I was very hopeful about a new course of action I was taking, perhaps too hopeful. Now I feel like giving up. A friend pointed out that this has happened before. I have a pattern of getting worn down by challenges, losing motivation, getting depressed and giving up. How can I be more resilient?
You are impatient, unrealistic and have a fixed mindset. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? But this time, don’t give up. Read on! None of these characteristics are fatal. They can be addressed.
Impatience is closely related to being unrealistic. You expect things to happen quickly and easily. You fall in love with an idea, probably for good reasons.
Perhaps this idea has the potential to take you in a different direction and solve some current problem. For example, you might be unhappy in your present job and you have an idea to study for a new career. You start the course, dreaming about your new career.
Unfortunately, by focusing on the far future, you have not fully appreciated the effort you will have to put in to achieve your dream. You have ignored the sacrifices you will have to make to pay for the course, the disruption to your life that will be caused by your need to study and by the sheer effort that study requires.
You have not been realistic and you become impatient. You want your new life now! You thought it would be much easier than it is. All the hard work, costs and disruption tire you. It’s too hard so you lose motivation.
Why do you give in while others manage to make their dreams a reality?
Studies have shown that people who have a ‘fixed mindset’ give up much more easily than those who have a ‘growth mindset.’
A fixed mindset is a belief in limitations characterised by thoughts as ‘The situation is too hard. I can’t do it, I have reached the limit of my ability, I cannot fix it’ and so on. Generally it is a belief that our brains and abilities are limited, that we cannot grow or change to overcome the problem.
A growth mindset is a belief in the plasticity of the brain, a belief that life is about growing and overcoming challenges. Of course, you have to apply this belief to yourself specifically. ‘I can grow. I can change. I can identify the problem or block and find the help I need to overcome this challenge.’
Researchers have found that people who have a growth mindset are more likely to solve difficult math puzzles. If you believe that you can increase your level of intelligence and skill, you are more likely to keep at it and solve the puzzle. If you think you have reached the limit of your abilities, you are more likely to give up.
Researchers also found that telling successful children that they are bright and talented is more likely to create a fixed mindset. If you believe you are endowed with intelligence and talent, you might give up when you hit a problem. You believe you either have intelligence and talent or you don’t. When you hit the problem, you conclude it is beyond you.
To develop more resilience, you need to change your fixed mindset to a growth mindset. This means you need to give up your idea that people are born and fixed either with or without specific abilities. For example, instead of believing that you are intelligent or not, you now believe that intelligence can be enhanced. Instead of believing that you are sporty or not, you shift to believing that sporting ability can be developed. Instead of thinking you are social or not, you realise that social skills can be learnt. Instead of believing that you are talented or not, you accept that talent and skill can be developed
Obviously you have encountered some problem or disappointment that makes you want to give up. Instead of believing that this problem is insurmountable, you need to look at yourself and your beliefs.
There is much research and many stories that will show you how others have overcome seemingly insurmountable problems. These stories and research support a growth mindset. Look for and read these stories and you will see how amazing humans are when they hold positive beliefs. A simple example is the placebo effect.
Before you go looking for these stories, however, you need to make a mental shift. You need to accept that you need to change. You need to accept that you need to grow. And you need to believe that you are capable of such change and growth. There is a certain amount of humility needed to accept this new mindset.
The external challenges that got in your way are not the problem. Your mindset is the problem. Change your mindset and you can achieve anything you want. With a growth mindset, you solve the problems as they arise. You believe in your ability to reach your goal, and you don’t give up.
Self-belief is the heart and soul of resilience.
Give yourself the time and encouragement to gradually build a new mindset, one that is based on your ability to change and grow. Don’t expect it to happen quickly. You need time to test yourself so you keep your self-belief even when things get tough. Realise that you can change this destructive pattern of giving up by consistently referring to the stories of people who achieved hard-won success.