Anybody who knows me also knows I’m a regular yoga bunny, and gets the value I place on the headspace and centre that yoga gives me. If you don’t do yoga (why not?), you’ll likely be unaware of some interesting pose names, (Sleeping Tortoise or Flying Lizard anyone?) or some of the more abstract instructions (did you ‘zip up your core’, ‘release your sit-bones’ or ‘breathe through the crown of your head’ today?) – in fact in last night’s class, we focused on ‘brushing up against our edge’. It’s a phrase that leaves most non-yogis baffled, but it got me thinking because actually it’s also relevant to life off the yoga mat.
In yoga, brushing up against your edge is about relaxing into the pose to the point where you’re challenged, mentally and physically, but without pain. It is a calm exploration of your limits. Your edge is the point that you think is out of reach, but in focused awareness of your mind, body and breath, you realise that you can go further than you think. What is important, is that it’s your edge, not anyone else’s, because we are all different. There is an acceptance of your own abilities but also a desire to stretch (metaphorically and physically!) and challenge yourself to go beyond what is comfortable…. I’ve heard it referred to as putting yourself in the ‘growth zone’.
Often we become caught up in proving ourselves, striving to demonstrate our intelligence, ability or personality in all circumstances, focusing on using every situation to show how great we are. What if we stopped focusing on this, and instead, accepted our abilities but challenged ourselves to go beyond what is comfortable…. to brush up against our edge? Psychologist Carol Dweck refers to this as having a Growth Mindset, asking – “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?” * A Fixed Mindset sees an individual tending to avoid challenges (‘why risk looking stupid?’), ignore constructive feedback (‘they don’t know what they’re talking about’), make little effort (‘why bother if there’s an easier way?’) and feel threatened by others (‘what if they’re after my job?’) – All of which leads to the likelihood of plateauing and never achieving full potential. Someone with a Growth Mindset on the other hand, looks at life through a different lens: Challenges are embraced as opportunities to learn, feedback helps growth and improvement, effort brings reward and pride, the success of others is an inspiration – all of which supports a desire to learn which in turn enables progression and accomplishment. To cultivate a Growth Mindset is to brush up against your edge in everyday life.
So how can we shift our mindset into this more positive frame? The first step is self-awareness: a key component of Emotional Intelligence and recognised as an essential skill for personal development. A great way to improve your self-awareness is to begin noticing. Notice how you speak to yourself (are your words full of kindness and encouragement– how you’d speak to a loved one? Or are they critical, full of judgement?). Notice how the tone of your thoughts (is everything a nightmare, inevitable, boring, tiring etc or are your thoughts more sunny?). Notice how often you say you can’t be bothered, don’t want to, can’t do it …. What would happen if you tried? Our thoughts inform our feelings, which in turn influence our behaviour, which in turn reinforces our thoughts: I bet I’ll be rubbish at yoga I’m so unfit… I feel really anxious about going to that beginners class I signed up to….I’m not going to go….I never could have done it anyway it’s not my thing I’m so unfit etc. Noticing this train of thought and choosing to shift into a different perspective moves us towards our edge, and into a Growth Mindset: I bet I’ll be rubbish at yoga I’m so unfit… I feel really anxious about going to that beginners class I signed up to… but I’m going to just try it and see what happens …..It was okay! I’m no yogi guru yet but I think it will be abit easier next week.
Adopting a Growth Mindset takes practice and conscious effort, but you’ll be rewarded with improved resilience, determination and inspiration. On the mat, finding my edge is a joy, a realisation that I can do something I didn’t used to be able to do, a source of pride, confidence and release, why wouldn’t I want to replicate that in everyday life?
*Carol S. Dweck/ 2007 / Mindset: the new psychology of success