Using Memories for a Growth Mindset
As our nation observes and honors the sacrifices of American military personnel who have fallen fighting for our nation on this Memorial Day, I am extremely moved by the loss of so many brave men and women and the grief and sadness of the families who lost loved ones. As I see the images of parents, wives, husbands, children, and friends kneeling before the gravesites at cemeteries, my heart cries for them. I, too, have lost loved ones and so have most of you.
To promote a fit mind despite our feelings of loss and grief can be very challenging. But this is where we can turn the page on allowing painful memories to create a painful present. Memories serve us well, both bad ones and good ones.
The goal for achieving a fit mindset regarding painful and unhappy memories is to know that you have the power to create a joyful life regardless of what has happened in the past. This is an example of having a growth mindset.
It is first important to understand what "growth mindset" is and its counterpart "fixed mindset."
Positive psychology researchers provides these explanations:
A fixed mindset is one in which a person believes their intelligence, talent, or skill are fixed---that they cannot improve or change. Often a fixed mindset leads to hiding flaws, feeling ashamed about failures, giving up easily, and being unmotivated to strive for or achieve goals.
A growth mindset is one in which a person believes their intelligence, talent, and skills can improve which leads to embracing flaws and mistakes as learning opportunities for growth, accepting setbacks as part of the learning process, and feeling empowered to reach goals.
I'm going to make an assumption that you'd much rather have a growth mindset which leads to joy, happiness, and the fulfillment of goals. I know I do!
What does this have to do with memories? Memories have a way of "fixing" our minds on the past. When we "fixate" on our losses, painful memories, or experiences, then we are unable to live in our now moment and plan for a different future. If you cannot move on from the past, your life will become a "groundhog day" moment that repeats itself over and over...resulting in a life that never grows and blossoms.
The wonderful news is that with time and practice, you can shift your mindset from fixed to growing, even in the shadow of loss and pain. It is a process and here are some gentle reminders and tips on ways that might help you:
ACKNOWLEDGE & EXPRESS. Acknowledge and accept the experience you've had and express your emotions. Let it all out...cry, shout, punch a pillow!....or journal about it. Interesting facts:
Bottling up your emotions can actually lead to long-term health problems. It can also create short term physical stress on your body such as with blood pressure, memory loss, and declined self-esteem.
Medical research actually shows that crying is beneficial: it detoxes the body, self-soothes, improves mood, helps recover from grief, and restores emotional balance.
DETACH. Once you've gotten the feelings out of your system, detach from the emotional aspect of the memory and observe the situation as a fact; then, let it go:
fact: Yes, I was hurt by this person.
fact: Yes, I have lost a loved one.
fact: Yes, my life has changed dramatically.
Let it Go. Here's a great article on the topic of letting go: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-adaptive-mind/202002/how-let-go-the-past
SHIFT TO A GROWTH MINDSET. Know that your past experiences and past beliefs do not define your NOW self. You have the choice to observe this memory as something that is providing you opportunities to learn and grow---perhaps to stand up for a cause, to change your lifestyle, to learn a new skill, to reflect on your true needs and desires, to mend a relationship, to be a better person, or to gain a new perspective.
PRACTICE YOUR NEW WAY OF THINKING. The more proactive you are in your efforts, the better your results will be. At first, your mind will wander and your feelings will ebb and flow. This is okay. Here are some strategies to help:
positive thinking: reframe your thoughts from negative to positive.
mindfulness strategies: meditation, journaling, reflection time, expressions of gratitude
counseling: talk with a professional who can help you express and analyze your own thoughts and feelings and provide additional or similar strategies to help.
GIVE IT TIME & DON'T GIVE UP. Creating a growth mindset about a sad or painful memory is not going to happen quickly. The nice thing to know is that with your efforts, the negative feelings associated with your memory will fade. As unhappy emotions fade, do all you can to focus on the positive, growth aspects of the experience or person and allow those to become the new memories your have when thinking about it.
SMILE and ENJOY. Won't it be nice to look back to an experience with a smile of gratitude for the lesson learned? Won't it be nice to remember someone with a feeling of joy about the life they lived? Enjoy your new peace of mind and the lesson you learned about using a memory as a way to embrace a growth mindset. Enjoy knowing that you are creating a fit mind that can stand against the continual waves of adversity in this time called life.
As we remember those who sacrificed their lives for us, those who have died due to unexpected circumstances, or those who have passed on after a full life lived, it is important that we use our memories to propel us toward an advancing and ever-growing life experience rather than allowing us to remain fixed and stuck in the presence of sorrow, loss, and pain. I like to think that our loved ones would want us to move on and enjoy this one God-given life that we have.
Here at Sapp's Fitness Garage, we believe fitness is a state of mind. Creating a growth mindset is one way to a healthier state of mind.