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Want to Transform Your Stress Response? Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Written by MJ Ryan, SheEO Development Guide

I have been an advocate of cultivating a growth mindset, the ability to see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn, since I first heard about Carole Dweck’s research in 2007. It appealed to me because it intuitively made sense. When we approach life this way, we optimize our ability to transform ourselves because we are searching for the learning in whatever happens.


But it never occurred to me until I read the most recent “Your Brain at Work” blog by Andrea Derler, Ph.D. and Jay Dixit of the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) that it could be the best permanent antidote to stress there is. I’ll let them tell you in their own words:


“Stress is the defining affliction of modern life — ubiquitous, unending, and seemingly unavoidable.


“Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. By understanding the neuroscience of how it operates, we can learn to target stress at its source… When employees develop a growth mindset, research suggests they’ll enjoy a much greater advantage when stressful situations come their way….


“Cognitively, stress is little more than heightened attention to the negative….

“While stress-fighting techniques like exercise and meditation can reduce baseline anxiety and calm excitatory neurons, they don’t address the cognitive causes of stress within the brain. But if we take stress as an affliction spurred on by misallocated attention, growth mindset may hold a solution.

“Growth mindset assumes that skills are simmering wells of possibility and potential, rather than fixed traits. In personal and professional settings, people can develop their faculties, acquire new abilities, and strengthen their existing capacities. Seeing the world through the lens of growth enables you to steer your thoughts away from the negative focus induced by stress and back toward the positive.

“When you cultivate a growth mindset, you don’t worry so much about problems. Instead of wondering how you’ll get through a crisis, you ask yourself a far more constructive question: `What can I learn from this situation to better develop my skills?’ …

“Stress may be the leading affliction of modern life, but with the right mindset people have the power to make it disappear as suddenly as it arrived.”

Now that’s true transformation!

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