Oh, I was naive to believe my life’s path led straight to graduation and some career. In a blind turn I should’ve but didn’t see coming, the path suddenly dropped off a cliff. Desperate, I clung to roots and branches, terrified of bashing my brains out. I crash-landed, survived, yet couldn’t imagine salvaging a meaningful future. 25-years later that particular cliffhanger had an unexpected happy ending.
Change seems to breed retrospection and paradox. My past is as big a surprise as any future. I’m in wonderment that I got from then to now. I’ve craved and feared change. Sometimes what I craved transformed into what I feared or what I feared became what I craved. Some big changes left small impacts; some small changes left huge impacts.
I’ve never yelled: “Bring more change. It’s so restful here in the rubble of what used to be.” Change steamrolled ahead anyway. I hung on tight, trying to anticipate impacts, manage risks, adapt as needed, pray it ends well. After profound change came the fun of post change syndrome (PCS), getting used to whatever’s new. I credit four qualities with surviving life’s cliffs I’ve tumbled down – Resilience, Mindset, Optimism and Discipline. I posted about Resilience. It’s Mindset’s turn.
Most of my life I craved courage to write. Writing is hard. I could fail, face rejection and ridicule. My school’s vice-principal selected me to enter a writing contest (“you’re good enough”, he’d said). I never completed the entry form; afraid I’d disappoint him and he’d judge me.
Now I take the risk of writing online about – of all things – breastlessness. Writing’s still hard. I fail, face rejection and ridicule. Somewhere craving overcame fear and writing happened. Carol Dweck’s research on Mindset [i] didn’t change my life. It did pinpoint what in my life changed. My fixed mindset morphed into an open mindset. Sure, I want to write better. When I fail I learn what I have to do next time.
Dr. Dweck explains that small change can change minds: “mindsets are fostered by a focus on theperson (e.g.,talent or ability) as opposed to a focus on the process (e.g., effort, learning)”.
“Wow, that’s a really good score. You must be smart at this.” “Wow, that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.” That’s all we did, but the results were dramatic… Intelligence praise, compared to effort (or “process”) praise, put children into a fixed mindset. Instead of giving them confidence, it made them fragile…[ii]
In my conflict management practice I draw attention to growth mindsets, assuming even exchanging vowels from piece to peace can foster change.
… the brain was a dynamic, malleable organ and that every time they learned something new their brain formed new connections. … These interventions were relatively modest, but had rather immediate and striking effects.[iii].
Having my breasts amputated (twice) wasn’t entertaining. Was cancer a huge or small change with small or huge impacts, or maybe huge change with huge impacts? I’ll be optimistic and suggest small change with small impacts. Even small change matters but impacts vary with mindsets.
Since August, it feels like I dropped off the path into The Matrix, a simulated reality where my next crisis emerges from my last post.
Chronology of coincidences:
- August 22, 2013, I blogged resilience, mindset, optimism and discipline got me through cancer and chemo.
- September 18, the double mastectomy needed a do-over.
- September 30, the post about resilience ended: “Now, I’m thinking about Mindset. I’m hoping for no adverse opportunities to put it into practice between this post and the next.”
- October 13, brain MRI showed an unidentifiable spot. I named it Macbeth[iv]. The neurologist has decreed it benign. Whew.
Yikes, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything about optimism, my next topic.
[iv] Out, damn’d spot! out, I say! (Act 5, Scene 1)