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Why You Can't Fix Your Problems with Mindset Work Alone

In the last few years, there has been an enormous buzz around working on your mindset. I have even written about it myself on many occasions. However, the problem with mindset work is that it assumes that all the problems in your life are attributable to your mindset. It assumes an internal locus of control.

Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that many of us struggle with problems that aren't entirely self-created. Although many of our problems have a personal element to them, some of our problems are at least partially attributable to circumstances beyond our control.

When all we do is work on fixing our mindset so that we can become more positive in our thinking, we can be ignoring important underlying issues in our lives that are contributing to our problems. This can cause a high degree of anxiety, and a feeling of being trapped and smothered.

Whether it is problems in your own life, or problems on a wider scale like global warming, knowing that action is needed in some cases beyond mindset work is key to getting your life on track. Sometimes, you need a change of scenery. Other times, you need to devote yourself to doing the work to make things better.

According to Psychology Today,

You are upset—understandably upset—about a difficult situation or some aspect of yourself. You angrily question how unfair life is or why you don’t change. You fight the current situation, bringing on feelings of distress about your pain. This dilemma is so common that the Buddhists long ago reduced it to a formula: Pain x Resistance = Suffering. Translation: Fighting against (or resisting) the reality of the pain in your life creates suffering.

Learning to accept that suffering is a natural part of life, and that we can't "positive mindset" our way out of things allows us to begin to get free. We can't always escape the causes of our suffering. We can't change everything in the world around us. But, we can change some things. Learning to differentiate between the two is important. This way, we can change the things that are under our control to create a better life, and learn to accept the things we can't change.

If you have ever been in a 12 step program, or known someone who has been, you may be familiar with the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Reinhold Niebuhr

We can use a combination of practices like meditation, prayer, yoga, journaling and mindfulness to learn to have acceptance of circumstances beyond our control. As we use these practices more and more to find a sense of inner calm that don't depend on our surroundings, we will learn to differentiate between situations that we can control and situations that we can't.

Learning this difference will help us to determine what can be fixed by doing inner work like changing our mindset, and which situations require outward action on our part.

Our Personal Lives

Most situations have an element that is in our control, and an element that is outside our control.

For example, if we are having a problem in our interpersonal relationships, there are two elements at play: Ourselves and the other person. We have control over our own thinking, and our own reactions. However, we cannot control how the other person will think or react.

Many situations have these two elements. Looking for the things we can control in a given situation allows us to forge a path forward. If someone has been unkind to you in the past, you can do things like setting boundaries, and deciding if forgiveness is appropriate.

While we can't control an entire relationship, we do get to decide what types of relationships we are willing to engage in. If you find that a relationship is leaving you feel flat or depleted much of the time, you may decide that the relationship is no longer serving you. If that is the case, you may wish to first discuss things with the other person, or decide that the relationship no longer has a place in your life.

A decision like this should not be taken lightly, as it can have a major impact on your future. However, if a relationship appears to be irreparably broken, it may be time to move on.

In the case of relationships, Thrive Works offers these 5 signs that your relationship may be broken beyond repair:

1) You keep breaking up and getting back together.

2) You’re afraid of your significant other.

3) Your bond or feelings have dissipated.

4) Your relationship is tainted with toxicity.

5) One or both of you aren’t willing to make an effort.

If you are experiencing any of these things in your own relationship, it could be a sign that it is time to move on. This can be extremely difficult, especially if it is a relationship that you have been in for a long time. However, if a relationship is negatively impacting your mental health, or other aspects of your life, then it is something to consider.

Before you take such a drastic step as cutting off a relationship, try to talk things out. Bring up what is bothering you at a time when there isn't a conflict and you can speak in a calm manner. See if the two of you can try to arrive at a solution together. If communication is difficult, you may consider seeing a therapist.

However, if the other person is unwilling to make some changes too, or to talk to a therapist together, it may be best to go your separate ways before even more damage is done.

World Issues

When it comes to bigger world issues like climate change, global poverty or anything else that is happening on a larger world scale, we have much less control than what we have in our personal lives. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to do our part in creating social change, however, it does mean that we need to have a greater degree of acceptance about the part of others in these issues.

There are many ways that we can take action on world issues. If there is a cause that is important to you, you can become involved in many different ways:

  • Become informed about the issues

  • Make personal changes

  • Support awareness campaigns

  • Sign petitions to the government

  • Get involved in civic action

  • Donate money to the cause

  • Volunteer your time

  • Talk about the issues with others in your life

We may not always be able to make a huge impact on the larger world stage, but there are things we can do in our local community every day to make a difference. By showing our support for issues that are important with us, we can connect with other like-minded issues, and raise awareness about the issues with our family and friends.

As we take action on the causes that we support, it can encourage others to do the same. This can create a critical mass that is needed in order to make a larger change on the global scale.

Take time for self-care

Whether the issues that we are facing are on a personal level, or on a larger scale, it takes a lot of emotional effort on our part to be able to create change. As we do this, it is important that we make time to care for our mental health and practice self-care.

If we don't consider our emotional and mental wellbeing when we are trying to make a big change, it can lead to compassion fatigue, or feelings of burnout. It is important to mitigate this through self-care practices.

There are many ways to practice self-care on a daily basis:

  • Practicing mindfulness, meditation or yoga

  • Journaling about your feelings

  • Seeing a therapist

  • Reaching out to friends or family for support

  • Spending time with a pet

  • Spending time in nature

  • Practicing gratitude

  • Reading a good book

  • Listening to a podcast

  • Watching a favorite movie

In addition to these daily practices, you can make sure that you are taking time for yourself and your mental health. At times, you may need to make time for extra rest as well.

In life, learning what is in our control and what is not is an ongoing process. As we discover that things are bothering us, either on a personal or global level, we need to first determine if there are actions that we can take. If there is an element of the problem that is beyond our control then we need to practice acceptance.

When there are things we can do, it is important to find a balance between inner work we can do on things like our mindset, and outer work that we can do to fix the problem. We may not be able to solve something completely, and in that case, it is important to set boundaries to protect our energy.

Additionally, when there are worries on our mind, or we are doing things that can be incredibly stressful, it is important to take time for self-care as well.

Life is about creating balance. We need to balance our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. There is some element of all of these things in most situations that are taking place in our lives. By finding a sense of balance between having acceptance, changing our mindset, and taking action, we are doing all we can to fix the problems in our lives.

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