What is the greatest obstacle standing between you and the things you want in life?
It’s easy to believe it’s bad luck, or some personal failing, or simply the hand you were dealt at birth. But in my experience helping people to overcome their barriers in therapy and coaching, I’ve found there’s a culprit that’s much more common, though also harder to detect: your mindset.
Your mindset is like the lens you look through to view the world. While it’s invisible to you, it has a big impact on what you expect from life, how you respond to stress, and the goals that you set for yourself. If your mindset is unsupportive, self-critical, or disempowered, everything you do will be more difficult than it needs to be. You’ll have to work harder to create change, because you’ll expend a lot of your energy battling an internal gatekeeper who wants you to stay right where you are.
By changing your mindset, you can break through plateaus and begin to move forward. But how can you change your mindset? This article will show you the way!
I’ve also recorded an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on this topic. My guest is Megan Hyatt Miller, the president and CEO of Full Focus, host of the popular business podcast “Lead to Win,” and the co-author of “Mind Your Mindset: The Science that Shows Success Starts with Your Thinking.” Megan has helped countless people achieve their vision of success by changing their mindsets, and today she’s sharing her guidance with you. You can tune in on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
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How to Change Your Mindset
Your mindset impacts so many different areas of your life, from the goals that you set your sights on, to how you feel about yourself, to how you respond when things don’t go according to plan. That’s why so many people who come to therapy for personal growth, or to life coaching to achieve their goals, need help adjusting their mindsets, and shining a light on the unconscious thought patterns that are holding them back.
This podcast episode will give you a primer on the power of your thoughts, and how you can change your mindset to create radical change in your life.
What Is a Mindset?
Your mindset is like the storyteller in your brain whose job it is to make sense of your experiences. This storyteller is well-meaning, but it has a major bias: Its #1 priority is keeping you safe.
Safety is vital, and it’s super adaptive that we humans are wired to seek safety and to avoid danger. But sometimes the storyteller is a little overzealous about categorizing things as “dangerous.” It might sound the alarm bells and try to stop you from taking action, even when you’re not risking anything and you stand to gain a lot.
For example, imagine you’re perusing an art museum when an intriguing stranger steps up beside you and begins admiring the same painting. They’re cute and you’d like to chat — who knows, maybe this could be the beginning of a beautiful love story. But when you imagine starting the conversation, you’re filled with fear. What if they make a face and walk away? What if you look like a fool, or worse, a creep? What if you end up feeling more alone and less worthy of love and respect than you felt before?
You might decide it’s just too risky and that you’re safer keeping to yourself. But is that really the “safe” thing to do? If you hit it off with this mysterious stranger, you stand to gain a lot — you might even fall madly in love and have a long, meaningful relationship together. And if they’re not interested in talking with you, what have you really lost?
Nothing. If your opening line falls flat, you’ll both move along and your lives won’t be any different. But despite this, the storyteller will magnify the risks of taking action while minimizing the potential rewards, just to keep you “safe” from the brief sting of social rejection.
The same goes for anything you want in life. The storyteller may tell you that you’re not qualified for the job you really want, so you shouldn’t even apply, or that you’ll probably fail if you set an ambitious goal for yourself, so you better aim lower. And if you do fail at something, the storyteller may tell you that failing was inevitable because of some inherent quality you have, so you shouldn’t even consider taking a risk again. When you listen to a mindset like this, your life becomes smaller and smaller. But when you adopt a mindset that’s helpful and positive, you become empowered to take charge of your life.
It’s easy to see how illogical these negative mindsets are when you read what they’re telling you. But if this is what your internal narrative sounds like, you probably don’t even realize it. Our mindsets are a collection of largely unconscious beliefs that we hold about the world and our place in it. To change your stories about who you are and what will happen if you take a risk, you first have to build your awareness about what your stories are, and where they’re actually coming from.
Changing Your Mindset
The first step to changing your mindset into something that’s more helpful to you and your goals is building your self-awareness. That means not only noticing the thoughts that are running through your mind, but also the feelings that those thoughts are bringing up for you.
For example, if you’re about to walk out onto a stage in front of thousands of people and deliver a speech, and you’re imagining fumbling over your words and being laughed offstage, you’ll probably feel terrified. Self-awareness means noticing that you’re having these thoughts (and that they are just thoughts, not reality), and noticing how your thoughts are making you feel. Then, you can challenge your unhelpful thoughts and manage your feelings. Self-awareness is an essential life skill and a core component of emotional intelligence coaching.
The next step is building self-compassion. Remember, your inner narrator is just doing its job — trying to keep you safe. When you notice that your mindset isn’t what you want it to be, don’t beat yourself up. Show yourself some compassion and make a conscious choice to shift it.
Next, interrogate your ideas. Have you ever heard someone say “don’t believe everything you think?” It means you should create some space between your thoughts, and the “you” that is sitting back and observing your thoughts, deciding which ones are keepers and which ones belong in the recycling bin. This observer is a skeptic who asks a lot of clarifying questions, like “Would chatting with this person really put me in mortal danger?” and “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I fumble over my words in front of an audience?”
Finally, when you recognize your mindset isn’t helpful, you want to choose a new set mindset to shift into, preferably one that will support you rather than hold you back. Nature abhors a vacuum, so simply erasing a negative mindset doesn’t work. You have to replace it with something different.
What Does “Growth Mindset” Mean?
One of the most important mindsets that you can cultivate is a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means that you understand that success isn’t the result of something that you inherently are. It’s the product of your own efforts and willingness to try, fail, and learn new things that will help you succeed next time.
People with a growth mindset do better in every area of life. Kids who believe their intelligence is something that can be developed perform better in school, because they aren’t afraid to try their hardest, even if they fall short of perfection. They understand that being wrong about something isn’t something to be embarrassed about, it’s an opportunity to learn something new, so they feel motivated to take risks. They’re more likely to raise their hands, take challenging classes, and engage with their education fully, because they know that their efforts can make a difference in their outcomes.
Adults with a growth mindset view their “failures” as opportunities to grow. Rather than feeling bad about themselves, or buying into self-limiting beliefs about what they’re capable of, they believe in themselves and their own power to learn, adapt, and improve until they accomplish their most important goals. When you have a helpful mindset, it’s easier to cultivate the grit you need to succeed.
What Is a Fixed Mindset?
The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset, which says that your skills and abilities are essential pieces of who you are and they can’t be changed much through your efforts. A kid with a fixed mindset may be afraid to challenge themselves in school, because if they got a bad grade it would mean they’re not smart, and there’s not much they would be able to do about that. An adult with a fixed mindset wouldn’t see the point in continuing to work to become their best self, because they doubt their efforts will actually make a difference.
It can be hard to recognize whether your mindset is helping you grow or holding you back. Working with a therapist or a life coach to intentionally shift your thoughts patterns in a more positive, growth-oriented direction can make all the difference.
Mindset Work at Growing Self
The counselors and coaches at Growing Self are well-versed in the power of a growth mindset, and are experienced at helping people take control of their lives by working with their thought patterns.
Whether you’d like to try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a counselor who can help you build awareness of your thoughts and feelings and the way they shape your life, or you’d like support from a life coach in adopting the right frame of mind to achieve your goals, we’re here for you. We invite you to schedule a free consultation to learn more.
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How to Change Your Mindset
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
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Music in this episode is by We Are Destino with their song “Mind Force.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: adultcontemporary.bandcamp.com. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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