Uncovering possibilities with a growth mindset

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This is a podcast episode titled, Uncovering possibilities with a growth mindset. The summary for this episode is: One of the biggest mental threats for us all right now is putting life on pause. Happiness only flourishes when we feel there is growth. Stagnation is the bane of joy. In this episode, Shawn discusses how you can enforce good habits and decrease bad habits by changing the "Activation Energy" of those actions. He also talks about how achieving small goals can shift your mental image of yourself and propel you forward to incredible, cumulative change. Finally, he touches on how the act of giving, rather than receiving, helps us engage our reality and find positive outcomes.
Hitting "pause" does not help our levels of positivity or optimism
00:52 MIN
Positive change requires higher levels of energy at the beginning
00:21 MIN
Decrease the activation energy needed to perform tasks that are healthy
01:11 MIN
Make it easier to express gratitude
01:17 MIN
Small changes lead to big changes over time by altering the image you have of yourself
01:53 MIN
"Science is just reconfirming things we've heard from our grandparents..."
00:41 MIN

Ben Newton: Everybody, and welcome to Mindset Reset. And I'm your host, Ben Newton. This is the fourth and final episode of our series with Shawn Acorn, bestselling author and world renowned speaker. In the third episode, we learned how to become more adaptive by cataloging positive change and setting short term goals. In this episode we're going to talk about how you can uncover possibilities even in the midst of a crisis, with a growth mindset. It's really very natural to see this crisis and see our lives and see our society right now, our economy, whatever it is, and seeit being put on pause. It's like somebody hit the pause button and we all have to stand still for three months, right? But number one, it can't happen. It's not good for anybody. So how do we keep that from happening, because in particular, when you talk about the growth mindset, this rational optimism, the things that you've talked about, how can we use those tools to see possibilities and maintain that positive momentum, and not just see our lives basically hit a giant pause button?

Shawn Acorn: Yeah. Hitting a pause button does so many negative things to our levels of optimism and happiness. To meit's the joy you feel moving towards your potential. So if you stop moving, you no longer feel joy, nor happiness. So we want to be becoming better people. And oftentimes we too narrowly define that potential. I'm getting better at work, so I'll get paid more at work. That's how we normally defined potential. Or, I'm better at playing basketball, but it's also I'm a better dad, a better husband, a better human being to other people. I'm better at understanding the world or being spiritual, whatever it is in those moments, that's what we really want. So what we want right now is to take that pause button off, and to start to look for the positives that are going on. The hard part is, in the midst of all this threat, the energy it takes to make positive change seems to evaporate. I've been finding that it's easier to just sit at home and quarantine and watch Netflix. I think that we just want to sit there and not do anything, and just wait till the storm goes away, and then we'll see what damage occurred. What we're experiencing there is activation energy. So, in order to catalyze reaction, you have to have an initial investment of energy. The high at the beginning of it to start the reaction, the catalyst has to occur. If you want to create a positive change in your life,if you want to pursue those happiness, there's sometimes when it's super easy. If you go to a tennis, I don't even know what they call them, where you go get to play tennis at a hotel for a while. Everyone's playing tennis. It's super easy to play tennis. There's a tennis court right there, inaudible you buy your tennis clothes. Super easy, low activation energy level. Watching TV, super low activation energy level. I press a little button on my Apple TV or remote, and now I've got more than enough shows to last me for the next two years. That's low activation energy level. So what we've looking for is oftentimes the positive change requires higher levels of energyat the beginning. So if Iwant to create a positive change, like I want to write down three things I'm grateful for, or I want to meditate each day, or I want to exercise for 15 minutes a day, or I want to write that two minute positive email, whatever the positive habit we're trying to create right now to move away fromthat pause, requires an investment ofenergyat the beginning. So what we're finding, that's amazing, is that the barrier usually. Do you want todosomething positive, no, it takes... Doyouwanttolearntoplayed the guitar? No, it's upstairs. I don't feel like playing it anymore. So what we're trying to do is what happens if we decrease the activation energy by even 7 to 12 seconds? We've actually found it sometimes it could be even less for certain habits. But we're finding that if you decrease the activation energy to do a task, you're likely to picking up[inaudible00:04: 25]. You want to do that with positive ones and you want to increase activation energy for the things that are negative ones. So example of this, when I first started doing this, I was watching way too much TV, right? So I had come home from the office, I'd watched The Office for hours and hours on repeat, and that's because it was low activation energy to turn it on with my remote control. So I sit down to my couch and watch. So I took the batteries out of the remote control, walk them 20 seconds away actually to my bedroom, and left the batteries in there. So the next couple of days I came home, sat downon the couch, plopped down, press the on button on the remote control, usually repeatedly, and be like," Oh, why do I do these experiments? Where did I put the batteries this time?" Andmybrain was like," It's 20 seconds away, let's go get them." And I was like," Nope. It takes forever to go get those batteries." Because, your brain magnifies activation energy. And I purposely put a book next to me that Iwant to read. I had my phone so I could call my real friends instead of watching my fake friends on television. I had my guitar sitting out on my case right next to me,and I didn't play the guitar at all, because I kept it in a case in my closet. It would take me about 20 seconds to pull it out and start playing it. Now we actually have it in the living room right where I sit down, right next to the TV, so that I will pick it up and start playing it easier. And my kids will point it out to me. Sowhat we've done is to decrease the activation energy. So if you want to do three things you're grateful for, I'm actually finding, just like you're finding, the dinner table gratitudes are hard, at least with little kids. There's so much stress getting food prepared, and then getting my kids to eat the food and we're hungry, it's actually a really tough time to do those gratitudes at my kid's age level. So that's why we do it at nighttime or we doitat the beginning, start our homeschool now. So what we're looking for is how do we make things easier? So the gratitudes, we try togetpeopleto do them while they brush their teeth. You're already doing it. You've already got a mental cue for it. It takes almost no energy. Just sit there since you're doing nothing anyway, just think of three things you're grateful for. If people wanted to write down positive things that are going on in their life, I find that if I lose the pen that I put on the piece of paper to write downthegratitudes, if I lose the pen or it gets moved to another room. We don't do the gratitudes for like two or three weeks. So it's literally, it's moving that activation energy just slightly. We put our unhealthy food low down underneath all the healthy frozen... We have frozen foods and stuff in our freezer. We put the unhealthy stuff underneath, not only to hide it from the kids, but if I really want to get that ice cream sandwich thatI really want, I have to pull out everything in the freezer to get it. And my brain usually thinks it's not worth it. So we've learned this from addiction recovery programs, where if you just make things harder for peopleto get, like if they only have one pack of cigarettes around the house, they're only going to smoke one pack, until they have to go all the way out to go buy another one. And what's happening in the midst of this is you're just making it harder and harder to do the negative, and easier to do the positive. We're just decreasing the activation energy to move past this pause, to get back to movement.

Ben Newton: This is really good, things to think about.Because one, I do remember that I ran a lot before, years ago then blame it on the kids, sure why not? I stopped running as much with the kids and trying to get back into it.And the key was laying out everything out the night before. And so when I got up, all I had to do was somehow make it into the bathroom and put it all on. And and I even think with what you were saying with a guitar, I need to actually pull my guitaroutso I play it more. But yeah, it's those little changes that make such a big difference. And one thing that comes to mind when you say that, I like the idea of the activation energy appeals some into my nerdiness. You lower it for some things, you increase for other things. One thing you talked about, and if I remember right, I think youactuallytalkedaboutit when you came to the Sumo Logic conference, youtalk a little bit about it, how small changes can lead to bigger changes over time. So maybe we've talked a little bit about that too. Because it seems like, I know with me being a type A person, I've always struggled with this is that you have these giant goals. I want to do this big massive thing, and then you leave it there. But a lot oftimesit's these iterative small changes over time. So maybe talkalittlebitaboutthat.Howdo you do that?

Shawn Acorn: Well, the two things to propel you towards a goal are progress perceived and proximity to the finish line. If we createtoobigof a goal, the proximity to the finish line looks way too far. We don't feel like there's any progress towards it. So, having these smaller goals is so much more helpful, sometimes. Literally doing one burpee a day, you're talking aboutthe burpees earlier, maybe making one instead of something crazy liketen. We have some friends who are like," If you do 50burpees a day, you've spread it out over the course of the day, you don't have to exercise and do anything else." Yeah, but who does 50burpees when they first start? I mean maybe some people can. I can't. I'd be really proud of myself ifIdid have one burpee a day for the next two weeks, I'd be like," I'm an athlete." So, I think that's what it is, is we're trying to shift our identity. And we find that sometimes when I go to conferences, people go for a run in the morning, because they're away from their kids, they have a different schedule, they decided they're going to do something. They go run that morning, and they suddenly realize," I'm a runner." Even though it'sthefirsttimethat[inaudible 00: 09:55]. I'm a runner. Everyone else should be running. And I totally deserve these extra snacks because I'm a runner." What you're doingis you're changingthatmindset. We found that in a study we did actually with LinkedIn a couple of years ago, that if you increase the amount of praise... I'm sorry, if you write a two minute positive email in the morning, your likelihood of praising other people during the day, your amount of praise you do triples over the course of day. Thatwhat I'm trying to say., So you write this two minute positive email in the morning.You're like," Okay that was two minutes. How could that possibly impact my life?" It triples how much praise you do, because you see yourself as a praise provider, instead of a praise recipient. Becausewhat we found with social connection too, all the research that's done on social connection, if you look at it, it's actually on the receipt of social connection. The questions are things like if you're going through a difficult time, are there people that you can talk to when you're going through that hard time? Is there someone special in your life you can lean on in hard times? Do people set up social engagements for you? That's how we ask questions about social connection. When I was doing this original research for Big Potential, we flipped around the questions, and we just ask them," Are you the type of person that sets up social engagements for other people? Do you bring in donuts, or whatever it is to the people around you?" When somebody is going through a hard time, are you the person that they come and talk to you about? Those work altruists, those people who are altruistic with their social connection, not only are they 40% more likely to receive promotions over the next two year period of time, butwhat we're finding is their happiness levels and engagement work, were so much higher because they felt that their behavior mattered, instead of waiting for good things to happen. I think in the midst of uncertainty, we wait a lot of times, and I think that we can change who we are. Maybe we come out of this as a family having lost nine months worth of income, but now I'm a runner, I play guitar and I'm a much better altruist. I don't know where the trade off point would be, but I would feel good about those last three things for sure.

Ben Newton: Yeah. Yeah. Well that's and go back to activation energy. That's why I ate all the chocolate last week because I lowered the activation this week.

Shawn Acorn: Exactly.

Ben Newton: No, I really liked the way you put it, Shawn, because it's not just about doing the small iterative goals. It's actually changing the image of yourself. It's changing how you feel about yourself. Because if you do something enough, and you start making it a habit, you actually feel like that. Because I do remember when I started running, I never really ran before and did this several years ago. And it was just a matter of doing it and doing it again. But then like the counter point, is when I stopped running, I stopped feeling like a runner. It's about forming those habits and keeping those habits. And in one way, tell me if this makes sense to you, Shawn, but part of what I feel like you're saying too is, I know why I like to watch movies and Netflix sometimes is because partly because I want to escape my reality. I can see what I watch change depending on what's going on with my life. I don't want to watch that drama right now because I got enough drama going on. I want to watch some comedy. Iwantto watch something that gets my mind out of it. But, it seems part of what you're talking about too, is it's not just about escaping reality and we all want to do that sometimes, that's part of the fun of those kinds of things. But also engaging reality, and engaging it in a meaningful way. Not just engaging with the enormity of it, but one step at a time.

Shawn Acorn: Yeah.

Ben Newton: Does that make sense?

Shawn Acorn: Yeah. I think it's what we're doing with it. Maybe we watch Contagion, because we want to figure out how to help our next door neighbors. Orare we watching contagion to see how bad this is going to get from me, and I need to know what's going on. Youknow what I'm saying? I like watching Cheers right now. I wanted extra friends. It's like I've never seen it before. It's hilarious. And I wanted something that's positive, but what I'm doing is, I use that recharge on a bar in Boston, this fiction, but that recharge that I feel there, is fueling me to want to get up and do this podcast with you. Or to spend more time with my kids. Because IfeellikeifI don't recharge and just stick on Twitter looking at all the negative news and watch the counts change, I lose my adaptive response to the world. So, sometimes people will ask me about writing like, what's my schedule when I write books?" Do you write in one long chunk, doyouhave to block everything?" Oneofthe things I tell them is that I play so many more video games when I am writing a book, I triple, quadruple the amount of video games I play, because I need some place to recharge my brain, that's just for me, that's positive. But then I fuel it right into being hyper productive. I'm hyper productive in the same periods that I'm also recharging. I think that it's about how we use it. So are we spending our time on Netflix and Cheers to fuel positive interaction, orare we doing it to hunker down to close our eyes until this is over? And I think the first response is the stronger one.

Ben Newton: Yeah. Well and it's back to what you said before is it's about how you approach your reality. You can take the same activity, you can take the same set of circumstances, and view it in a different way, and have a different outcome for yourself and those around you.And I think that's pretty powerful. And to summarize some of these things is, you talk about the activation energy, lower the activation energy for the things that are beneficial and the things you want to do, like playing your guitar, doing some activity like running in the morning or whatever it is, and then increase it for the thingsthat you're trying to avoid. Like, put the snacks up on the high shelf, or put them back behind something else in the fridge, or whatever it is. And, really, one thing that really stuck with me is... Well, a couple of things, other things that stuck with me, Shawn, is one,changeyour image of yourself by doing those things, by making it a habit, you change the image of who you are. And that'll basically open up new possibilities by doing that. And also, something I think was really powerful that you said, Shawn, is a lot of times when we talk about these kinds of things, we talk about receiving. What am I getting out of it? But you've talked a few times now about something you do.It's an active thing. It's about giving, it's about giving back to those around you.And by doing that, you receive so much in return, and it might seem a little old fashioned to talk about it that way, but it seems to be really key to a lot of what you're saying isthat it's giving, not receiving, right?

Shawn Acorn: Yeah. I think all the science is just reconfirming things we've heard from our grandparents a lot of times. It's so true. I think just like love is an action. I think happiness requires action. And we're finding that the more that we move away from a hunker down, in the midst of crisis, to being resilient optimism, everything starts to change.

Ben Newton: Well, I think that's a fantastic note to end this four part series on. And thank you, Shawn for being part of this and I think when we put this out there, I'm going to be listening to these multiple timesto really can absorb it all.So I appreciate your time and thank you for being here.

Shawn Acorn: No, this is great. Thank you so much for having this conversation, and for sharing it with people.

Ben Newton: Absolutely. Thanks everybody again for listening to this episode of Mindset Reset. This was the last episode in a four part series. If you haven't already, check out the other three episodes or maybe re- listen to them when you need a burst of positive energy to get you through another day. We are so glad that you took time out of your day, to listen to the series and we hope that it made an impact on you in your life. So, see you soon and stay safe.

Speaker 3: Masters of Data is brought to you by Sumo Logic. Sumo Logic is a cloud native machine data analytics platform, delivering real time continuous intelligence as a service to build, run, and secure modern applications. Sumo Logic empowers the people who power modern business. For more information, go to Sumologic. com.


One of the biggest mental threats for us all right now is putting life on pause. Happiness only flourishes when we feel there is growth. Stagnation is the bane of joy. In this episode, Shawn discusses how you can enforce good habits and decrease bad habits by changing the "Activation Energy" of those actions. He also talks about how achieving small goals can shift your mental image of yourself and propel you forward to incredible, cumulative change. Finally, he touches on how the act of giving, rather than receiving, helps us engage our reality and find positive outcomes.