Happy New Year! For me, I feel an enhanced since of starting a new on m birthday, my wedding anniversary, at the start of a run, and on New Years Day. It’s a truly magical feeling! Hence, the notion of making new year’s resolutions. Often, I can stick to them better than in year’s past as I have learned to be more thoughtful about how I approach them by being more curious about my intention for setting them. But, there were times in the past when I did not end up sticking to them and dropped them no sooner than I started them. Those things are often hard and I would imagine that I am not alone in that feeling. So, with the start of this year and this post, I thought I would do something a little different and set a goal to do more writing in the new year. And, a good way to help yourself is by finding ways to help others, so I thought I’d start the new year by writing a series of posts on my journey in developing a growth mindset and what my mindfulness practice has taught me in the last couple years of training.
Now, if you don’t know what the term mindfulness is, it is the basic human ability is to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and to be able to observe one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad in those moments. When it comes to mindsets, one of the biggest influencers in the field is Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck was interested in how some people seem to wilt in the face of challenges, while others seem to thrive on the hard work required to solve a difficult puzzle. This led to her professional research with elementary school students, which showed that some students enjoyed learning even when the work was difficult, while others were anxious or even unwilling to attempt tasks that seemed challenging. Dweck developed a couple of theories termed ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets. In a fixed mindset, you consider your qualities as set in stone. Whatever skills or talents or capabilities you were born with are predetermined and set. In a growth mindset, your innate qualities are starting blocks that can be cultivated and developed. Certainly, there are some limitations to this theory, but the theme I think is helpful when examining these terms is the question of “how do we approach challenges”.
There are some specific qualities within mindfulness that I think can help one go from a fix to a growth mindset and I will write about them today and over the course of the next few weeks. Today, I want to write about the quality of non-judgement, which is at the heart of what mindfulness truly is. Its paying attention to the present moment on purpose and without judgement.
As human beings, we tend to judge everything! We judge the actions of others and ourselves. I think this can be helpful as it helps us be able to learn from example versus experience, but I think it also can be limiting and make life more theoretical versus one to be enjoyed and ‘lived’. Social media makes this even more amplified as it makes it easier to see ‘others lives’ and make judgement on them, the experience, and also on ourselves. This could lead to one living outside of ones gifts or coming to conclusions that may or may not necessarily be true. This type of quality can lead to increased stress levels, anxiety, and possibly even depression. And, so I ask myself, how does judgment play a role in the process of new year’s resolutions. Well, when I set a new year’s resolution to run the Chicago Marathon in 2020, I set this very lofty goal to run every day and commit to a certain amount of mileage each day. I had been running in a consistent manner for maybe a year or two at that time and had never run anything longer than a half-marathon. I joined a winter training program through the Chicagoland Area Runners Association and began off strong, consistent, excited about the training… and then “BOOM”! I had an injury and judgement set in. Thoughts like, “you’re not good enough” or “you’re not worthy” became phrases that raced through my head. Now, I’m not here to tell you that there is something wrong with having those thoughts, I’m here to tell you to recognize having those thoughts. To understand that you are in that space of ‘judgement’ and to gently shift yourself out of it. My framing of the situation was harsh and unhelpful for what I needed to do to complete my goal. Perhaps, a better framing might have sounded like, “Ok, you are going to need to rest a few weeks and then reset your process of getting to your goal”. It could have also sounded like, “Well maybe Chicago isn’t the marathon for you this year, but maybe there are some other marathons in the latter part of the year that you could train once you’ve healed”. I also could have used that time to evaluate what led to the injury and what more I could do to prevent that type of injury occurring in the future. My initial pace, shoes, lack of cross-training, and weekly mileage at that stage of my running proved to be way too much and I needed to scale it back and give myself a greater window to get there. I ended up taking the necessary rest, finding better shoes, and slowly building myself back up to the mileage and pace I wanted to get to. I am now in a better position to meet my goal of completing my first marathon at the end of this year.
As we start this new year, I wish all of you much peace and happiness and much success with your new resolutions. Talk soon!