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  • Writer's pictureEMH

Positivity and Silver Linings Not Working for You? Try Adopting a Versatile Mindset

Updated: Aug 26

Individuals can understand and react to situations in various ways. A person can understand and react to a situation in one way, but can have a different experience if the same situation presents itself again. On the other hand, a person can understand and react to a situation the same way if it happens multiple times. Different people can also share an understanding and reaction to a situation, or have contrasting experiences. This phenomenon occurs for numerous reasons, one of which is the mindset that individuals have developed. An individual’s mindset is the perspective that they habitually apply to life situations to help them understand and react to the different situations that they may face. One’s mindset can change throughout their life course, because it is shaped by dynamic factors such as an individual’s life experiences, beliefs, personality, and education. A versatile mindset is an adaptive tool that can help individuals address life situations in a way that promotes mental wellness and productivity.

During challenging or uncertain times, it is common for people to remind others to “be positive” or “look on the bright side” to comfort them. While this tactic aims to remind people that there is an upside to every downside, it can be maladaptive. Finding the upside in a negative situation involves an individual subjectively identifying the negative aspects of a situation, and either reframing it to be positive or analyzing it to see its upside. With this tactic, an individual has to appraise and label a situation as negative before they can look at its upside, which can cause them to feel negative emotions, such as sadness, stress, helplessness, or anxiety. This process can lead to a negative experience that individuals must then analyze and overcome to find its silver lining. The process of finding the silver lining can be an exhaustive and unnecessary step to feeling positive emotions. Another approach to maintaining one’s mental health can be to develop and maintain a versatile mindset, which can help individuals move on from situations that others would identify as negative while evoking fewer negative emotions and experiences.

What is a Versatile Mindset?

A versatile mindset is a dynamic and adaptive way of thinking that can help individuals successfully address the different situations that life throws at them, by preventing them from labelling these situations as good or bad and helping them adapt to these situations. A versatile mindset involves the recognition of a situation that others would appraise as negative as a neutral development in your plans that must be addressed. Having a versatile mindset does not mean that you ignore the feelings that you experience during different situations, but that you prevent them from driving future decisions and negatively impacting your mental health and productivity.

How to Apply a Versatile Mindset

The process outlined in the following five steps can be used to help develop a versatile mindset. Regularly incorporating these steps into your daily routine can help you adopt a versatile mindset as a habit.

1. Evaluate your emotions

2. Acknowledge that your feelings are real

3. Separate your emotions from the situation

4. Assess the situation

5. Adapt to the situation

To employ a versatile mindset, start by evaluating your emotions. You can do this by asking yourself which emotions the situation at hand is causing you to feel and which emotions you feel the strongest and the least. Try to be honest with yourself about how you feel. It is important to acknowledge that your feelings are real. Try not to be dismissive of your emotions. Remember that the way you feel is valid and you are not wrong for experiencing these emotions. Then, separate your emotions from the situation by viewing them as distinct entities. Intentionally separating your emotions from the situation that caused them can help you understand, adapt to, and move on from that situation. Remember that this separation does not mean that you ignore or suppress your emotions, but that you allow yourself to objectively view your emotions and the situation, which will help you cope with and adapt to them. Try a relaxation technique, such as deep breathing or practicing mindfulness, to help with your separation process. Once you have successfully completed your separation process, work to assess the situation. Try to identify all aspects of the situation, including its cause, any subsequent effects, and how it affects you. Finally, determine the most productive reaction to this situation and adapt to it by objectively weighing different methods to achieve the reaction that you have chosen. Now, you can implement the method that you have chosen and start working towards adapting to the situation.


For example, think about how you might react to finding a long line at your favourite coffee shop when you are already running late. Some individuals may view this situation as an obstacle or inconvenience that could disrupt the rest of their day, and could wonder why bad things happen to them or give up on making it to their destination on time. Each of these reactions can cause feelings of stress, anger, frustration, or hopelessness, and are caused by the appraisal of this situation as inconvenient or bad. These reactions exemplify how not applying a versatile mindset can allow emotions to influence decision making, and negatively impact individuals' mental health and productivity.

On the other hand, applying a versatile mindset to this situation would prevent you from appraising it as negative, which would mitigate the adverse effects that are caused by a negative appraisal, such as negative emotions. A versatile mindset would allow you to view a long line in your favourite coffee shop as a situation to be adapted to, as opposed to a disruptive inconvenience. In this case, you would evaluate and acknowledge how the long line makes you feel before choosing to separate these feelings from the situation to give you a clear and objective perspective. After objectively assessing the situation, you can decide on the most productive way to adapt to it, which may be to stop at another coffee shop on the way to your destination, wait and return to your favourite coffee shop after making it to your destination, or wait in line and modify the rest of your day. These reactions exemplify how you could adapt to a situation and proceed with your day, while minimizing your experience with negative emotions and the potential disruptive effect of the situation. Through the application of a versatile mindset, you can remain productive and preserve your mental health.

Do you use a versatile mindset?

Do you find it helpful?

Let us know in the comments below!


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