Nurturing a Healthy Mindset in the Midst of Chaos
This article originally appeared in Outreach Magazine.
Michelle Sanchez (MDiv & ThM ’09)
I don’t know about you, but these past few years have too often left me discouraged and exhausted. The constant chaos, relentless change, wars and rumors of war, and hypervigilance to illness and death have been soul crushing. Optimism and positive thinking have never come naturally to me, and the realities of our time have only made things worse. All this has me pondering how to nurture a “healthy” mindset in the midst of chaos. On this, we can glean insight from both psychology and the ancient wisdom of God’s Word.
Carol Dweck is a psychologist and author of the game-changing book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. While the title comes off as shallow and just one more self-help book, it is anything but. Dweck demonstrates copious evidence on how having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset leads to greater flourishing in nearly every area of life. For example, after making a mistake, the fixed mindset says, “I’m disgusted and ashamed,” while the growth mindset says, “Mistakes are what help me to grow.” After poor performance, the fixed mindset says, “This proves that I’m a failure,” while the growth mindset says, “This is what learning looks like.”
It is, in fact, the inclination to learn that makes all the difference. Countless studies confirm that those who embrace a learning mindset in all things are far more likely to thrive through the ups and downs of life. Yet this idea of learning as the key to thriving is actually an ancient one. Notably, the Greek word for disciple is mathétés, which literally means “learner.” This reminds us that the essence of discipleship is embracing a mindset of learning and growing in Christ in every situation.
“The inclination to learn makes all the difference.”
As the world continues to hurl hardship our way, it becomes all too easy to succumb to discouragement and despair. The Christian fixed mindset says, “This proves that God is not for me, but against me,” “I’m too much of a sinner for God to use me” or “I can’t handle this.”
On the other hand, the Christian growth mindset says, “God is at work through this to help me become more like Christ,” “God’s grace is sufficient for me” or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” As we commit to a lifelong journey of Spirit-led learning and growth, we will experience more of the flourishing that God intends for every disciple of Christ.
“The essence of discipleship is embracing a mindset of learning and growing in Christ in every situation.”
As I have reflected on all these things, one Scripture in particular has stood out: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29). This is the Bible’s most famous verse about how disciples can find rest for our souls, and guess what? We find learning smack-dab in the middle.
If you are discouraged, you are not alone. Far too many of us are soul weary. But let’s remember, together, who we are. We are disciples—we are Christ-learners. And if we are willing, we will see that even now Jesus is extending an invitation for us to learn afresh what it means to both become more like him and to find the rest that our souls desire in him.
Michelle Sanchez (MDiv & ThM ’09) serves as Executive Minister of Make and Deepen Disciples for the Evangelical Covenant Church and as a columnist for Outreach Magazine.
Read her alumni spotlight interview.