thinking that can change those facts. However, mindset can impact the way we experience those situations and either hasten or slow progress, make times more or less painful.

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Hi! I'm Dr. Alessandra Wall

I help smart driven women and forward-thinking companies bridge the gap & build real conversations.

Here on the ‘Dr. Wall Says’, I share tools, tips, and insights about speaking up, getting heard and how women can take up space and thrive in the 21st century.

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