“Be careful what you wish for,” is a phrase we often bandy about. You’ve likely said it yourself.
And with good cause.
There’s some awareness, on our everyday level, that we have a lot of power to influence what we wish for.
Come to find out, we do.
Seems that the expectations we hold in any given situation reflect an aspect of our more deeply held, often unconscious, mindsets.
Mindset encompasses those interior patterns of thinking and frames of reference that we hold about ourselves and others. They’re the core beliefs and attitudes that influence our way of being in the world.
Mindsets are the mental framework for living our lives.
Our mindsets, like a camera lens, filter how we see the world, coloring what’s possible, or not, through its prism.
In other words, our mindsets frame our expectations, whether we’re aware of them or not.
A great example, otherwise known as the placebo effect, is where the beneficial effects, let’s say of a pain medication, cannot be solely attributed to the properties of the placebo itself e.g. a pill, and are therefore attributed to the patient’s belief in that treatment.
And while often said with disdain, “it’s all in your head,” there’s truth in it. We literally have more power than we know.
How powerful are you willing to be?
Neurobiological research of the past three decades has shown that the placebo effect, stemming in part from one’s health mindset, or an anticipated expectation to heal, objectively engages areas of the brain that activate the physiological effects that lead to healing outcomes.
Yet, it cuts both ways.
Mindsets and associated expectations can also lead to what’s called “nocebo,” or negative effects.
For example, told an injection may hurt, some patients reported a heightened pain response. Similarly, some told about the mere possibility of negative side effects for a medication experienced an increased presence of negative side effects.
The work of Dr. Alia Crum at Stanford speaks volumes to this: mindsets matter.
She’s produced research suggesting that people’s mindsets influence the benefits they get from certain behaviors. In a 2011 study, involving the reduction of the hunger hormone grehlin, Dr. Crum showed that the physical effect of food (eating a milkshake and lowering grehlin levels that register satiation) depends not on how caloric or indulgent it is in fact, but on a person’s mindset.
Later, in 2013, another of Crum’s studies demonstrated that one’s stress mindset makes a difference.
Her results show that viewing stress as a helpful part of life, ‘stress as enhancing,’ rather than as harmful, called ‘stress as debilitating’ is associated with better health, emotional well-being, and productivity at work.
“We know that psychological and social forces are at work in health and in healing, for better or for worse,” Crum said. “but we need to develop more rigorous research to measure their physiological effects. It is time we start taking these forces more seriously in both the science and practice of medicine.”
Mindsets are powerful. How you ‘hold’ a belief can make all the difference.
We clean our homes and cars, our clothing, and our bodies. Yet, we don’t typically clean our mindsets.
In fact, we don’t even think of it.
We’re blind to our mindsets in a similar way that most of us believe ourselves to be great drivers, terrific listeners, and open-minded, despite evidence to the contrary.
Our mindsets, or beliefs, just seem like ‘common sense‘ to us so we don’t think to examine them often. Instead, we fall prey to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority where we overestimate our own abilities, qualities and mindsets, compared to the same abilities, qualities and mindsets of someone else.
Our challenge, then, is mindset hygiene.
What if we did clean out our mindsets?
What if we were open to monthly or quarterly reviews of our mindsets, to see if and how they were working well for us?
If working, great. If not, we can choose to shift them, observing something else through a new lens.
You could be more powerful than you realize, by simply checking what’s in your head.
How powerful are you willing to be?