"When we repeatedly seek struggle, progress becomes a way of life."
the rationale of Mindset Training
As athletes, we are all familiar with the benefits of physical training. We have experienced the fact that it is possible to transform our bodies and improve conditioning through exercise and diet. However, most people are unaware that it is possible to see the same levels of benefits and results when we train our minds. There are techniques we can practice, perspectives we can learn, and mental exercises we can perform that all lead to optimized mental performance. Mindset training is the process of adopting these methods and dedicating time to improving the most important tool we will ever have.
Anyone with experience of mindset training knows there is something profound to be discovered about the ways we can improve our day to day experience, both cognitively and emotionally. It is possible to improve our ability to focus our attention, achieve our goals, and find real passion and fulfillment in our lives. The nuance of mindset training is that it’s not just a list of action items or routines that we need to follow every day; it’s much more about embracing an infinite mindset so we can find the tools and routines that work for us as individuals.
Your heart is pounding, your hands are sweaty, your shoulders are hunched, there’s internal chaos – it’s a feeling we’re all familiar with. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we can experience – it’s strong enough to stop people from pursuing what they really want in life; it’s persuasive enough to keep us in a prison of our own imagination. One aspect of the growth mindset we have been talking about recently is a perspective shift in how we approach fear in life and a recent study in neuroscience has revealed how we can actually train our minds to interpret this feeling as excitement in order to overcome its paralyzing effects.
A study led by Lindsey Salay at Stanford University monitored fear responses in mice and, due to the similar structures in the human brain, it has important implications for our lives as well. The study looked at how the brain reacts to fear-inducing situations and discovered there are three possible responses: freeze, retreat, or advance. The study then looked at the stress levels caused by each of these responses. The ‘freeze’ response produced the lowest level of stress, the ‘retreat’ response produced the second lowest, and, not surprisingly, the ‘advance’ response produced the highest amount of stress. However, the study uncovered something very interesting and surprising about this last response. While they noticed that it produced the highest amount of initial stress, they discovered that it was also accompanied by a concurrent release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. This implies that within our brains, there are structures and systems that chemically reward us for confronting our fears. While advancing towards fear may feel like the most stressful and fear-inducing option in the beginning, we are actually wired to find these experiences pleasurable.
As we practice this over time and we become aware of the positive response we get from overcoming fears, our brains will begin to focus more on the potential dopamine reward of moving toward an intimidating situation and less on the initial risk. The excitement of overcoming something new will begin to outweigh the fear of risk.
The idea of facing our fears has always been promoted in ancient wisdom, but now we have neuroscientific evidence of how we can rewire our brains to not only tolerate more fear, but actually enjoy it and seek it. The importance of this discovery really cannot be overstated; the less constraints we feel in our lives due to fear, the closer we come to true freedom and a life without limitations. When we are able to implement this into our lives, it will begin to create a compounding effect that truly has the power to unlock infinite growth.
In our recent fall campaign, we said that we “seek to celebrate the inherent risk that accompanies all positive momentum.” This sentiment is something we try to practice every day and it is a reflection of our internal company culture. We are a young team of athletes and creatives constantly pursuing innovation in both our technical clothing and our business philosophy; it is our goal to continually create the next generation of apparel while building a team of individuals inspired by an obsession with constant progress and personal fulfillment.
In our efforts to carve out our own lane in the apparel space and run a company according to our intuitions, we have learned the importance of celebrating risk. It is now one of our core company values that we encourage at every level. It is a collective drive to overcome the natural fear we can all experience that would lead us to stagnation and it is what has allowed us all to continue to create from a place of excitement for what is possible, rather than a fear of what might fail.
Message from the founder
In my experience, the entire concept of negative and positive emotions are backwards. Through society and even psychology, we have been obsessed with focusing on what we have labeled as “negative” emotions – fear, anxiety and stress. Our entire culture is obsessed with these emotions, obsessed with labeling them as bad or even scary… But I have to wonder, at what point did we decide these internal feelings were so negative and to be avoided?
If you think back to pre-civilization, how do you think a caveman would have reacted to fear, anxiety or stress? To me, it seems pretty clear if you pay close attention to what these emotions are really trying to signal. The caveman would have taken action to figure out what was making him feel this discomfort, and he would have continued to take action until the emotion faded. Then the emotion would rise again the next day and he would take more action and on and on. He would not have sat around and tried to avoid these feelings after labeling them “bad.”
All emotions are just our bodies sending action signals to our brains saying, “do something,” and the most effective emotions that create the most visceral reactions are fear, stress and anxiety because they feel uncomfortable (which is actually good). When we feel happy, joyous or content, we have no motivation to keep pushing forward. These “positive” emotions are actually the least helpful emotions for growth. Our biology wants us to grow, learn, adapt and evolve, therefore the most important emotions we have been blessed with are fear, anxiety and stress.
I know this sounds counterintuitive, but how do you think some of the greatest minds and leaders felt all day everyday? The people we most look up to were probably the least content. And it was their discontent that motivated them every day to make changes for the better, improve the lives of others, fight for human rights, or push innovation forward. This is such a clear example of our biology telling us these emotions are the actual “positive” emotions we should be striving for because it brings the most value to others, our communities, and human beings as a whole.
Our view of fear, anxiety, and stress should be reframed. There are no “negative” and “positive” emotions, there are only "action" and "non-action" emotions. And it is the action emotions that unlock the skills that make us special, which in turn will help the most other people. Don’t try to fight these emotions, don't even try to avoid them, and definitely do not label them good or bad. Feel the emotions, welcome them as guiding signals, and translate them into an action our deeper senses are telling us we need to do.
Growth often comes in times where we feel the most fear, anxiety and stress. These are the emotions we should welcome, because they bring the most fulfilling results – forward momentum and eventually freedom.
- Jay B
neurostack of the week
Each newsletter will include an updated Neurostack, which is our ongoing list of Mindset Training techniques or resources we are currently using that we find worth sharing.
Meditate on the things in your life that you may want to do but haven't yet due to fear. Think deeply about whether that fear is of something real, or if your mind is fabricating it in an attempt to protect you from something that’s not real. Imagine yourself doing that thing, and notice the slight tremble. Examine that tremble. Is it fear, is it bad, or could it be excitement - the same kind you feel before a big game or competition? Is it actually stopping you from doing something, or can you imagine how good it would feel to actually do the thing you fear? What if you could actually do it? What if you survived? Would you feel more free in life? If all the things you were afraid of, you suddenly were excited to do?
© ASRV 2021