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How to Move Past Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve

Have you ever had the experience of going through a tough situation—and finding more bad news around every corner? If we are already anxious or stressed, things can seem worse than they really are. We get stuck looking to the past and ruminating about what could have been or should have been. 

For many, the year 2020 was one disappointment and missed milestone after another. Anyone with personal goals and plans experienced a sense of loss, likely in addition to grief over lost loved ones and canceled events. Whether or not we can do anything to change our circumstances, there is always a way to take control of our mindset. 

Fixed vs Growth Mindset

One way we can move on from constant negative thoughts is to cultivate a growth mindset, defined by psychologist and Stanford professor Carol Dweck as the view that our challenges are the very things that help us develop our talents. Conversely, with a fixed mindset, we believe that our talents and abilities are what they are and any challenge is a huge risk. Someone with a growth mindset understands that the temporary struggle (and even failure) is likely to have good results in the end, but someone with a fixed mindset believes they are defined by their failure.

One thing to be aware of is the danger of a false growth mindset, which Dweck describes as “saying you have a growth mindset when you don’t really have it or you don’t really understand [what it is]. It’s also false in the sense that nobody has a growth mindset in everything all the time…You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset” (The Atlantic).

So if we can find a way to let go of the past and the future for a moment and just be, what kind of possibilities can we open up? What can we accomplish when we just focus on what we can do today – in the now?

The truth is, our future is not guaranteed. If we want to make an impact on the rest of our lives and make steady progress towards our goals, all we have is today. And if we stay focused on the here and now, tomorrow will take care of itself. You’re not going to run a marathon or write an entire book today. But if you clear your mind and stop worrying about the past and future, you will have a lot more time to get started in the present. The best way to start practicing this kind of mindfulness is to set a timer and focus on your breath for just 5 minutes. Can you spare 5 minutes?

Check out our Midweek Refresh events and start building in a mindfulness break on Wednesday afternoons! 

Tiani Pagan

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