Cracked Open

AKA: Lessons on Becoming

Tonight on the way home from martial arts, I discovered something.

It had been a normal day of training. Well, except for the fact that I knew something was up. I’d seen it on the board before class started. Changes were coming.

And I don’t do well with change.

On the way home, we talked about the changes.

“I’m anxious,” I said. “I don’t like change.”

“Why?” the question came, “Do you know why?”

“I think it’s the whole making the curriculum more clearly defined. I don’t want …”

And then I paused.

Growth and Fixed Mindsets

I’ve long been a fan of Carol Dweck’s work, and her book Mindset in particular. If you’re not familiar with it, the short version is that there are two different mindsets we can adopt.

For some of us, we tend to view life through the lens of a fixed mindset: we believe that we “are” a certain way. For example, I “am” smart (or not smart). I “am” good (or not good) at something.

Others view life through the lens of a growth mindset: we see our results not as being due to an inherent quality or state of being, but as a result of growth, effort and skills practiced and acquired.

What Dweck’s research suggests is that when we approach life with a fixed mindset, we shy away from challenges. Because we believe (on some level) that our ability is inherent, we deny our ability to overcome challenges. It’s not conscious, of course. Few of us would ever admit we believe we can’t learn something.

But the conscious isn’t the only thing that matters. Our subconscious has as much to do with it as anything.

The Fear Has a Name

So back to my story.

The words bubbled up in my mind. I’d expected to say that it was that I didn’t like change. But the words that I’d been about to say, the words that nearly came out of my mouth, were not the words I had expected.

I sat with them for a moment, and then I gave them voice.

“I don’t want to fail. And if they change the curriculum and put more objective standards in place, then there’s the chance I could fail.”

In that moment, the anxiety — that familiar tightness in my chest — disappeared. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I was feeling the fear that was underneath that anxiety. The fear that, when pushed aside, turned into anxiety. And perhaps most importantly, I finally was able to call that fear by its name:


Don’t get me wrong. I’d known this before — but that knowledge had been head knowledge.

Now it was heart-knowledge. Soul-knowledge. Deep, truthful knowing.

Who Am I Becoming?

In a lot of ways, it’s not surprising that this came up for me now. I’ve been going through a HUGE evolution of mindset over the past couple of months, especially as it pertains to the company I run, my role within it, and how I show up for my team and my clients.

It’s been fascinating — and challenging, and sometimes downright terrifying.

What’s helped has been to remind myself (as I often do our clients) that we don’t change our mindset by trying to think differently.

We change our mindset by acting differently, and our beliefs and mindset will follow.

So, the question must always be:

Who am I becoming? Who do I want to become?

And more importantly, how can I become more of that person right now? Today? In this present moment?

From a business perspective, I can surround myself with the types of people who would be my colleagues when I hit that $1m revenue goal. I can invest in my business (and myself) by paying a significant sum to acquire leads, and to work with a coach. I can take more time off. I can hire a team.

Now, it may be too much to do all those things at once (though I’ve pretty much jumped in with both feet and have done all of those!)

But at the very least, I need to know what’s one aspect of that becoming that I can be right now?

And then start being that.

That’s where the mindset shift comes from.

Just Be Happy

It didn’t occur to me until I was writing this that the lesson from martial arts wasn’t complete with naming the fear.

No, as I reflect back, I realize one other lesson.

It’s the lesson Instructor Kevin gave just as we were leaving. In my stupor and anxiety about the changes, I didn’t hear it, but on reflection I do.

His parting words for us?

Just be happy. Whatever brought you here, to this moment, it’s all right.

(My note: it’s not alright. It’s all. right.)

He continued:

Even if you’ve had a bad day. In this moment, be happy. Because this is where you are. This is where you need to be.

It’s just that simple. This is where you are meant to be. So be happy for that.

Feel the fear, and then be happy for it.

Because it’s teaching you about who you are becoming.

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