Embracing rest:

why I hate the growth mindset.

I’ve decided to focus this blog on mental health, because we don’t talk about this shit enough. It’s almost impossible to function, let alone to work or run a successful business when you’ve hit the skids emotionally, so let’s talk about it. I’ve just returned from an amazing weekend of learning and connection in Wellington, where I was asked to speak on a panel about mental health. I have no counselling or psych training, so my qualification to talk about this is that I’ve been through a lot of shit, and I’m willing to talk openly and authentically about what I’ve learned from it.

When shit gets challenging, managing our mindset is almost as important as dealing with the issue itself. Managing my chronic pain has taught me this again and again: I know I can’t stop the pain but I can manage it through pacing and rest, and it’s easier to manage if I can stop the downward spiral of thoughts like “this is my life now”, “this pain is permanent”, “what if this time it doesn’t ease off this time?” etc. As with any other challenging situation, a pain flare means managing both my pain and my mood carefully, it’s one of the transferrable skills that makes me so resilient. Because it’s not just what happens, it’s the story we tell ourselves about it that counts.

Everyone loves a buzzword, so most people in business know about fixed and growth mindsets. A person with a fixed mindset is paralysed by challenges, while a person with a growth mindset uses them as opportunities to grow.

On the face of it, the growth mindset is laudable. You win or you learn. If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L means ‘First Attempt In Learning’. If you get ‘no’ as an answer, remember that N.O. means ‘Next Opportunity’. Business networks are teeming with these kinds of messages ad nauseam.

The growth mindset started gaining traction around the time that I was born, and over the years it has become a ‘go-to’ tool to help people ‘transform’ their businesses and their lives. But it has a fundamental flaw: the growth mindset feeds our collective addiction to productivity. The obsession with the idea that to be a worthwhile person you have to be growing, learning, achieving or being otherwise productive- at all costs. We’ve been conditioned to think rest equals laziness. We’re rewarded financially and socially for being resilient and productive. But the main thing that drives this is fear- that we’ll miss out, that people will judge us, or that we’ll lose everything. It’s become a kind of self-sabotage or flagellation- we’re so wound up and under pressure that we crave validation from others, in the hope that feeling so shit is somehow worth it.

Productivity has become the default measure of success- and capitalism is to blame. Companies save money when our productivity obsession lets work eat into our home life, because they don’t need to employ as many people. There is still a cost- but it’s employees that are wearing it.

In my opinion, (and quite apart from being essential to our wellbeing,) rest is actually the key to success. There is so much value in the space we give ourselves to rest.  Space to breathe, space to think. Sure, you’re not ‘producing’ anything, but the cognitive processing that happens when we take a breath is crucial to innovation, to problem solving, and to not dying young from a heart attack, or suicide. Because we can’t carry on like this. Our addiction to productivity is literally killing us. Our mental health statistics are shocking, we’re all completely burned out. We wear our ability to push through our lack of sleep and our high stress levels as a badge of honour. The social expectation that to be successful we must be working full time, running a successful side-hustle, raising a family, etc is one of the key contributors to our mental distress. For most of us, work-life balance doesn’t exist: we answer emails at all hours, we eat at our desks. Our society just doesn’t value rest- it’s seen as sinful idleness instead of something vital to our wellbeing.

But rest can be your superpower- if you’ll let it. Rest gives you the space to grow and recover, both physically and mentally. It improves the quality of your productive hours, giving you more energy and space to be creative. It gives you time to think and respond to challenges, instead of running on adrenaline and reacting off the cuff. It helps prevent you from getting rundown, so improves your immune system.

Invest in rest.

So even if it feels scary, make time to rest. Do fewer things better. Value yourself enough to say no to things. Quit the things that don’t serve you, not because they’re hard, but because they suck. After all, if you’re this good running on adrenaline and 2 hours sleep, imagine how good you could be if you were well rested! Take it from Bindi- rest is the key to success!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: