Things I Learned From Miley Cyrus
I used to go to spin class a million years ago. Spin class is where you ride on stationary bikes while an instructor shouts encouragement and instructions from the front of the class.
I didn't enjoy spin class. In fact, I am pretty sure they offer spin class in Hell. And by offer I mean require. Further, they only play techno music on the playlist in Hell's spin class. A lot of techno.
One of the instructors of the class I attended would often end the class with an inspirational song as you were cooling off. For some reason, the only one of those songs that tends to replay in my memory contains these lyrics in the chorus:
There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb
Songwriters: Jessica Leigh Alexander / Jon Clifton Mabe
The Climb lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Walt Disney Music Company, BMG Rights Management
The song is "The Climb," and if the lyrics seem familiar to you, you probably recall that they were sung by none other than Miley Cyrus. Now Miley didn't write this song, to be fair. But it's probably one of the best she ever recorded.
You can tell how my quarantine is going when my Daily Devo is giving airtime to Miley Cyrus. The wheels on the train in my mind have left the tracks, I'm afraid.
Still, that song is amazing.
How many times have you set a goal, and then doggedly pursued that goal, keeping it in front of you, working toward it, sacrificing to attain it, and then once you get there, once you have accomplished it... you feel let down.
Maybe it wasn't everything you thought it would be. Or perhaps you realized that there was always going to be another mountain, another goal... Maybe you began to think, "There's no end in sight to all of the mountains..."
Most of us approach life with what is known as a "fixed mindset."
In other words, we are mostly goal-oriented, fixed in our thinking about what it takes to achieve, succeed and win. We are quick to praise intelligence, creativity and ability, but only as it relates to achievement.
And then when adversity comes, when uncertainty happens or we face difficulty, our fixed mindset keeps us from having the kind of resilience that is needed to tackle adversity, and we feel rejected and disappointed.
We might even begin to pepper ourselves with negative self-talk, saying things like "I'm not good enough... I am a failure... I never win..."
In the 1960's Psychologist Carol Dweck advocated for the development of a "growth mindset" rather than a fixed one. The growth mindset is focused on how much more resilient we are when we primarily focus on the process, and secondarily on achievement.
She coined the phrase "Becoming is better than being," which draws attention to the fact that most of the time the real growth we experience in life happens on our journeys, and not when we arrive at destinations.
Interestingly, Dweck's work, which was hotly debated fifty years ago, has found new relevance in our current context as we navigate a new world where a fixed mindset isn't working all that well.
The Apostle Paul got this, and he wrote it about it frequently. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul said this:
Romans 5:2-4 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.I can talk psychology, and theology all day long when it comes to this kind of thing. I love doing that. I'm a nerd. But in the end, it all comes down to this:
"Its the climb."
The wisdom of that Miley Cyrus song can't be shaken. You need to go and listen to it now. You can even pretend you are in spin class and your ride is over, and you're cooling down.
May you come to realize that all of the challenges you face in your journey are not merely a means to an end, not merely something to be endured for the sake of achieving, succeeding...
These challenges are an end unto themselves... moments of growth that lead to greater understanding of yourself, others and ultimately God. Don't fear them, dread them or try to avoid them... just keep climbing.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.