Philip Goldman: Finding a growth mindset

Forget all the seasonal negativity – it’s time to adopt a growth mindset

In my last post I talked about how leaders dealing with the pandemic crisis need to find real purpose and become what George Bernard Shaw described as a ‘force of nature’. But as we head deep into autumn and with winter fast approaching, it strikes me that ‘nature’ is doing its best to drag many of us down. The unappetising pea soup promise of dark mornings, dark nights, and cold, dank weather do little to nourish the soul. Allied to a second wave of coronavirus and you’d be forgiven for reverting to the ‘selfish little clod’ of Bernard Shaw’s description.

The key to tacking these negative thoughts lie with having a growth mindset.

The comfort of ‘koselig’
I read a Guardian newspaper piece recently about how Norwegians living in Tromsø deal with living in the Arctic Circle. Starved of direct sunlight for the long winter months, it would be no surprise to hear that many struggle, but psychologists have identified a positive winter mindset that means many enjoy winter by savouring skiing or hiking in the mountains and practising ‘koselig’, “which might involve snuggling under blankets with a warm drink in the candlelight.”

It’s amazing what you can achieve if you train your mind to think differently about situations and manage your emotions by adopting a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. I remember Mo Farah tripping in the early stages of the last Olympic 10,000 metres in Brazil. He could easily have lost that race but instead got back on his feet and won. This is an extreme version but it is a great lesson in how someone was able to manage his emotions positively in a high-pressure situation.

Why shouldn’t we apply a similar growth mindset to our everyday environment; to see the best in our surroundings and our situation?

Life screams at you in its intensity
Another deeply moving example of someone doing just that came from political adviser and strategist Philip Gould. In his book ‘When I die: Lessons from the death zone’, we are treated to a man who rises above the fear and anxiety of his terminal cancer diagnosis to explore what it means to face death. In a short You Tube film, Gould calls it the most “exciting, extraordinary journey of my life” adding “it’s only when you’re aware of death that life screams at you in its intensity.”

I go back to George Bernard Shaw’s talk of life as a “splendid torch”. While we are going to be challenged – often on a daily basis – if we can see the positives, find real purpose and look for the opportunities rather than the threats, then there is nothing that autumn and winter can throw at us that homemade waffles and a flask of Norwegian cognac around a campfire can’t cure.