Thirty-four is no age to go but some people must. Doesn’t matter if they leave behind a family, friends and a son who is not even five. They touch lives and go. This is how a friend went, all of 34, last month when I was writing about entropy. Ironically the ultimate entropy is death. And just a day earlier, he had liked my article on risks and decisions. Out of my many pieces of writing, this was the first time he had liked an article, as in clicked on the like button on Facebook. I will never know if he ever read this one or for that matter if he read any of my work, all I know is possibly this was his way of saying bye to me. Or, maybe this was his way of saying to me, “finally, you have started sharing your knowledge”. He had said that to me 10 years ago.
It was around 2010 while running my first entrepreneurial venture when I met him for some business. Working with an agency, he used to manage accounts of large FMCG brands. We did some business together but that’s not important, what is important is that he prodded me to give some corporate training sessions. He felt my thoughts and knowledge could enrich people at workplaces. I paid no heed to his idea at that time. His passing reminded me of those conversations and the fact that he had valued and practised some of these ideas that I write about today. He was a part of my learning ladder.
People say 2020 has been a mammoth learning ladder itself. They say we learnt not to just live indoors, we learnt to work indoors, play indoors, learnt to celebrate indoors and learnt to mourn indoors.
Like the coronavirus pandemic, there are colossal events we are never warned about. Like a major technological advancement in one business putting other companies out of the business. Or, a simple social media post becoming a seed for a business idea and therefore disrupting that space.
The entire game of life has circled back to the theory of survival of the fittest. Now, we need not only physical fitness but also mental fitness. It is about looking inward and thinking on how to grow fitter. It is about the fittest, not the fittest among us, but a fitter version of our own. We are now competing with our own version.
Mental fitness is the ability to grow in our thoughts to be able to make choices and decisions based on our own frameworks of work and life. It is about creative thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and most importantly, helping the mind grow stronger. And, as in physical fitness we dedicate time and attention to shape our fitness, in mental fitness, too, we need to dedicate time and attention to grow our thinking through a network of mental models.
Sportspersons are trained to think in a manner that becomes their driver. Training of mind is not unusual, it exists in pockets of performances like training for leadership or training for sports excellence. What is uncommon is commonly thinking about thinking. Here are three pieces from this year’s edition on how to grow fitter.
Abhinav Bindra said: “If you are competing in an Olympic final with the very best in the world, you ought to be physically drained. It is inevitable. You have already given it your best and that’s when the mind-body synergy comes into play. At one stage the mind goes numb and that’s when the body takes over. The hours of training that an athlete has put into getting to the top then takes centre stage.”
What Bindra is referring to is a kind of mind and body equilibrium seldom achieved in sport. It is a state where the mind can push the body and vice versa. If one faculty is tired and fatigued, the other takes over and drives the athlete into a kind of robotic state of functioning.
A growth mindset, in contrast, believes that intelligence can be developed. It creates a desire to learn and therefore develops a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks and pick up learnings from their failures. As a result, they reach higher levels of achievement.
If you are wondering which type of mindset you have, remember, we all have parts of both types. One type may be predominant in our behaviour and we need to, through our actions and thoughts, nurture more of the growth mindset.
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and actions of another person. It is about going out of your own perspective and stepping into the other person’s view. Being empathetic holds one from being judgemental and it helps in touching a chord.
This mental model of empathy helps us nurture the social nature of our minds. It is a powerful tool for innovation and creative thinking explained both in the course SHIFT and in Design Thinking.
The coronavirus pandemic is just another reason that has brought in uncertainties. Technology acceleration, climate change, our expansive social network, they all disrupt our present sense of understanding of space.To create a better understanding, to navigate more efficiently and to keep growing and innovating, we must focus on developing our thinking skills. And focus on the rule, it is the survival of the fitter, the fitter me.
(Vishakha Singh, author of a forward-thinking course SHIFT, is a business strategist & a design thinking practitioner. She writes at www.habitsforthinking.in, offering insights into the ever-changing business environment.)