It’s About Mindset

“Moving forward is only possible if you put your mind to moving forward.”

–Julien McBain

The majority of success and failure comes down to the one thing we have the most and least control over–our mindset.  Only we can change it, we have the most control over it, yet it is one of the hardest things for us to do. The issue at hand is that changing mindset isn’t as simple as telling yourself to think differently; after all, humans are creatures of habit that tend toward moving to a comfort zone and staying there.  Still too, that it is far easier to accept a mentality of mediocrity and failure than it is to take responsibility to become successful. This doesn’t necessitate success in the socially accepted definition of it, where you own a house, cars, perhaps a business, although it certainly is one version of it; instead it means coming to the point where you have decided you have reached your success point in a given goal, and the biggest barrier to doing so, besides the heretofore mentioned Brain Weasels, is your mindset.

So how does one create a mindset of success?  Our own biology makes that difficult, and nature is a hard thing to overcome.  Every individual is different, and what works for one may not work for another, but there appear to be some key similarities in all sources I’ve read about changing the way we think to push us toward success:

1) Read

According to Iris, the average American reads 4 books a year.  An average CEO will read that many books per month.  This means that they are constantly challenging their brains with new ideas and concepts, learning new techniques or skills.  While you may not have the time or inclination to read forty eight books a year, you might consider increasing from one book a quarter to one book a month, and see where it takes you.  Audiobooks count!

When you read, you dive out of your own brain, and into the brain of another.  This is important, because it gives you time to explore the mindset of a person you aren’t familiar with, and thus can reflect upon your own mindset in turn.  After all, it’s easy to land in an echo chamber if the only thing you have to listen to are your own thoughts, with nothing to challenge them or contradict them, and while this terminology is often applied in political conversation, it equally applies in business, interpersonal relationships, and building skills.  For example, the first three years I fought as a fencer, I practiced the art as taught by Rudolfo Capo Ferro, experimenting with some of the forms of Thibault. After being offered the chance to enter the Black Tiger school, I downloaded and read The Way of the Tiger, written by one Robert Childs, who would later personally proctor my test to become a Tiger myself.  This style challenged not only the style I had fought for so long, but the very teachings of several period masters.  I became fascinated by this style, and the men and women that practiced it; after all, I had fought against three Black Scarves, as they (now we) are called, and one student, called a Cord.  I hadn’t been able to come close to beating any of them.

After review of the material and considering how my own skills had plateaued, I took the Cord and became the student of a friend, who then taught me how to fight using this unique, integrated style.  My fencing skills improved dramatically, and although I am still an intermediate fencer, and have plenty of room to improve, I am much further than I would be, had I rebuffed the challenge to everything I had learned up to that point.  Fencing, like many martial arts, has a number of stances and movements, but application of any movement or stance is dependent upon the master you are modelling after. This new style challenged all of the traditional beliefs I had been taught, and while it in itself also has its weaknesses, it opened my mind to new possibilities.

Thus, strive to take more time out of your life, busy though it is, and read one book a month.  While it may not match the sixty or so that a CEO reads, it will certainly open your mind up to the possibilities that are out there.

2) Write

I’ve said on many occasions that writing is critical to expressing yourself.  It allows a person to express themselves in ways that are well thought out, and concise.  Given my druthers, if I had to pick a path, the way of the writer would be my primary purpose, as I have always enjoyed the act of writing on a regular basis, though there have been periods, sometimes for years, that I will not put word on paper.

Even if you are not predisposed to writing, have a hard time with spelling or have no skill in grammar, it would benefit you to keep a journal at the very least.  This will allow you to get your thoughts out, expressed in a way that they can be reviewed outside of your head, and examined with a critical eye; or a sympathetic one.  It doesn’t mean you have to write a full length article or book, either; even if you were to only write for ten minutes, and even if those scribblings were nonsensical to anyone but you, it is important that you write.

I have an admittedly neglected journal that I take to when I need to express a frustration or doubt, and get it out into print.  My need to journal is somewhat curtailed by these blogs, and the YouTube Videos I create; I share my inner thoughts with you. However, for those things I am uncomfortable expressing to the public, I do in fact have one set aside.  I also have a notebook, which I have mentioned several times in various content, that is my near constant companion. Thus, if an idea strikes me, I can write it down immediately, if only for later dissection and discard.

Take the time to write, at least once a week, and you will find your mind clearer when you go to face a challenge.

3) Make Yourself Big

Note: this did not say “make yourself arrogant.”  By making yourself big, spreading yourself out openly and stretching to as much space as you can take up, you open yourself to the world.  There is a certain vulnerability to making yourself big and taking space; after all, it makes you noticeable. CEOs of major companies are famous for making themselves “big”, by stretching out, taking space, and having a very open posture.  You stand up straight, shoulders back, arms spread wide, as if to address a crowd. This gets your serotonin moving, the chemical that produces feelings of confidence, and makes you feel like you’re a more successful person.

In order to help get my mind in order, when fighting off depression or insecurity, I will stand up and hold my arms out, spread like the wings of a bird, as if I’m holding a large rally or conference where I’m the main speaker.  I imagine a cheering crowd, that are excited to hear what I have to say, even if I don’t have what it would be, imagined in my mind. This little exercise, though nothing more than a daydream, serves to get my blood moving and my brain working on a level different than it was before.  Although I have given presentations on mundane subjects, and never seen a large crowd for one, the imagination helps to bring my mindset to the place I need it to be, to fight off the depression and continue my day, with a boost of confidence.

These three things are not the only keys to a success mindset, but they are certainly important keys.  Take some time each day to think about how you can change how you think, and in turn, see yourself become more successful, in whatever endeavor you seek to accomplish, whether it is in business, or your personal life.

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