Mindset: Adapting to Change
Written by Fritz Nugent

For many of us, change can be uncomfortable. Meaningful change may translate to being uncomfortable for a long time before the benefits are noticeable.

Lobsters & Personal Growth

I love the use of lobsters to explain personal growth (analogy from Dr. Abraham Twerski). To lobsters, the stimulus for growth is “discomfort”. A lobster’s shell is a fixed size. When they grow too large for their shell, they experience discomfort, crawl under a rock, shed their old shell, and grow a new, larger shell for them to grow into over time. Once again, the stimulus for growth is discomfort. We must also experience discomfort to grow, both physically AND psychologically.

Adaptation is the response our bodies and minds produce to stress and is (ideally) proportional in magnitude to the adversity experienced. For a physical example, run an all-out 5k and your body will adapt to better support similar future stressors by modifying muscle fiber type and increasing mitochondrial density, and with long-term frequent similar stressors, we may also adapt neuromuscularly through improved running efficiency. Ideally, these adaptations allow the body to undergo similar stress in the near future with more ease OR undergo MORE stress with similar discomfort to the initial 5k. To sum it up, after stressing the body, if we adapt to that stress well, we become stronger and more capable.

Adaptation is not only important for physical progress. Psychological growth can also occur. No matter how “good” we are at tackling our current schedule, challenges, relationships, work, personal circumstances, etc., life will constantly and unexpectedly surprise us. When that happens, we rely on our trained responses to help us cope. If we do not have consciously trained strategies, then we may rely on what has worked in the past, which could be beneficial OR detrimental depending on those past habits.

For example, if you have had trouble in the past when big life changes occur, then the best time to train for change is when things are going well for you. That way, you can lay the groundwork of mindset strategies and drive the psychological adaptations before life hits you.

My first experiences as a coach for Invictus were very uncomfortable. The nerves the night before my first coaching “auditions” were intense. Even after getting control of my mind, my motility had other plans (craps were not the best). In subsequent weeks, the newness of learning everything involved in this large and growing gym has been overwhelming. Immersing myself in the Invictus culture, running Invictus’ unique dual-track classes, and learning hundreds of new names, faces, movement habits, and the personalities of each member has been an amazing and stressful endeavor. I have had to constantly adapt and grow since arriving here. Below, I outline two simple (but NOT easy) activities that have helped me and may also help you prepare for the next time life hits you with adversity:

One: Mindfulness

The positive benefits of meditation have been discussed in the Invictus blog before. Mindfulness simply means being aware of THIS moment, right now, here, where you currently are. Begin by sitting quietly and bring your attention to notice your thoughts and breath. Research tells us that even a few minutes each day of this practice can be beneficial! Try not to judge your thoughts. Instead, simply observe them as they pass by. Once you become aware of your current thoughts and surroundings, then you can learn to experience them without judgment, letting them flow through you without bumping into you.

Two: Self Talk

We all have “self-talk” occurring. Constantly. Stop reading right now and listen to your self-talk. It’s there. Through mindfulness, we can learn to notice these conversations. Once we notice the conversation, we can begin to steer, shape, and eventually, eliminate the chatter.

For example, when meeting someone new, if we have trouble remembering people’s names, we may be inwardly focused, with internal dialogues around insecurities. It is difficult to be open and vulnerable in a new situation when we are inwardly focused. The inner dialogue here may swirl around thoughts of “I hope I don’t look stupid”, “Is there something on my face”, “Do I smell bad”, “do my clothes match”. At least these are my thoughts. Perhaps you have your own.
This is ALL self-talk whether we are aware of it, or not.

Mindfulness can help us become aware of the thoughts we have. THEN, we can begin to inject positive self-talk to influence our feelings and behaviors. We can also use self-talk to redirect negative thinking. And over many years of practice, we can even learn to silence that monkey mind chatter for bouts of time.

Back to the example of meeting someone new, when we hear the inwardly focused insecure self-talk, we can then inject our own positive self-talk. Thoughts like “repeat their name”, “look them in the eye”, “associate their name”, and other strategies may help us focus on them and learning their name, taking our focus off of ourselves and placing it on the situation to facilitate success.

Practicing these simple (again, NOT easy) strategies and learning to apply them to increasingly difficult life situations can provide us with enough grit when times get tough to weather any storm that the world or our own minds hurl our way. Interested in learning more about the Invictus Mindset? We have an e-book for that!

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Shirley World
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