I’ve always wondered why people recommend writing when you don’t feel like it. That’s like saying: “be happy” when you’re sad. Sure, you could sit down and list all the reasons that you should be happy, but that usually isn’t going to change the fact that you’re sad. Sadness is in many cases illogical. We get sad or angry because of small things mostly. Carol Dweck wrote a book called Mindset where one of the core concepts that she studied was what she labeled the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset are people who are content and let the smallest thing keep them down, they’re complacent with the knowledge base that they have and look at learning as something burdensome. There’s nothing wrong with being of a fixed mindset. That’s just how you have chosen to look at the world. But, it’s a choice. People with a growth mindset on the other hand look at how they can learn from what happens to them and how they can learn in general. They are not always altruistic, in fact many have commented on how learning is a selfish process and learning for learning’s sake is. The goal behind learning is that you will expand your mind.
There’s something called Neuroplasticity. The National Institutes of Health has a great primer on this topic for those interested, but for those with just a passing interest think of Neuroplasticity as clay. When you throw that clay on a potter’s wheel you mix in water and start to form the object you’re trying to create. Grooves are created along the outside of whatever it is that you’re making and eventually when you’re done you’ll have something that is unique. That’s basically what happens to the human brain only we don’t always have control over what molds our brains. Positive and negative events fight for control over different neural pathways, but anyone familiar with loss aversion knows that negative experiences hit us about twice as hard as positive ones. It’s been clinically shown that people with Depression replay the same events in their heads over and over and actually suffer more and more pain by replaying the event. As the event is replayed in our heads it’s value is exaggerated by the brain due to the frequency in which we’re thinking about it and this is why certain events stay with us while other ones fade away.
Someone asked me recently why I wanted my business to succeed. That’s a rather odd question in my view because why would someone not want their business to succeed? We don’t set out with failure in mind…or do we? Science tells us that we actually go into certain situations with the outcome already predetermined. Our gut has a lot to say about situations we find ourselves in. You’ll often hear victims of violent crimes say something along the lines of: “I had a bad feeling about x, y, or z.” Your body is trying to communicate to you that it should engage your flight or flight mode. I’ve had a difficult time wrestling back and forth with this idea because in my mind the rule should be absolute. If my mind thinks negatively most of the time why don’t I have more negative outcomes? Why do people with Depression especially clinical Depression have any positive outcomes in their lives at all? Think about it. It’s not that if you have Depression you’re sad 100% of the time. Your worldview as a depressed person is usually one that prepares for failure as opposed to preparing for success and that is something that I find very interesting. If we can just trick our minds into believing we’re infalliable then nothing can go wrong, right? This is something that people who are interested in biohacking and metalearning are very interested in.
The trouble for a writer is that we write about what we feel. There are days where I wake up and think: “there’s no way I’m getting any writing done today.” Sometimes I can get writing done on those days some days I don’t. It’s not an all or nothing thing though and that’s because as we go through our day events happen to us. This is where Carol Dweck’s idea of a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset becomes very powerful. A person with a fixed mindset will get angry, sad, or say something like: “it looks like I’m just having a bad day” rather than acknowledging that they have power over the situation. This might sound an awful lot like saying: “be happy” when you’re sad, but it’s not. One is an attitude the other is a feeling. Attitude can always be changed our feelings are much harder to change. When I talk about writing, my business, or any of my passions I light up like a Christmas tree. My passions give me energy because I’m growth minded, but I didn’t always used to be this way. Growing up I had a very fixed mindset. I didn’t think about the future, I didn’t think about how I could accomplish big ideas, all I thought about was what was holding me down. I can’t tell you how toxic of a mindset that was for me. I made a decision though and readers of this blog are familiar with why I made this decision, but I decided to dedicate myself to growth. It’s what I call living a constructive life vs. living a destructive life.
If you’re leading a destructive life you’re going to engage in destructive behaviors like heavy drinking or drug use, gambling, vices in general. You’re going to be looking for ways to drag other people down to your level as opposed to ways to build people up and add value to their day. The second I started looking at my life as something that I was constructing it was like a revelation because you know what the great thing about construction is? You have control over it. You decide what you’re going to build, when you’re going to build it, and where it’s going to go. You have total control over your life. You also realize that there are positive and negative things that you put into your mind that affect this attitude. For instance, I’m a moody person, which is fairly common among people with Depression and among people with Asperger’s. I used to watch the news all the time. I love politics so I loved to get informed on the issues and watch the political battles unfold throughout the day. Then I realized that watching the news was actually making me sad. Because of the shock factor and the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality of news networks and the media I was starting out my day on a bad note and worst of all I was doing this to myself on purpose. This was something I had total control over and I had decided to put myself in a hole before I had a chance to do much of anything with my day. Once I made the decision to omit the news from my life I noticed a total change in attitude. I realized that it was very easy for me to get into a fixed mindset and there are days where I do get into that mindset. The difference now and the main reason that this is different than saying “be happy” when you’re sad is that I’m looking at ways to make my day a success rather than looking at excuses to label my day a failure and that small change in attitude has made all the difference in the world.