Mindset and Emotional Balance

You are invited. To indulge in a little mental exercise for the morning. Imagine a circle with Mindset followed by Observable Behaviour followed by Emotional Impact / State.

It might look like this…


The two circles represent stuckness and unstuckness. The dotted line is the escape path from one to the other.

The Vicious Circle is essentially a self-perpetuating fixed mindset. It is the hamster wheel of fixed ideas, anti-social behaviour, emotional shame / instability / fear, etc. Once on it, it’s hard to get off.

But, contrary to much that is written, it is not the mindset that is the issue, it is the emotional state that precedes it. It is our current emotional state that determines our mindset which shows in our observed behaviour which has an emotional impact on us and our fellow folk. And around we go….

There may be much talk of Mindset, fixed and growth. But this dichotomy is too simple, it is false, and not new. The mindsets loosely match Edward de Bono’s “Rock Logic” and “Water Logic”. They also match the false dichotomy of art and science, of truth and beauty. The list goes on… Somehow we think that if we can fit things into dichotomies, they will become manageable. To our detriment.

Emotional and intellectual richness require more than dichotomies and we need to be demanding that of our academics, our consultants, our managers. Curiously, a big part of the growth mindset is the ability to get beyond dichotomies, a situation rich in irony….

Now to focus, and cause and effect. While “mindset” is held up as being of great importance in leadership, management, supervision and generally doing a good job; think of the stone masons building the cathedral, very little work is focussed on dealing with the emotional imbalance and its impact that underlies the way we talk to ourselves.

Using Linkedin search as a proxy for reality (dangerous, I know), “mindset” returns over 680 000 people and more than two million items of content. “Emotional balance” returns just 78 000 people and 113 000 articles. In some ways it is a true reflection of impact, about a 10:1 return on effort – if you focus on achieving emotional balance…

We like simple things but the richness of life, organisational and personal, is in the contradictions so leaving mindset to stand there on its own for a moment, we will go backwards to the point at which we can escape the vicious circle and turn it virtuous. Our emotional state.

For this I find it useful to use the framework developed in the early 20th Century by Dr Edward Bach, of Rescue Remedy fame. Yes, it is about flower essences and yes, it has an element of the homeopathic about it. But bear with me, for it is the good Doctor’s thinking and analysis that is of interest here.

Bach’s thesis was that the emotional state of a patient determines their ability to recover from an illness and that good physical health rests on good mental health, or emotional balance.

Further, he was of the view that disease first manifests in our emotional state then coarsens to develop into physical symptoms. While this may seem fanciful, stress and ulcers are generally accepted to be related. The genius of his work lay in the fact that he used a very scientific approach to look at many other types of emotional imbalance and discovered remedies to treat them. Do they work? That is entirely up to individual experience.

But that is not the point of this article. The main point of this article is that to change our mindset, our self-talk, we need to get at the cause, the emotional imbalance.

And, so, back to our circle.

If our observed behaviour indicates a mindset not conducive to good relationships, we need to address the emotional imbalance that underlies the mindset. This doesn’t have to mean deep introspection, it can be as simple as asking yourself, “how am I feeling right now?” and “how is that affecting my approach to work?”. Much of this is self-curing. Therapies, and remedies, are there to help us self-cure, not to replace it.

But not all emotional triggers are internal, external disruptions also affect us first emotionally. There is a whole industry wrapped around change management that deals with different ways and processes for introducing external disruption to people’s work lives but very little of it addresses the emotional impact on those people of that disruption. A duty of care is completely absent.

If the notion of duty of care as applied to your view of consulting interventions piques your interest, to tie change management and emotional stability together visit the Bach Centre and have a look at the remedy Walnut in the context of organisational change. I quite enjoy finding connections between normally disassociated things. Sometimes they work, other times they don’t.

There is no one response to the disruption caused from external sources, some will experience it as lack of self confidence but it manifests in myriad ways, as many as there are individuals affected.

One other Bach insight, treat the individual not the disease. People react differently to the same situation, so treat the reaction. Individualise the treatment. Gene-based therapies are moving towards the same approach, Bach just happened to be a century ahead of his time in many ways.

To wrap up, returning to our dichotomy for convenience sake, if you are blessed with a balanced emotional state, you have the foundation for a growth mindset. An unbalanced emotional state will naturally lead to a fixed mindset, as a survival mechanism. If we feel under threat, we dig in.

So the only way out of the circle, along that dotted escape trajectory, is through the portal of our emotional state. We can’t tell someone to change their mind(set) if they are not in an emotional state to hear it.

Equally, we can’t just change our mind(set) if the foundation is wobbly.

Follow me for more articles like this. For the 90 days to end-March 2021 the general theme will be “Growth”.

And if this point of view is of more concrete interest and you think it may help you, contact me directly and we can set up a chat.

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