Why? & What Comes Next?

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about how beliefs impact resilience. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve introduced concepts that build upon each other, so if you are new to Motivated Mondays - WELCOME! I invite you to start from the beginning of this blog series and move forward at your own pace. (Or not. You rebel you.)

A quick recap of last week before we continue:

Last week, we learned that monitoring our internal monologue is not always easy. I offered some encouragement and reminded you that developing the skills of resilience requires effort, that it is a worthwhile endeavor, and that it will get easier over time.

We asked the question - Is my thinking helpful or harmful? I shared a moment from my inner monologue to illustrate how inaccurate thinking can actually create adversity and drain resilience. Thankfully, my story didn't end there. I paused and used flexible, accurate thinking to challenge my unhelpful thoughts, bolster my resilience, and embrace the challenge at hand. Progress. 

We discovered that thoughts are sometimes just that - thoughts. And that we do not need to believe everything we think.

We learned that our beliefs are the lens through which we see the world (1). Think about that. It means we are the artists of our own lives. Our beliefs color the world around us. Do we have ultimate control over everything that happens? Of course not. (Although, if you happen to have that super power will you please contact me…) What being the artist of our own lives means is that we can develop emotional agility and the ability to alter our responses in moments of adversity.

We can become more resilient! (2)

(And that’s kind of like a super power…)

Last week, I also introduced the ABC Model (4) - a tool for accurate thinking that helps us see how an Activating event triggers Beliefs which impact Consequences and drive our emotions and behaviors. Finally, knowing that we do not need to believe all of our thoughts, we started to divert and challenge unhelpful thoughts in order to build resilience (1). Phew. It was a busy week!

Beliefs can be a powerful tool for well-being.

We’ve already seen that accurate thinking is a core competency of resilience (1). Today, I want to help you understand two types of beliefs that are essential to build resilience!

#1: CAUSAL BELIEFS or how you explain why things happen to you. 

#2: IMPLICATION BELIEFS or what you believe about what comes next

Why do we need to understand causal and implication beliefs to build resilience? Because our ability to accurately identify the causes of adversity impacts our resilience. If we believe something that isn’t accurate, we often wind up repeating mistakes which in turn drains resilience and reinforces unhelpful thoughts. Not ideal for personal growth and well-being, huh?

So, let’s dig in. 

Causal beliefs are how we explain why things happen in our world. Humans seem to have an evolutionary disposition to ask - why? We are meaning-makers. Storytellers, who derive a sense of purpose and identity from our understanding of the world around us. We are driven to learn and are particularly prone to ask why when a situation is unexpected or challenging (1). 

If we examine our causal beliefs - the why - we find what psychologists call our explanatory style. It turns out, our personal explanatory style tends to become habitual by adolescence and is frequently modeled by our primary care giver. We learn how to explain the things happen to us. Both the good and the bad (3). The great news about that, is that we bring awareness to these beliefs, and, if necessary, alter them to support well-being! 

Our explanatory style answers three questions: 

#1: Is it personal? (Is it about me or other? Internal or external?) 

#2: Is it permanent? (Does it happen always, never, or sometimes?)

#3: Is it pervasive? (Does everything happen this way or not? Specific or universal?)

Your explanatory style is important because these habitual beliefs impact your resilience. For instance, if you see a problem as “always-everything” (both permanent and pervasive) it will likely prevent you from seeing a way to create change. You loose emotional agility. Why would you look to change something that you feel you have no control over? It would be a waste of time and energy. Right? Of course right. The consequence of your belief can be helpful or harmful depending on your ability to see a situation accurately.

So, the question becomes -  Are you accurate? 

Is this really an ‘always’ or ‘never’ situation? Chances are the answer is no even if it typically happens one way. It’s a thinking trap (4). And if you are able to see the “not-everything” perspective in a difficult moment, you will be able to generate potential action towards a solution. It allows agility, and gives you the space to choose how you respond. 

Implication beliefs also impact resilience. Many people have what comes next beliefs that are unrealistic or down right catastrophic from time to time. Have you ever thought that a moment of failure meant that you will never get a job, find a date, or reach a goal in the future? Well, unless you are psychic, you don’t really know will happen.

This is one reason why being comfortable with the unknown is important to resilience. Unknowns are a part of living. When you catastrophize, your brain prepares for threat. That has real consequences, physically and emotionally. While it can be very helpful if you are actually under threat, chances are that if you are readying this blog, you are lucky enough not live in constant threat and thinking catastrophically produces unnecessary anxiety that drains resilience. 

It is important to note that there is an often forgotten flip side with potential danger here. Unrealistically optimistic what comes next beliefs can cause you to underestimate risk (1). That can negatively impact well-being and resilience as well. Sometimes caution is warranted.

Again, the goal is accuracy.

Flexible thinking and the ability to accurately identify the cause of adversity increases resilience! Realistic, accurate thoughts help us move forward effectively and keeps us from wasting precious time and energy on beliefs that are not helpful. Ultimately, resilience channels our problem solving resources in productive ways to help us navigate moments of adversity. So, as it turns out, the way we explain why something happens or what comes next is pretty important to well-being.

Are you beginning to see how your beliefs impact resilience?

This week, I invite you to listen to your inner monologue in a moment of adversity and look for why and what comes next beliefs. Do you see any patterns? Ask yourself - is my thought Personal? Permanent? Pervasive? Is my thought accurate? Remember, you can always challenge or dispute your thinking! You don’t need to believe everything you think. 

I hope you found this information illuminating. Next week, we’ll dive a little deeper and see how certain beliefs trigger particular emotional responses, In the meantime, I hope you have a great week!

 

Once again special thanks for the thinking and work of the following folks!

References

1. Reivich, K, Shatté, A. The resilience factor: 7 keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life's hurdles. Random House Digital, Inc; 2003.

2. Masten, AS, Cutuli, JJ, Herbers, JE, Reed, MJ. Resilience in development. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 117-131). New York: Oxford University Press; 2009. 

3. Seligman, M. Learned optimism. New York: Knopf; 1991.

4. Beck, A, Greenberg, R. Cognitive therapy in the treatment of depression. In N. Hoffman. (Ed.) Foundations of cognitive therapy (pp. 155-178). New York, NY: Springer; 1984.