Weekly 5: How I Approach Shifting My Mindset

Getting better at reading and being a wasteman.

Update

I’ve been getting better at reading. I’m still rather slow and I reread a lot of passages because my mind wanders, but where before these things would bother me and cause me to stop, I’ve been able to keep going. Maybe it’s just that the story I’ve been reading recently has been especially good.

I’m becoming somewhat agnostic of this format of an update, reflection, thought, and beginning to just throw whatever I want into these. I haven’t really come to a conclusion on what I think of doing these weekly things, but I’m figuring it out along the way, and I’m glad I started.

Reflection

Recently, I have been somewhat of a wasteman. I’ve been inconsistent, unappreciative, and very very lazy, spending a lot of time consuming content passively and without intention.

I could have done all of the same stuff I’ve been doing, but had I done it on purpose, I would have enjoyed it very much. But instead, most of my time spent watching tv or movies or YouTube videos were done in escape of the kind of existential dread that comes with boredom and pushing off actively living my life.

I consciously knew that there were lots of things I could and would enjoy doing, but I didn’t feel like doing them. I felt like a piece of garbage for not wanting to do them, and naively I didn’t take the necessary action that would’ve led to the results and motivation to continue.

But time heals.

It’s hard to say how much time it takes, but recently I’ve been a bit more productive, but more importantly, more accepting of how I spend my time.

Thought

Just to clarify, this part is separate from what I’ve talked about in my reflection section. A mental rut is a little more complicated and different than your specific perspective on something. The mindset shift I’m talking about here is more on the interpretation of certain things and less of an overarching outlook of your life in the present.

You might have diagnosed a mindset problem or a benefit of shifting your mindset in some way, but although ~recognizing you have a problem is the first step in solving it~ actually shifting your mindset, in my experience, is a far more difficult challenge.

Mindset change, in ways, is magic. Sometimes it happens without you even noticing, or maybe you read something that articulates your thoughts just right and something just clicks. But these types of occurrences are for the most part out of our control. What can we do to help induce a shift in our mindset?

I want to start off by saying that I think mindset change comes only over a long time of actively reinforcing something new.

From the stoics to modern-day pop psychology, there is an overlying pattern in ways of attempting to influence our own thoughts: a sort of three-part process of observing, reflecting, and modifying the way we think.

I don’t follow this rigidly, but I’ve noticed I do something similar. Every time I notice I’m thinking a certain way, I try to break it down into what I understand is the reason for my current way of thinking, and think to myself the ways my new mindset or beliefs or ideals work better in this context.

For example, a common theme in people’s anxiety is worrying about what others think of them. I’m no exception to this, and sometimes I think back on memories of saying something or doing something that makes me cringe. Most of the time it isn’t because I’m particularly disappointed in myself — generally I understand/accept how I’ve grown and where I’ve come from — but instead it’s more of the feeling of “oh man they must’ve thought I was so stupid/annoying/immature, etc.” When I think about that, I’d think to myself, if I’m being honest, they probably don’t even remember that, and if they do, I really doubt they give it much thought. They’re more likely thinking of something embarrassing they said or something totally different. Here, I catch myself feeling bad because of my current mindset, and I did my best to break it down and replace it with what I’d like my mindset to be.

Another common example would be feeling particularly reluctant towards doing something. For me, it might be writing or exercising. It’s something I know is good for me and that I like doing, but I’m only human and sometimes I just don’t feel like it. However, I (try to) catch myself succumbing to this resistance and do my best to block out my thoughts in general and just move my body to start typing or warming up. In this case, my old mindset is my reluctance/procrastination, and my new mindset is to cut off my rationalization and take immediate action.

In a way, it’s similar to conditioning yourself to perform a certain action whenever you recognize your previous mindset. After a long time, it becomes automatic and even natural. It doesn’t always, but getting close is often good enough.

Through what I’ve illustrated so far, it might seem as though I’m forcing it. People might be reluctant to do this because they might think it’s unnatural, inauthentic, that you can’t force this type of thing, like your lying to yourself or something.

But isn’t that what you’re already doing?

Are you not currently telling yourself only a version of your life distorted according to your current mindset? Wouldn’t you rather have this distortion be for the better?

People might say you’re suppressing your true feelings, that they’ll have to come out eventually. It’s not an absolutely baseless claim, but it is avoidable. In the short term, it can be easy to try and hide your own natural tendencies from yourself to convince yourself of your new mindset. But that’s not the point. You shouldn’t be trying to just jump to a new mindset, and you’re not going to be able to. I started off this whole thing by saying that mindset change only happens over a long time. If you let it happen over a long time, and if you’re understanding of yourself as you work on shifting your mindset, you’re not going to be holding back any feelings.

This is how you’re mindset has changed over the course of your life already. Through experiences and other influences, your mind has been conditioned to think the way it does. The only difference is that the awareness of this process can allow you to put conscious effort into directing it.

It is incredibly difficult, but I think it’s worth a try. Of course, take what I say with a grain of salt, I’m figuring it out like anyone else, but I hope reading this could help.

UIUC CS | alecchendev.com

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