Making the Most of the Rest of 2020
Sid Madge asks how we can make the best of the remainder of a challenging year
by Sid Madge
When the new year rolled in, we had no idea that this year would prove to be so challenging. Since March you’ve probably been worried about your work, worried about family, and uncertain about what is ahead. It seems that we’re going to be living with COVID-19 for some time. So, what do you do to handle the rest of the year and squeeze the very best you can from it?
The new challenge is one of personal development; embracing uncertainty and adapting to meet our future needs.
Innate Growth Mindset
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck became obsessed with understanding how people cope with failures and setbacks. Initially, her research looked at children and how they reacted to puzzles which they couldn’t solve. The outcome of Dweck’s research is now world-famous, and she proposes that our success and happiness in life comes down to one thing: mindset. According to Dweck there are only two types of mindset, fixed and growth.
Individuals with a fixed mindset have a concrete idea of what they are capable of, believing that what they are born with is representative of their finishing line. They tend to be more defeatist. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that what we are born with is just the beginning. What we are capable of is not determined by anything other than our own aspirations, effort and determination.
Interestingly, Dweck believes that we are all born with a growth mindset. We get trained out of it by schools, unsupportive or misunderstanding parents and social expectations. We’re taught that failure is unacceptable, despite the fact that great successes tend to come through failure, not by avoiding it. If ever we needed to re-assess the growth mindset which many of us develop, it’s now.
Take a minute to consider whether you have a fixed or growth mindset. Has COVID-19 made it more fixed as you sink into a gloom? If you imagine you had a growth mindset instead – what would you do? Looking at your life and the rest of 2020, what could you try? What have you always thought of doing, but never got around to? Lean into the uncertainty and adapt. Use it as a springboard to try things you’ve been putting off. Is there a different market you could approach? Stay curious, flexible and open.
Changing Today to Change Tomorrow
What have you done today? Did it bring you closer to your work and life goals, or further away? If you want a different tomorrow – so you find a successful way through the pandemic and any other challenges life throws at you – you need to take steps to change what you do today.
Stop for a moment and reflect on how you spend your time. When did you get up this morning? How much TV do you watch? How much time do you spend on social media? How much time do you spend learning something new? Do you spend time with family or friends? Are those exchanges enjoyable, or are they stressful? How much time do you spend focusing on your health? How much sleep do you get most nights?
Take a minute to draw a circle, and divide it up into slices that represent how you spend your time during a typical day. Now, draw another circle and divide it up to represent how you would like to spend your day. If you spend a lot of time at work but don’t enjoy it, what could you do today to find something that you might enjoy more? Or what could you change in your life/work today to improve your day? Identify the things you like or can live with and the things that you don’t like and can’t live with. How can you change the aspects of your day that bring you down?
Often, we don’t need to make big sweeping changes. Subtle little shifts can accumulate to bring about change.
Growth from Trauma
In 1967 psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed a list of 47 stressful events which can impact health and happiness. The assumption is logical – we get more stressed when bad stuff happens to us. Start accumulating stressful experiences such as a job loss, illness or divorce and you are more susceptible to physical illness, disease and depression. Global pandemics and economic uncertainty don’t help either.
However, the fly in the theoretical ointment was the fact that not everyone who experienced really tough life events were negatively impacted by them. On the contrary, some of those people actively flourished. This field of study is called post-traumatic growth, or adversarial growth, and studies have shown that great suffering or trauma can actually lead to huge positive change. For example, after the Madrid bombings of 2004, psychologists such as Michael F. Steger, Patricia A. Frazier and Jose Luis Zacchanini found that many of those affected experienced positive psychological growth. Diagnoses of cancer and subsequent recovery can also trigger positive growth.
The people in many of these studies found new meaning and new purpose from surviving something terrible. Instead of seeing their situation as a failure or a problem, they believed Nietzsche, who said ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger’. How can you use the COVID-19 pandemic during the last months of 2020 to find new meaning and positive growth?
Take a minute to think about exactly what you are worried about most in your life and identify one thing you can do about it right now. Set that in motion. What positives could you pull from the turmoil? Get creative: think of at least three positives that COVID-19 could give you. It might not be fun, but if you can find the silver linings, you can often move on quicker.
You’ll have gathered that I am a huge believer in the power of tiny interventions. These suggestions are pulled from my Meee in a Minute books, each offering 60 one-minute micro-ideas and insights that can help us to shift our perception in life, family and at work. As individuals, we can develop and adapt, and I hope that the ideas I’ve shared here will inspire you to make the most of the final months of this year.
Find out more:
Sid Madge is founder of Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise) which draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of branding, psychology, neuroscience, education and sociology to help parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates achieve extraordinary lives.
The Meee in a Minute series is available now (£8 each, Meee Books)