How to thrive when life sucks
Why mindset matters and how to change yours
Does mindset really make a difference when your life is going to hell in a hand basket?
The short answer is YES, mindset always matters!
It matters because mindset determines how we appreciate and then address a situation; what you think becomes your reality — regardless of circumstances.
This means that your outlook or mindset determines 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. It would be hard to be positive about this, but mindset can make all the difference is how well your layoff goes:
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, but he also 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 waited long enough the other shoe was 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.
Both Bane and Joy are experiencing a painful situation, one that is stressful and demoralizing.
Mindset it nearly everything
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 has cultivated a positive mindset that allows her to navigate (not avoid) her feelings, and see roadblocks like this as opportunities rather than dead-ends.
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 positive mindset that allows her to navigate (not avoid) her feelings, and see roadblocks like this as opportunities 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.
It’s not about happy thoughts…
There is no amount of positive thinking that can change the reality of a bad day, but mindset can impact the way you experience those situations.
Your ability to look at a situation and see opportunity instead of hopelessness means you can take control. Mindset, positive or negative will either hasten or slow progress, and make the bad times more or less painful.
The truth is life can suck, bad things happen even to good people, and hard work doesn’t always pay off.
You can’t always control what happens to you, but can learn to cultivate a more positive, growth oriented mindset. Start by understanding how you see the world. Find out what your default assumptions are when good and not so good things happens, then practice introducing these three assumptions:
- You are capable of change and growth
- Most obstacles can be overcome (in the long run) and those that can’t can be worked around — roadblocks are opportunities, not barriers for growth
- Bad ‘ish’ happens, negative events are normal, but also temporary and manageable.
If you can change your thinking to include these assumptions, you’ll see that even when life sucks you find ways to overcome and thrive, rather than submit and perish.
Want to figure out how you see the world and build a growth mindset?
Try this simple 7 day practice to slow down, check-in, and build a more positive, growth oriented mindset.