How you think can greatly influence your mental strength. This post reveals seven mindsets, that interfere with your mental strength and can undercut your resilience.
- Last week, a student approached me after a workshop and asked, “Do you know anything about the imposter syndrome?”
- A lawyer I collaborate with attributes her rise from a rural small town to an Ivy League law school and beyond to luck.
- Many professionals with whom I work tell me how their thinking keeps them stuck, lying awake at night going over and over something they wish they would have said differently or drives their procrastination.
One of the most important skills I teach clients is how to identify core values and beliefs which create rigid ways of thinking that keep them stuck or, worse, having the wrong fight instead of the right conversation. When I ask busy professionals if they understand what “catastrophizing” is before I explain it, most raise their hands.
You can increase your mental strength and resilience via a number of pathways, but one of the most important is to develop the ability to think flexibly and accurately during challenge and adversity.
Resilient thinkers are better problem solvers, more quickly switch to Plan B when an idea or strategy doesn’t work, and view their stress response as a challenge, rather than a threat.
These seven mindsets, however, interfere with your mental strength and can undercut your resilience:
1. Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is a deeply held belief of intellectual phoniness and sounds like this: “Man, I got lucky this time. They will soon realize that I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about.”
Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, like degrees, promotions, or other successes, imposter syndrome makes it difficult for people to internalize or accept their success. While a number of different traits and cognitive features nourish imposterism, the research suggests it is likely some combination of low efficacy (see below) and maladaptive perfectionism that overtime undercuts mental strength and resilience.
2. Low Efficacy.
Efficacy is the belief in your ability to solve work/life challenges and succeed. In short, it’s confidence. It’s also domain-specific, which means that you may feel highly confident negotiating a contract, but have little confidence in leading a new committee.
High efficacy has been shown to be a strong predictor of positive affect and activates adaptive coping strategies, such as planning, positive reframing, and acceptance. In addition, people with high efficacy are better able to identify new business opportunities, create new products, think creatively, commercialize ideas, and persevere under stress and pressure.
3. Fixed Mindset.
If efficacy is the belief in your ability to solve work/life challenges and succeed, then the first determination you’re going to make is whether or not you have the capacity to develop the ability in question (e.g., public speaking, business development, networking, teaching new material to others, playing basketball, etc.).
People with fixed mindsets believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable and that no amount of additional “trying new strategies out” will grow that capacity. As a result, those with a fixed mindset feel pressure to prove themselves over and over (perfectly, the first time they’re trying something), avoid challenges, and give up easily, none of which builds confidence, mental strength or resilience.
4. Thinking Traps.
Thinking traps are overly rigid patterns of thinking that cause you to miss critical information.
Several of the most common include jumping to conclusions (making assumptions without the relevant data), mind-reading (a version of jumping to conclusions, where you believe you know what others are thinking, and you act accordingly), all-or-nothing thinking (seeing a situation in only two categories and failing to recognize the middle ground), personalizing (it’s all my fault), and externalizing (it’s all your fault).
Resilience requires accuracy, and thinking traps interfere with your ability to think about situations in a fully accurate way.