Your Mind Is Antifragile—It Needs Adversity To Thrive
Is your brain the greatest antagonist in your life?
Is irrational fear at the core of the majority of your greatest stressors?
Do you ever have the hunch that you’re almost seeking out problems, creating issues where they don’t exist, overreacting, overthinking, and catastrophizing?
If you said “yes” to these, congratulations, you’re self-aware.
(You’re also just like anybody else.)
If you feel like you’re always subconsciously scanning your life trying to identify the next thing to worry about, the next potential threat to fear, you’d be right.
What we fear most is what our minds identify as the least likely threat that we cannot control. If the threat is highly likely, we don’t fear it — we respond to it. That’s why most worry comes from not just identifying the one thing we cannot control, but the one small, unlikely thing we cannot control.
So why do our minds need this, though?
Can’t we just enjoy what we have and be grateful?
To a point, absolutely.
In fact, there’s an abundance of research that proves focusing on the good creates more good. Positive thinking largely improves your mood and makes life significantly more enjoyable.
But our minds also need adversity, and that’s why it’s instinctual to keep creating problems — even if there aren’t any real ones in front of us.
The human mind is something called antifragile, which means that it actually gets better with adversity. Like a rock that becomes a diamond under pressure, or an immune system that strengthens after repeated exposure to germs, the mind requires stimulation in the form of a challenge.
If you deny and reject any kind of real challenge in your life, your brain will compensate by creating a problem to overcome. Except this time, there won’t be any reward at the end. It will just be you battling you for the rest of your life.
The cultural obsession with chasing happiness, shielding oneself from anything triggering, and idea that life is primarily “good” and any challenge we face is a mistake of fate actually weakens us mentally.
Shielding the mind from any adversity makes us more vulnerable to anxiety, panic and chaos.
Those who can’t help but create problems in their minds often do so because they have ceased creative control of their existence. They move into the passenger’s seat, thinking that life happens to them, rather than being a product of them.
Who wouldn’t be afraid if that were the case?
But what most people don’t tell you is that adversity makes you creative. It activates a part of you that is often latent. It makes things interesting. Part of the human narrative is wanting something to overcome.
The trick is keeping it in balance. Choosing to exit your comfort zone and endure pain for that which you believe is worth enduing for.
Focusing on problems that are actual, real problems in the world, like hunger or politics or whatever else.
But most importantly, it’s about staying engaged with what we can control in life, which is most things if you really think about it. Antifragile things need tension, resistance, adversity and pain to break and transform. We get this by deeply communing with life, being part of it, rather than fearing our emotions and sitting on the sidelines.
You can’t stay there forever, nor do you really want to. Embracing the grit of it all was what you were made for. Lean in and start living.