Strong Mental Health
Growth, why should we care about it? Isn’t growth something that babies and children do? Doesn’t growth stop after school and reverse as we age?
If you want strong mental health, then the answer to these questions is a resounding, no. Because when the concept of growth is shifted into a love of lifelong learning, then it forms the heart of one of the most useful beliefs a human being can hold.
Growth is the continual expansion of our being, our essence.
It’s also at the heart of happiness and resilience and provides a counterbalance to black and white thinking. It’s spacious enough to hold all of life’s ups and downs and gives us a way to relate to the world that is incredibly strong in all ways. It values capability and progress but does not limit us by success because what is successful at one time in our lives may not be considered so later on. It values learning for the sake of the soul, not for the sake of the ego.
But the best thing about a growth mindset is that it’s “antifragile,” which means the more you stress it the stronger it becomes. Lebanese-American essayist and author, Nassim Taleb, coined this term to differentiate between something that stays the same after being knocked around and something that actually grows or expands in some way after a knocking. Can you think of any other identity that when placed at the centre of our lives does the same?
The “learner” is the only identity that is strong enough to take us through life depression-proof. Defining ourselves as “lifelong learners” sends a powerful signal to our subconscious minds that we don’t have to be perfect because the system is designed to make mistakes and to improve on them.
Imagine if you decide to build the core of your identity around a concept that the more you’re challenged the stronger you become. The more mistakes you make, the better you are. The more you fail, the more you succeed. The farther you fall, the higher you’re able to soar.
A learner mindset makes us fearless.
If we embrace our inner “learners” fully and consciously, we become unafraid to try new things because this mindset allows us to welcome new and strange experiences when they come. It also helps us, in the words of philosopher Sam Keen, “silence the familiar,” so that today is not a repetition of yesterday. Without the clarity that we’re here to learn, first and foremost, we shrink from opportunity and resent change. In doing so, we think the same thoughts we thought yesterday. We eat the same foods we ate yesterday, and we say the same things we said yesterday, too. And, by the way, in the same way. Without a “Leaner” safety net, we become incarcerated by the possibility of “failure” or loss. We become risk-aversive and overly protective. We also lose our lust for life.
Beware The Trap
But, just because growth is so central to strong mental health, it too can incarcerate us if we become obsessive rather than pragmatic. Just like any other identity, we must be wary of falling in the trap of always trying to be better instead of celebrating where …. and who we are right now. It’s important to hold the following paradox firmly in both hands: I am good enough right here, right now. AND, I can also get better.
This truth is central to becoming antifragile … and joyful!
Get in touch if you’d like help along the way.