Growth Mindset Series: Why growth isn't linear and what to do when you slip up

Uncategorized Jun 09, 2020

Remember when you where a baby, and you learned how to walk? You would take a couple of wobbly steps, fall down on your bum, maybe shed a tear or two, and try again. This might have gone on for a couple of weeks, or months, but eventually, you transitioned from crawling or bum-shuffling to walking confidently on your two feet. It might have been hard at times, but because you didn't know any better, and because you where set on learning this new skill, you persevered. This is what we call the growth mindset: you believe that your talent (to walk on two feet) can be developed by perseverance, hard work, watching how others do it or accept their help, or even strategy (keep your hands connected to the table while shimmying along). 

A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is where you believe you are born with your skills or talents, and this frame of mind (it's a belief, not a fact) can make it much more difficult to grow and develop. As you can imagine, people who have more of a growth mindset tend to achieve more and live fuller lives.

Of course, you probably don't actually remember learning how to walk. But let's take this example to explain how growth isn't linear. You can then apply this in any topic in your life, for example your gut health.

So when you learned to walk, you might have made a couple of great steps forward, nearly walking from the coffee table to the couch, but you tripped at the end. Maybe because your feet didn't have the experience, or maybe because the rug was too big of an obstacle. These factors affected your confidence, and you might gave up trying to walk for that day. When you tried the next day, you managed to keep your feet straight and elegantly stepped over the rug. No big deal. Now you can walk longer distances and go about exploring the room, walking straight is easy, but your favourite teddy is lying in your way. Because you haven't yet learned how to pivet like Ronaldo, you attempt to step over it, a new move, an extra big step. This is too much too soon and down you go again. But because you already know how to walk straight, you get up and start again. 

Just like the image below, the journey to learning how to walk (or to create any new gut health habits, or improve your healthy lifestyle overall, etc) goes in different levels of difficulty. And sometimes you need a couple of attempts to get on top of that next (mile) stone.

I hope by now you see how sometimes things can get in the way, quite literally. The same can happen when you are on your own growth journey, for example: saying no to sugar to reduce inflammation. You might have a bad night sleep, you might get invited to a birthday party, your might have a really good reason to celebrate something. It can be really hard to say no then, and if you've 'slipped up' it could leave you feeling defeated and willing to give up altogether.

Why continue if you've done the damage, right? I hear you. And it can really feel as if you take one step forward and two steps back at times. But remember you are still working on taking steps forward. So the total balance is more forward than backwards. There are of course a couple of things you can do to prevent slip-ups. Such as: avoiding situations that might 'put your in danger', bringing your own snacks to a party, or inviting people over to your house so you are in charge of what's on the table. Even then, you might still end up in situations you regret. Here is where you can play your strength and move forward after a slip-up.

What did you learn? If you caved and ate all the pizza at the party, how are you feeling afterwards? Physically. Is your body feeling good and are you not experiencing any worsened symptoms? Did your body benefit from this food? Was it worth it? The answer can be yes, which is totally cool for the future. As long as you choose the pizza with intention from here on and know what the result can be.

What can you do different in the future? How can you improve the result going forward? Be honest with yourself and ask if you can avoid the situation or how you can make sure you do things different. 

Don't forget to be kind to yourself. It might sound weird, but we all make mistakes. When you really look at how you can improve going forward, it is also important to accept what happened and be kind. Feeling guilty will not give you the sheer motivation to keep going. So instead of beating yourself up, think: Ok, this happened, I did love the ice-cream, but now I feel like rubbish. It was tasty, but my body is aching and from now on I'll opt for a healthier treat. (click here for healthier treat recipes)

So, just to recap: it takes dedication, effort and willingness to learn to grow and improve. Setbacks are part of improving. You are only human in the end of the day. Your strength will be when you learn how to use those setbacks to grow from there and move on where you left off. Eventually, you'll be able to walk with your eyes closed, so to speak. 



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