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How Can You Get A Leopard To Change It’s Spots

How Can You Get A Leopard To Change It’s Spots

Imagine that you’ve just completed a project at work. Your supervisor tells you that you didn’t deliver things exactly the way he wants, and he asks you to redo the project.

For some people, this would be cause for a meltdown, but you take it in stride. You go back to your desk, digest what was just said,and assess the work you put into the project. Instead of having a pity party, you make a commitment to improve the quality of your work.

A colleague who was in the meeting where you presented stops by your desk and says, ” We can’t be good at everything. This task might be outside of your area of expertise. You should play to your strengths and let someone with more talent in this area handle these types of assignments. ”

Your colleague may have been trying to make you feel better, but she made you wonder, “How can I become better if I never try new things? Are all of our talents assigned to us from birth?”

There are two kinds of people in this world

    There are those who create the life they love, and those who feel that life happens to them. That seemingly small difference in perspective can have major impacts on the way that you live your life.[1]

    People who work to build the life that they want make choices to propel themselves forward. Those who let life happen to them assume a victim mentality that prevents them from getting ahead. Having the right mindset is the key to success.

    Thinking back to the scenario from the beginning, there are two ways you could view that feedback from the boss. If you have a growth mindset, you won’t take the feedback personally. You’ll use it to grow, and you’ll take the negative comments from your coworker with a grain of salt.

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    On the other hand, the colleague who seems to believe that some people are just more capable than others will have a harder time when facing criticism. That person is more likely to accept defeat, and feels that her destiny is out of her control. If given the same feedback, she would probably just throw in the towel.

    The difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset

    You may have intuitively picked up on the different types of people, but there’s actually some scholarship behind this as well. Carol S. Dweck developed mindset theory to explain how our perceptions about the world shape our reality.[2]

    Fixed mindsets can be detrimental to a person’s success

    A person with a fixed mindset avoids challenges, quits before they should, doesn’t think effort is valuable, and can’t take feedback.

    People with fixed mindsets can be successful, but they tend to reach their limits sooner than people with a growth mindset. They always fall short of their potential because they aren’t willing to go out on a limb. They’ll say and think things like, “I’ll never be that good,” or “I’m no good at that, so I’ll ask someone else to do it instead.” “I’ve never been able to do this, and nothing can make me better.”

    When someone with a fixed mindset is confronted with failure, they take it personally. They tie success so closely with their identity that it’s hard for them to hear constructive criticism. In their minds, “That could be better,” translates to, “You aren’t good enough.” They learn to be helpless, and it keeps them from achieving.[3]

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          Some think you’re born with it, and some know you work hard

          One of the key tenets of Dweck’s theory is that some people believe that they have inborn talents, while others know that you grow your skills.

          People with a growth mindset feel just the opposite. They know that they are always capable of learning new things. When you have a growth mindset, you don’t worry so much about failure because you know that making mistakes is a part of learning. You know that you can always change course or get more training.

          This is not to say that people with a growth mindset can’t feel the sting of failure. It just means that the failure doesn’t ultimately define them.

          Your experience shapes your mindset

          The development of fixed and growth mindsets starts at a young age. When a teacher says to a child, “You did well because you’re smart,” the child cannot own their success. It was not their effort, but their innate ability that got them ahead. This leads to a fixed mindset.[4]

          On the other hand, when a teacher says to a student, “You did so well on your project because you tried hard,” it has a different effect. The student attributes success to the amount of effort that they put into their work.

          How people with fixed mindsets can affect you?

          Being surrounded by the negativity of a fixed mindset can take its toll on you. You may have noticed one or more of these signs of a fixed mindset in your day-to-day interactions with others.

            When people believe that they just are the way they are, it makes them risk-averse. They avoid challenges because the cost of failure is too high.

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              People with fixed mindsets tend to be jealous when others get ahead in life because they feel that the other person was simply given more at birth.[5]

                When you’re stuck in your ways, the last thing you want is someone trying to change things for you. That’s why people with a fixed mindset often ignore advice. When they do take it to heart, it might hurt their feelings.

                  People with fixed mindsets don’t believe that you can get ahead by working hard. As a result, they may ridicule people who genuinely want to improve.[6]

                    Don’t get trapped by people with fixed mindsets

                    Dealing with people with fixed mindsets can be tough. In some cases, you can easily remove yourself from the situation. If your friend has a toxic, fixed mindset, you can choose to part ways with them. You can’t always cut people out of your life, though.

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                    Your coworkers, family members, and close friends may also possess fixed mindsets. You can’t necessarily fire your coworkers, and you may choose not to speak to your family, but many of us choose to love our families and friends in spite of their flawed thinking.

                    Sometimes you have to deal with the person who lacks a growth mindset. Here’s how:

                    1. When you argue with them, stick to the facts and avoid making your comment personal

                    They’re already going to take your suggestions personally. Securing your argument with facts keeps them more emotion-neutral. Avoid saying, “I think it’s better if…” You’re asserting your opinion and making it personal. Remove this sentence from your responses to keep them from getting offended. Control your emotions is crucial too. They may get frustrated when you try to offer advice. Don’t get emotional and fire back an angry retort. Say what you need to say, and then leave them to think. Give them time to digest what you’ve said. If they feel you’re right, this could alter how they think.

                    2. Stop trying to fix them. 

                    Since they have a fixed mindset, trying to change their mind won’t work. They only listen to themselves, so it’s better to offer them options secured with facts like what we stated above. You have to make it seem like it’s their idea, or it won’t work.

                    3. Keep your laser-like focus and keep track of your goal

                    Know what you need to do, and avoid being dragged down by their mindset. They may try to discourage you from doing something because they don’t believe that change is possible. You have a growth mindset, which means that you can see things in ways that they can’t. Keep track of your goals. Being surrounded by people who do not believe in the power of working hard can rob you of your motivation. Having your goals written will help you stick to them.

                    4. Surround yourself with people with a growth mindset.

                    Whenever possible, try to find others who share your belief in the power of learning and effort. Don’t worry about your group becoming narrow-minded. People with growth mindsets are naturally open to discussing topics and accepting criticism. You will continue to improve together.

                    They may have been raised with a fixed mindset, or they might have learned to be helpless in school. It’s up to you to recognize fixed mindsets and constantly strive for your own growth. Don’t give anyone the power to keep you from your dreams.

                    Reference

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                    Brian Lee

                    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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                    Last Updated on April 8, 2020

                    How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

                    How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

                    Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

                    Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

                    We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

                    You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

                    Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

                    A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

                    1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

                    When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

                    Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

                    Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

                    Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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                    Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

                    It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

                    Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

                    What happens? What do you feel?

                    Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

                    • Change my values and expectations
                    • Try to change other’s values and expectations
                    • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

                    Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

                    You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

                    2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

                    When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

                    Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

                    Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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                    Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

                    • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
                    • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
                    • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
                    • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
                    • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
                    • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

                    Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

                    Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

                    Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

                    If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

                    3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

                    You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

                    By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

                    Here’s one technique example:

                    1. Get in a comfortable position
                    2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
                    3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
                    4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
                    5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
                    6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

                    You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

                    It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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                    Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

                    4. Move and Get Physical

                    If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

                    At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

                    For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

                    So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

                    If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

                    If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

                    The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

                    5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

                    Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

                    When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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                    Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

                    1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
                    2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
                    3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
                    4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

                    Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

                    It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

                    Final Thoughts

                    We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

                    The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

                    Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

                    How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

                    If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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                    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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