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Cultivate a Growth Mindset by leading and learning

Hey, Alpha Woman!

It is a gloomy, rainy day in New Jersey but I am not complaining. I love rainy days. They make me want to curl up on my sofa with some hot chocolate and a good book or our favorite family past time, Hallmark movies.

Speaking of books, my home is overflowing with books. Most women daydream about custom walk-in closets, I daydream about custom library rooms (Well, I actually daydream about both). This week in our 9 dimensions of your wellness series we will be focusing on intellectual wellness.

As a reminder, intellectual wellness refers to an individual who commits to "lifelong learning and seeks to foster critical thinking, develop moral reasoning, expand world views and engage in education for the pursuit of knowledge"(The Ohio State University, 2018).

It ultimately refers to an individual being open to learn, grow, and change with the world around them. Our pursuit of knowledge, in my opinion, should be spiritual and practical. We are not of the world but we still have to exist within it. So my best life is all-encompassing of spiritual and practical wisdom. I don't just want to know what, I want to know-how.

I have always been a dreamer. As a first-generation immigrant, the middle girl of eight children, and a fearless young person, I always knew my life had greater meaning. I recall faithfully watching the Oprah show on weekday afternoons with my mother while whispering to her, “Mommy, I feel like I'm made for something big.” She would nod in agreement, though I am not sure she genuinely believed in my thoughts of grandeur.

Regardless, this belief made me a little different than my siblings and peers. I was commonly referred to as "bossy" and no matter where I was, I somehow ended up leading. My mother tells me this quality was clear even when I was two.

We lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and my mother says that even when I played with the neighborhood kids, I found a way to get the older kids to listen to me. I talked way too much for my age, challenged my parents quite a bit, always wanting to know the "why" behind a decision before complying. In middle school, I was curious and didn't buy into the "cool kid" hype, so I spent most of my lunch hours with our school librarian, helping her with projects and playing with the computers.

It wasn't cool to be smart, African, or have dark skin in the mid-nineties, so adults were my friends and a few other awkward girls who thought way too deeply for their age. On the flip side of that, I was still the captain of the cheer-leading squad. A role typically reserved for the popular kids, but there I was. In a way, my entire life has felt like middle and high school--surrounded by people but still very much in my own head straddling two worlds.

I didn't know it back then, but my quirkiness was part of God's gift to me. I was just cool enough to get through a day with the cool kids, yet curious enough to have conversations with adults and classified "nerds". Today, I am pretty much the same. I love to learn and grow. I guess I'm much like you, or you wouldn't be reading this blog.

Anyhow, you are not here to learn about my childhood experiences, so let's cut to the chase.

If you are going to level up intellectually, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Leaders are Learners.

I've often heard the saying "Leaders are Learners", which means nothing more to me than being a lifelong learner. Learning what's current, being adaptable to changing environments, being resourceful and solving problems.

To clarify, there is a difference between being in charge, and being a leader. If people only do what you ask when you have a title and are present, then you are "in charge". But if they are willing to follow in your footsteps even in your absence, then you are a leader.

Leadership is nothing more than influence. The question is, how do we become the type of leader people want to follow? I believe it's by constantly working on ourselves, engaging in self-reflection, asking for feedback and being open to criticism and change. It's developing what is commonly referred to as a growth mindset.

2. Read.

I'm not suggesting that the only way to cultivate a growth mindset is to read dense books about history, self-help, and faith, but I do think it's important to strike a balance. For example, when I wake up in the morning, I am more likely than not listening to Joel Osteen. He is like the motivational coach in my head.

His books and sermons get me in the over-comers mindset. They help me remember that all of heaven is rooting for me. In my car, I listen to an audiobook, which for me is usually the biography of some leader I greatly admire (currently listening to Michelle Obama's, Becoming).

Success leaves clues, I need all the nuggets they have to offer. Around lunchtime, I catch up on pop culture and current events...Oh Cardi B and Offset broke up because he cheated? Shocker. Kanye is beefin' with Drake now...say what? Andrew Cohen is spillin' the beans about Trump cuz he's going to jail? He mad. See?

Just enough to be current, but not in the sauce. Being aware of the times and pop culture helps us remain relatable, but there is danger in leaning too far in any direction. I like to be able to laugh with my students, grab lunch with my coworkers, and have an hour-long philosophical conversation with my boss. Our modern-day workplace is multi-generational. If you want to lead well, you have to find a way to connect with everyone.

3. Cultivate a positive mindset.

"Garbage in, garbage out. What goes in is found out." - Tal and Acacia As you read, watch learn, and adapt, teach yourself to focus on the positive. Our world is full of negativity, so if you want to stand out, be positive. If you find yourself constantly pointing out everyone's flaws, you have some work to do.

I used to be very critical and caught myself "keeping it real" all the time. It wasn't until my college roommates cornered me and told me to cut it out that I even realized there was a problem. I even recall my mentor pulling me aside in grad school and saying I needed to work on being "likable". I was offended because I didn't think I needed to be likable.

Well, the hard advice helped me grow and let me tell you something...I've gotten a lot more bees with honey. This one is a tough one, but that's where the holy spirit comes in. I'm not always nice, I very much still keep it real, and I actively commit to learning to see the good. Remember, you can do hard things, Alpha Woman.

4. Choose your friends, like you choose your clothes.

"What about your friends? Will they stand their ground? Will they let you down again?" If you didn't grow up singing TLC, then you have no idea what I just referenced. But seriously, you have got to get serious about deciding who you let in your life, and more importantly, your inner circle.

According to an 80-year Harvard study, relationships are the number one indicator of a happy, successful life. We all need deep, sustaining and uplifting friendships if we are going to get through life. Spend some time getting clear on who you are, your values, your goals, and get around people who share in that mindset. We will share more about this topic when we get to social wellness.

5. Get up, Girl!

Life is gonna throw you bricks, lemons, blows, and everything in between. If your mind goes, you can forget about the rest. I see life like a long game of Super Mario World (If you don't know about Super Mario World, I don't know if we can hang out). The game goes like this: hit an unknown land, overcome the obstacles, beat the enemy and level up!

I have been through enough to know that tough times don't last, tough people, do. So if you find yourself falling off, make up your mind to get up. My favorite song about this is by Travis Greene called, "You Got Up".

So there you have it. Five nuggets to get on your journey to intellectual wellness! Remember, it's not a perfect science, it's a practice. During this week, take some time to evaluate how much time you commit to your intellectual wellness:

  1. How much time do you spend reading vs watching tv, surfing the net, or browsing social media?

  2. Are you learning something new every day?

  3. How much time do you spend each day learning more about your business, craft or trade?

  4. Do you intentionally put into practice what you have learned?

  5. Who are the people who encourage your growth? How might you be able to cultivate those relationships?

  6. Who are the people who take away from your growth? How can you begin to create an appropriate distance?

The Bible teaches us that God gives wisdom and understanding to those who earnestly seek him. In my view, it is not simply enough to seek tons of information. What are you doing with what you have learned? How is it helping you live a better life?

At this point in my life, I ask for God's wisdom on everything from the next step in my marriage, the best career and investment move, to which friends to keep. When I listen for the nudge and follow-through, it leads me to provision and success. When I don't, I get into trouble. Proverbs 2 says:

'Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord , and you will gain knowledge of God...For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted.' Proverbs 2:1-12

This is just an excerpt. I recommend reading the entire chapter when you get time. I don't know about you, but the promises of wisdom are just too good to pass up. I pray you'll take some time to evaluate where you stand in this area, pray for guidance, stay attentive, and follow the nudge.

Have a blessed week,

Satta Star

Have you felt you need to improve on any other areas? Follow The EZ Breezy Life on Facebook and tell me all about it!

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