Resilience and the Growth Mindset are topics that I am invited to speak to corporates about very often. The concept of “Antifragility” has been raised a couple of times and I love addressing the questions that come regarding that concept. It shows that attendees of the workshop or webinar are actively thinking to compare and draw parallels to see how they can apply, learn and grow to level up.
Carol Dweck, psychologist and author of the best-selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, who coined the words Growth Mindset, defines it with these distinctive features:
It is an approach to life in which an individual believes that their talents, intelligence, and abilities can be developed further;
People with a Growth Mindset seek opportunities to learn, gain new skills, and enhance their existing skills;
The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the Growth Mindset;
In the Growth Mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.
The book Antifragile – Things that Gain From Disorder was written by professor and author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He defines it with these distinctive features:
Antifragility is not merely the absence of fragility, but an entirely different paradigm. It is one that encourages us to celebrate and even seek out chaos, uncertainty, and disorder as opportunities for growth and improvement.
Antifragility describes a category of things that not only gain from chaos but may need it to survive and flourish.
We must learn how to make our public and private lives Antifragile, rather than simply less vulnerable to randomness and chaos.
When I examine the two books and their distinctive features, I see Antifragility fitting in very well with Carol’s Growth Mindset point on having that passion to stretch oneself and sticking to it, even (and especially) when it is not going well. This is the chaos, uncertainty, and disorder that Taleb is referring to in his explanation of what Antifragility means.
I did some research and also found out that these deliberate attempts to seek out chaos and discomfort, account for 40% to 50% of our ability to build greater resilience and level up. Genetic make-up only accounted for 10% to 20% of one’s innate ability to be resilience, and the balance 40% to 50% are attributed to nurture and the environment to which we have been influenced by, up to the day that we intentionally start seeking chaos and discomfort.
The concept of Antifragility is compared by Taleb in his book, to when we exercise and engage in uncomfortable weight lifting in order to build muscle and become stronger. The muscle fibres tear in order for it to recover, and that is also where we become stronger and more resilient. As an ex high performance athlete and now everyday athlete, I can relate to that and another analogy I would like to give from my own experience would be that of stretching and expanding our mind’s threshold on what can or cannot be done.
When I handle work projects and tasks that are challenging and bring much discomfort, and I successfully accomplish and clear the hurdle, my confidence level takes a leap and it's almost like I am on steroids. The analogy of building physical strength also applies to building mental strength and resilience. That is pursuing Antifragility with the Growth Mindset.
It is probably this same reason also that inspires others to pursue adventure, climb Mount Everest, take part in ultra-marathons, and other endurance races.
I hope this sharing on how you can approach life by adopting Antifragility with the Growth Mindset will open up your appetite for adversity and challenge. May we all continue to learn and grow with progress all through the years of our life.
About the Writer
Alex’s compass is guided by the desire to help people. This is the driving force that allows him to focus on helping organisations harness fitness, health and wellness as the vehicles to building sustainable solutions. He is the CEO and Co-founder at Actxa Wellness, where he also leads as Chief Wellbeing Strategist. Together with the team, they provide products and services as Wellness Consultants for organisations, where they identify gaps and work with HR professionals to co-create corporate wellness solutions to improve employee engagement and wellbeing.