How to Change Your Mindset

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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: 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 if further questions are prompted.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Are your thoughts helping you succeed or holding you back? How can you harness the power of your mind to create the life you want? Today’s episode is all about your mindset and how you can cultivate an empowering inner narrative that helps you get more of what you want out of life and love. I am so excited for today’s episode, because today we’re exploring a topic that is incredibly important but often overlooked, and that’s your mindset and how that can either give you a leg up and an advantage in all domains of life. 

Or if you’re not aware of your mindset and working with it intentionally can become a real barrier, an internal obstacle that you might not even be aware of. The fact is that we are always telling ourselves stories, whether or not we’re aware of them — stories about who we are, what we can expect from the world — and these stories define our experience of reality, even. These stories impact the way we think, the way we feel, the way we behave. 

The hard part is that most of these stories are happening at a very unconscious level. We’re not even aware that we have stories, much less the power to shape them to our advantage. So learning how to become aware of these stories and use them for our benefit is a core skill that is related to everything we want — our emotional well-being, our strong relationships, the trajectory of our careers, even. 

So on today’s episode, we’re going to be doing a deep dive into how all of this works with my guest, Megan Hyatt Miller. Megan is the President and CEO of Full Focus. She is the co-host of the popular business podcast, Lead to Win, and she is Michael Hyatt’s oldest daughter. You may be aware of Michael Hyatt’s work. He is an author. He’s a speaker. He’s a coach. She is now leading the company, Full Focus, where she is committed to. 

Her new book is called Mind Your Mindset: The Science That Shows Success Starts with Your Thinking. Megan, I am so thrilled to be talking with you today.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Lisa, thank you so much for having me on. I feel like we’re kindred spirits, and I can’t wait to dig into this conversation.

Lisa: Well, it’s going to be fantastic. I’m excited about the conversation, and I’m excited about the topic, but I’m also, and I have to share for our listeners, excited about talking with you because I have been a fan of you and your work and your organization for a long time. I am a very proud Full Focus client. I have gotten so much out of, over the years, your different trainings, your coaching. I am participating in your business accelerator program.

I know that a lot of that work has really focused on helping leaders, small business owners really grow personally and professionally in their leadership skills and, again, have gotten so much out of this, but that’s kind of what I was expecting. when I read this book. I got an advanced copy, and as I sat down to read it, was honestly so pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a business book. 

I’ve read many of the books that you guys have published, and again, I’ve found them to be so helpful. But this one is really different because you’re not talking specifically about career or business or leadership, although that’s certainly a part of it. In this book, Mind Your Mindset, it is a much broader kind of conversation about how our brains work, right?

I mean, the power of cognition and inner storytelling, it’s much more like a deep dive into fundamental psychological principles, and I’d love to start without question. I mean, tell me how you, is it a pivot? I don’t know, sort of what I felt like to me, being familiar with your work previously.

Megan: You know, in a way, it’s not a pivot. In a way, it’s kind of a prequel. I feel like this is happening a lot on television right now. I think about Yellowstone. I love Yellowstone. Now, they’ve come out with all these spin offs and prequels and things like that. I think that for so many years, my dad and I, through the context of our company, Full Focus, have been helping people succeed, mostly small business owners and people who would identify as being busy, but growth minded. They want growth, but they got a lot on their plates.

I think that as we became more and more expert at helping people get what they want, what we realized is regardless of whether you’re a business owner or a professional or just an ordinary person living your life going to work every day, that there is this thing that is between all of us and what we want in our life, whether that’s our health, our relationships, or in our careers or families, whatever. 

There is very often this invisible obstacle that stands between us and the things that we want most. Despite our best efforts and all the action that we take, and one of the things that’s true about most of us who are living in a Western context is we have this strong action bias. We know how to take action, but sometimes we’re not getting what we want. So the question became, well, why is that? 

Why, in certain areas of our lives, were we not getting what we wanted in the past? What really made the difference? So we started to dig into the science part of and say, “Okay, what does brain research tell us about success? What causes some people to succeed and other people to really struggle?” 

The answer to that is really what became Mind Your Mindset, the book, and we walk you through a process for how you can leverage that. But kind of the short answer to that is our thinking and really the stories that we tell which, like you said earlier, we’re not really conscious that we’re even telling them.

We have this function of our brain that we call in the book, the narrator. It’s kind of easier just to personify it. That is our storyteller that’s trying to make sense of what we experience every day, and its primary concern is safety, security, our basic needs, avoiding bad things. It’s inherently risk averse.

So the challenge with that is that sometimes those interpretations, events that we experience, don’t line up with what we actually want in our life, and they’re really confining to us. So we started to ask the question, okay, well, then what does the science tell us about how we can change the stories that we tell and actually rediscover, maybe discover for the first time our agency in telling better stories that ultimately will lead to better outcomes?

Lisa: Yes. Okay, that makes so much sense. And really, with the coaching work that you have been doing, it sort of sounds like you’ve been following this thread back to the source, right. And even, I’m thinking right now, my background as a psychologist, the ideas of something called cognitive behavioral therapy. And that’s like this core truth in some ways about how people operate, that the way we feel oftentimes and what we do is all generated by what we are thinking.

By really actively understanding and working with our thoughts differently, you have a lot more power over the way you feel the things you do, the outcomes that you get. And so it sounds like in your journey, it’s really like taking it down to that like, okay, ground zero, if we’re really going to help people change and grow. This is where we need to be working.

Megan: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. You know, sometimes we can feel almost like a victim of our emotions or the things that happen to us. And it can feel random, it can feel like why does this stuff keep happening even though I set this intention, or set a goal, or I want this thing in my life, I just can’t seem to make it happen and why? In reality, the stories are driving the bus. They’re kind of like the engine of our life that’s very invisible. And like I said a minute ago, they tend to pop up as things that sound very certain.

“He always” or “I would never” or “They always do this,” “This is how the world works.” And in reality, they’re subjective stories, again, meant to keep us safe. Our brain is trying to be our helper. And I always tell people, it’s really important when those thoughts come up as you’re developing this skill, and it really is a skill, this is not an innate ability, a skill of self awareness, around these stories, to approach that with self-compassion.

Because sometimes I hear people say, and I’ve said it myself, “Why do I always sound so negative?” “Why are these stories” — I wouldn’t have used that language back when I was first becoming aware of these things, but  — “why is my inner dialogue just so negative, or fearful, or shame-y to myself?” In reality, that’s just your brain doing its job. The great thing is that narrator in your head, once you become conscious of the stories that it’s giving you, it can actually be trained.

Think of it like a little puppy, and this little puppy can actually be taught a different way of behaving than its natural ability. Now, you still may have these thoughts that are negative pop up, telling you what’s possible, and how the world works, and what you’re capable of. But it doesn’t have to stop there. I think that’s what’s really exciting to me, and the research backs that up.

Lisa: 100%. It really does. And I love the hopeful message that yeah, you can train a puppy, you could drain your brain. It’s gonna be alright. But as I was reading your book, one of the things that I was really appreciating from it is, what a nice job you guys did of not just talking about mindset and how important it is, but really kind of walking us through almost how your brain works, where mindset comes from.

Also, one of the ideas I thought was so helpful, because this is the hard part, Megan, it’s like, how we get so welded, so identified with the stories that we have, and why they’re so hard to even be aware of, which is really the first step in being able to change that. But for the benefit of our listeners, can you give us a summary of the first pieces you describe of where these mindsets even come from in the first place and how they get ingrained?

Well, basically, what happens is that we have experiences, and our brain is trying to make sense of those things. And it has these neurons that are making connections with each other in the brain. Over time, as we’ve heard many times before, neurons that fire together wire together, and that’s actually called Hebb’s Law, and it is really a real thing. The neural pathways reinforce each other over time. So it’s interesting, we’re all familiar with that idea of confirmation bias, the idea that once you have a conclusion in mind, you start seeing evidence for it everywhere. Well, that’s really what’s happening neurologically. That’s not just happening kind of like a conscious or a cognitive level. That’s actually happening in our brain. 

Our brain is taking the past experiences that we have, particularly those that are negative. This is where we kind of get ourselves into trouble without being aware of it, is that when these neural connections are made in periods, where there’s trauma or pain, or something, some kind of emotionally heightened state that’s negative, they tend to reinforce themselves even more.

Our brain really likes predictability. It doesn’t want to do things that are novel most of the time and likes to do things that are tried and true. Because, again, safety is its number one goal. So it cuts these neural pathways in our brains, and it just turns out that… It’s sort of like, you know, when you come home from work, you probably don’t even think about how you get home because you’ve done it so many times every day, almost every single day of the entire year, for however many years you’ve been at that job. That’s kind of what it happens in our brains. It’s it’s trying to be efficient, and so it just sticks with these models of thinking. 

Then it uses our past experiences to do another function, which is to predict the future. And again, it’s not thinking about, “Okay, Megan, what’s your highest and best self? And how can we help make that happen?” Sort of like Maslow’s hierarchy, it’s our self actualization; it’s not the ultimate goal of our brain. Our brain is all about kind of lower down on that pyramid, trying to keep us safe and make sure all the things that we need to survive are in place. It’s really thinking about as we predict the future, how do we avoid danger? How do we make sure that we’re safe? How do we make sure that we don’t get isolated from the social group? All those kinds of basic concerns that our more primitive brain, so to speak, has.

The problem is when we think about who we want to become, and what we want to accomplish in the world, and what kind of relationships we want to have, and connections that we want to make, sometimes those things involve taking risks. They do have an element of danger, but they’re sort of another kind of danger that is in play that if we don’t move forward with, if we don’t move toward that person or away from that person, or we don’t do business with our past, then it actually can thwart much higher level concerns later on. And so that’s where the conflict comes in for us with our brain and its concerns and our kind of more evolved sense of self as what we’re trying to become and do in the world.

Lisa: Yeah, it’s amazing and absolutely correct that we have this hardwired machinery whose number one job is keeping us all alive, safe, and yeah, that’s a good theory. Sometimes that can be in competition in some ways with these other things that we want out of life and that we can be getting sort of impulses and thoughts and feelings and drives from this more subconscious, or  kind of mid-brain is what you’re talking about. That can show up in interesting ways in our day-to-day life.

To kind of just illustrate this in action for our listeners, to paint a picture of why being able to get your arms around this is so important, could you give us a couple of examples of some differences in mindset, some different stories that people might be telling themselves — again, without fully even being conscious of it — and the different impact that it can have in outcomes like?

Megan: Well, let me start with the story of myself. This is kind of a vulnerable story to share, but I have a hunch that some of your listeners are going to relate to this, if not exactly the details, maybe with something similar. So even though my work now as a CEO, and an author, and all that involves a lot of speaking, a lot of presenting a lot of communication in front of people, I actually grew up from high school on with a debilitating fear of public speaking. I love this story because I think it’s kind of dramatic and illustrates how the stories get lodged.

When I was about 16 years old, I think I was probably a junior in high school. At the school I went to they had one of those things where you do like an end of the semester, big oral presentation in front of the class. I had a friend who was giving her presentation, and in the middle of the presentation — not even in the middle, I guess more like toward the beginning — she had an anxiety attack. She had a panic attack. I would have had that language way back then. But she ran out of the room in tears, kind of unable to breathe, and I found her in the bathroom, just hyperventilating in a fetal position, like having a full kind of meltdown. 

I’m a very empathetic person by nature. As I was trying to comfort her, unconsciously, I developed the story that speaking was dangerous, that it could very likely result in humiliation, because losing control of your body seemed to be a pretty big risk. So I didn’t even know that this happened. But I’ve internalized this story. Again, it’s lodged in this moment of heightened emotion, empathy, all the rest. As the years went by, I graduated high school and college, and then I go to into my 20s, my life started to get smaller, and smaller and smaller, because this story was driving the actions that I was taking.

It got to the point where it was so absurd that in a book club, for example, or in a small group of people from church, I wasn’t able to read a passage of something like six or seven sentences, you know, you go around the room, and you read a little bit. I couldn’t even do that because hearing my voice out loud created so much anxiety, that I was going to lose control, and that I would humiliate myself, that I just kept getting smaller and smaller.

So fast forward, here I am at Full Focus, and my career is taking off. My dad wants me to continue to ascend in the company, and ultimately to lead it. And this is about six years ago, I think now, and our team came to me and they said, “Hey, we want to do a big live event. We’re gonna have 800 people there. We want you to keynote.” I’m thinking to myself, “This is my worst nightmare. This is going to be like my nightmare come to life.” The interesting part is nobody knew that I had this fear. So I had hidden it from everybody except my husband.

I kind of begrudgingly said yes because I knew that I was either say yes, or now was going to be the time when I have to quit. It was kind of like a real fork in the road moment. So as I thought about it, I decided I have to look this thing in the face. I’m not willing to give up my career for this. It kind of felt like one of those stories that’s outdated. It’s just old, but it’s still powerful in my life. I’m not really that person anymore, but I’m not sure what to do. So I went on a six week process, that was the amount of time between the request and the engagement.

Lisa: We’re on a timeline.

Megan: Hiring an anxiety coach, hiring a speech coach, getting anxiety medicine from my doctor, literally writing a story on a couple pages of legal pad and a purple felt tip pen of what I wanted it to feel like when I got on stage. And I just thought, “If this kills me, I’ve got to do it. I cannot stand the small story. The cost was too high.”

Well, I went through the process that we talked about in Mind Your Mindset of identifying that story — by that point, I was clear on it — interrogating it and asking, “Are there times when this hasn’t been true?” And of course, there were. This is what happens with our confirmation bias. I had actually all these examples throughout my life of times when I had spoken in some form or fashion, and it was great. And I even enjoyed it, including, by the way, my high school graduation. Then I imagined this new story that was really going to be more empowering and ultimately lead me to closing this gap between where I was and where I wanted to be.

Well, I ended up stepping on that stage in front of 800 people, and night before, I had a panic attack. I don’t want to glamorize it; let’s be real. But I stepped on that stage in front of 800 people and other than the butterflies at the beginning, I didn’t feel nervous, I enjoyed it, I effectively communicated, and I have gone on to do many, many things. This is just a regular part of my life now, that I’m speaking all the time and presenting in some way or another.

All of that is because I got clear on that story, interrogated it, and ultimately came up with something better. On the other side of that is freedom for me. I would do it again in a heartbeat, as difficult as it was — that’s an extreme example, they’re not always that difficult — because freedom is on the other side.

Lisa: And that is the process. You had to do that work. And thank you also for saying that it is hard work. I feel like sometimes we don’t talk enough about what the actual process of growth and change looks like and evolves. I think, sometimes. when people hear “gotta change your mindset!” Well, yes, I should probably do that, but we make it sound easier than it really is. So I really appreciate you like taking us into that story. So the old story was public speaking equals humiliation, possibly death.

Megan: Right? Literally, yeah. That’s what I felt.

Lisa: And the new story, at the end of the day, when you were able to get… What was the new story that brought you so much freedom?

Megan: Yeah, I think the new story was “I can do this, and I deserve to be heard.” I think I had kind of a secondary story that I had developed around not wanting to be seen, not wanting to be heard, there’s something wrong with me. In reality, none of that was true.

To just be able to say, “I have something to say. I have something to contribute that people need to hear, and I deserve to be heard. I’m worthy of standing on this stage and taking up space here. And these people that are sitting in the audience, all 800 of them, you know, I can barely see them, because the lights are bright, but I know they’re out there. They all have lives and stories, and what I’m going to share might change one person’s life in that audience. And that’s worth being brave for.”

Lisa: Your story was connected to kind of the higher purpose, the meaning, the reason, but also I’m hearing too, and I just want to elevate this for our listeners, because I think it’s so amazing. There was the self-compassion, recognition that many of these old stories can have protective factors that exist in some ways to protect those vulnerable spaces, like maybe what I have to say isn’t interesting or helpful, or I’m not good enough to be doing this. There’s a protectiveness there. So that also part of the story was really expanding that like appreciation for yourself. And that’s beautiful.

Megan: I think that’s so important. It’s really easy when we discover these stories, and this would be my pro tip or my cautionary tale. It’s easy to be mad at yourself when you think about how limiting these stories have been.

I think about my own journey with therapy as I’ve examined things. Or I think about, you and I were talking before we got on about I have five children, three of whom are adopted. We’ve really, as a family, had to become very educated in trauma work and understanding trauma and the messages and stories, really, that are lodged in trauma. They make so much sense. You’re just trying to make sense of a senseless situation that doesn’t doesn’t make any natural sense, especially if you were a child.

So I just I think, on the one hand, you want to be committed to not staying stuck, you don’t want your life to be small, you don’t want to be held back by something that is ultimately optional, that you actually do have some agency and a lot more agency than you’ve probably ever thought. And also you were doing the best you can you could at that time. And it’s okay.

It’s okay that now is the time that you’re going to consider something different. You don’t have to… in order to be ready to move on, you don’t have to kind of berate yourself for the past. It serves a purpose in its own way. It’s like, in my own story, I wouldn’t have been able to write Mind Your Mindset, I wouldn’t have been able to talk with the level of empathy that I can if I hadn’t lived the story. So I’m really actually grateful for it and the gifts that it’s given me.

Lisa: That’s wonderful. Well, that’s actually reminded me of another question that I had wanted to ask you today. So just a little side note, but my story for you and also our listeners, our Global Headquarters Operations Manager is my 14 year old son.

Megan: I love that.

Lisa: That is his title.

Megan: I love it.

Lisa: And his role involves watering the plants in my office…

Megan: That’s important.

Lisa: … and looking through mail. And he’s particularly fond of using the paper shredder.

Megan: Of course.

Lisa: Anyway. So over the last while, he has become my informal research assistant, and as I’m preparing for different podcasts and things, and it’s also my kind of sneaky way of getting him to read really helpful books.

Megan: I love this strategy.

Lisa: You got to put them to work. He’s he’s on the payroll. But so in anticipation of this podcast, so we had been reading some books around growth mindset. And your book is brand new, it is just coming out. When was it released actually?

Megan: It’s actually going to be released on the 31st of January.

Lisa: Okay, the 31st of January. So it’s brand new. And so he didn’t have access to that one yet. And he was though reading, I’m sure you’re familiar with the work of Carol Dweck, a mindset researcher, fantastic book.

What she is really talking about in her work is something that I think is actually very relevant here. The idea between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. So a fixed mindset, meaning this core belief assumption that we kind of are who and what we are. We have fixed characteristics. I am good at math, I am an empathetic person, I am a good communicator or bad; and that these fixed characteristics are the things that determine our outcomes.

Versus this idea of a growth mindset, which is this idea that all of us learn and grow and change and evolve, and that there is a developmental process when it comes to all things. It is often challenging, right, and that is part of the experience and something to be embraced. So I think that this is very relevant to your work around the process of changing mindset. So the question that I had wanted to ask you, though, so I was discussing this with my research assistant this morning. I said, “Okay, if you had to ask a mindset expert one question of what are you most curious about, what would it be?” And he said, “Why is it that people have such differences in the way that they think about things in the first place? Where does this come from?”

And you started talking about this tying it back into, certainly, early childhood trauma, and this this idea of being compassionate with yourself or having the stories that you have, but in your experience, and in your research and working on this book, how do we arrive in adulthood with these beliefs about ourselves and the world and others that then need to be managed? Where does it come from?

Megan: Well, I think so much of it comes from our past experiences and our brain’s desire to predict the future and keep us safe. But it also comes from our environment, and certainly that trauma. I mean, I think that’s kind of one end of the spectrum, and that’s easy to conceptualize because we could all imagine how those things would happen.

One of the things that I know is true from my research about trauma with my own children and just understanding early developmental trauma, which has some distinct differences from other trauma, is that when there’s trauma at a pre-verbal stage, or early in life before languages and sense of self is really formed, what can happen is many cases, children personalize the trauma that they’ve experienced. They think something must be wrong with me. That’s why this happened.

Again, the brain is trying to make sense of this inexplicable event, like you’re unable to stay with your birth family. Arguably the most catastrophic thing that could ever happen for a child, to have that original family of origin blown apart. When that happens, you’re trying to make sense of it, and you try to make these assumptions about why that could have happened. Then you can imagine if you carry that into your life. “Something was wrong with me.” “They threw me away because they thought I was trash.”

Those kinds of messages that can become lodged in a child’s mind when they’re trying to make sense of these things. Obviously, how you see the world is going to be so particular to that belief system or that narrative or those stories about yourself. You’re going to see that everywhere you go — relationships you try to have, opportunities you try to pursue, risks that you try to take. Everything is going to see seem riskier because you’ve experienced this tremendous cataclysmic trauma in your life.

Now, that’s one end of the spectrum. But if we think about maybe more a median experience or average experience, we’re all influenced by our past experiences. The kind of relationships that your parents had with each other, the kind of sibling relationships you had. The socioeconomic status of your family, and whether there was scarcity or abundance there. The educational experiences that you had, and whether the people that you were talking with had a fixed or a growth mindset, as you were learning, your mentors, your early professional experiences, all of these things. Obviously, your friendships and romantic relationships. All those things kind of come together in sort of a soup that end up setting the frame for what we believe about ourselves, about how the world works, and about other people. 

I think the more negative or fixed experiences, fixed mindset type experiences — to use that term from Carol Dweck — the more of those that we have, the more predisposed our thinking is going to be around these more self-protective, security-oriented messages that end up being more fixed. Because if you think about safety, certainty and safety go really hand in hand together. When our brain is predisposed to thinking about security, certainty is what it wants.

If you think about it, a growth mindset actually depends on a certain level of felt safety, for you to be willing to consider because you actually have to accept a level of kind of chaos and things not being neat, and orderly, and stable in a good way. But still, it can be unsettling if what your brain really wants is that certainty. I think all of us, these are degrees, all of us have the impulse to reject uncertainty in our lives. We have a certain tolerance that was built in, and that’s part of what’s driving our stories and our willingness to play with these.

The good news is, once you become aware of this — and I’ve seen this even with my own kids, again, their experiences are on the far end of the spectrum — this narrative work, it is possible to loosen up these narratives. And as our attachment therapist has said, which again, we’re not therapists, I’m not saying that the work that we’re doing in Mind Your Mindset is therapy, but she says, “So much of it is about getting the right feelings on the right people in the right events. Attachment work.” 

I think for us, realizing that our stories are just one version of the interpretation of the events that we’ve experienced, and if it’s not serving us, it’s possible to interrogate those stories, and then to imagine something better.

Lisa: Absolutely. I also just want to say, Megan, I heard you say, “I’m no psychologist,” but really, the work and the research that you have done with this book, and the ideas that you are presenting are very trustworthy…

Megan: Thank you.

Lisa: …ideas that have a ton of of research and well-established. I think that, really, the message and the way that you’re presenting them are fresh and just so uniquely helpful. So I just wanted to offer that. And thank you too for helping our listeners understand like the context of life where different mindsets and core beliefs are developed, and bringing up the power of early life experiences, but also the relationships, the way that we are influenced by experiences from others, and how that shapes our self-concept and our core beliefs. And being able to be curious about those to begin that interrogation is enormously helpful.

As you were talking, I was just thinking about, it’s actually a narrative therapy technique, where when we’re talking about the things that one believes, to ask who in your life would agree with that statement in order to gain clarity around who it was that we inherited this idea or thought from? Because in doing so, we can get some more psychological distance, and this idea of, “Oh, that that wasn’t actually my idea originally. That was a legacy that was given to me. And now I have the opportunity to decide if that one is still helpful for me or not.”

To have some of that psychological distance, I think, opens the door of what you talk about and the second phase of this work. First is that self-awareness. The second is interrogation. Love these ideas. Can you tell us a little bit more?

Megan: Well, I always think of the funny image in my mind and those old police shows, where they’re sitting in a dark room and have the light bulb over the table, and the the policeman is interrogating the criminal or whatever. I think about that because it’s a little bit funny to me. But just the idea of interrogation sets us up for the reality that there might be another interpretation. 

So just the word alone means, if you have like sort of your arms folded, “I’m not just going to take this story at its word. I am going to go through a process of seeing if I can separate what happened, the facts.” And this is like really usually boring stuff. Like, the man was wearing a blue baseball cap, and he crossed the street at 6:59, and then he went into the ice cream store. It’s not going to be emotionally charged by nature. Usually. Then it’s like what we say about it. Again, I’m not talking about trauma here, that would be, that might be very well emotionally charged.

But in this case, the boring stuff in our life, and then we put this story on top of it. And if we can separate those two things, that lets us start to ask questions about the interpretation. How else might this be interpreted? Is there a time in my life when maybe this wasn’t true? Like in my own speaking story, how would I have done this, I would have said, “Well, but there was that time when I was a high school senior and graduated, I gave my commencement address, and it was fun, and I got such great feedback on it. Huh. How does that integrate with this story?” Well, it doesn’t. Okay, well, then what? 

So there, we go through a number of different questions in Mind Your Mindset to help shake this loose and really walk you through the process of interrogation. But the idea is that you ultimately, when you’re interrogating, you separate the fact from the fiction or from the subjective interpretation of that, no matter how true it feels. We begin to consider what else might be true, or at least that that’s only one option of what could be true.

Part of what we’re looking at in this interrogation phase is, is that interpretation working for me? Because the truth is we all have stories that are working great for us, and we don’t need to change those. We don’t need to do anything because they’re working just fine. If that’s the case, you’re probably not gonna go through this process. If that’s the case with one of those stories. But should you, if it’s working, don’t do anything; but if it’s not working, and we want to be clear on why it’s not working. What is it keeping you from that matters to you? Which sets us up for the last step, which is to imagine a better story.

We go through a number of different means in the book of how you can start to think of a better story. This is not like you just have to come up with it out of thin air. There really are some some definitive questions that you can ask that ultimately get you to a place of, “Okay, that feels better to me.”

And it doesn’t have to be some super lofty affirmation. I wasn’t telling myself when I was thinking about the speaking event, “I am the best speaker that has ever walked the planet.” I wasn’t saying that to myself. That would have been, honestly, a bridge too far. Like that would have just been too much for my brain to make that leap.

So I wasn’t saying that. I was saying things like, “I step on the stage, and my body is calm, and I’m present.” And “I feel excited to communicate with the people in the audience.” That’s a very different but  more realistic way of reframing the story, imagining a better story, than something that just feels so outlandish.” You’re rolling your eyes at yourself.

Lisa: Yeah, that it has to be a step or two in that direction not a giant leap.

Megan: Exactly.

Lisa: Okay, so can we talk about the hard part?

Megan: Yeah.

Lisa: This is the hard part. I’ve been a therapist coming up on, geez, years, can you believe I’m not old. But anyway, I am. And one of the things that I appreciated so much in your book was the way that you really took a lot of care to help educate your readers about how not just easy but automatic it is for our brains to close the loop and design stories, bring us information that is coming from different places in our brains, in our conscious thoughts.

So I’m thinking to have the work of the author Daniel Kahneman, the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, talking about the deliberative conscious thinking process, we’re putting together our pros and cons list and making what we feel are very rational decisions, and how much of our cognitive power really is devoted to this thinking process that is happening on a non-conscious level. It is oftentimes emotionally based. We are making assumptions that we’re not even aware that we’re making. Implicit bias, having patterns, matching past experiences to the present moment — again, all without even happening.

And also, what a great job your logical brain does on whatever that that right brain subconscious thing has decided to believe for whatever reasons, that may be completely irrational and we break them apart, the job of that left brain is to bring forth all kinds of reasons why that is correct, it is true, it makes sense. “It is in alignment with facts, and therefore I know the truth,” without people even having the awareness that these “truths”  that they’re believing have anything but a basis in fact, right. I think we all intrinsically can believe our own thoughts, our own what feels like rational process.

In my experience, that the hard part with all of this is, as they say, in AA, watch that first step, that’s the hard one, is that very first step of even allowing this idea that maybe you can’t believe everything that you say, particularly in a cultural zeitgeist with a lot of what is in the air around pop psychology, the different things is trust your feeling, believe in yourself, you know the answer. Your message, Megan, is that actually be really curious about what you’re thinking? Is that the only way of thinking about… Let’s find some spaciousness, let’s find a different thought. 

Because maybe the things that you’re believing and telling yourself are actually not helpful to you, but don’t even know that. That’s the hard part is just even putting a crack of skepticism between someone and their conscious thinking process.

So my question for you is what, in your experience, is the most helpful idea or that the thing that shifts for somebody just saying, “I probably need to interrogate that thought versus just assuming, ‘yep, that’s what’s happening here.’”? This is hard.

Megan: I can only kind of go to my own experience, which is really mirrored in the experiences of our clients. And that is, that sometimes our stories create pain, and we’re not aware of that. Last night, I was having a massage, and the massage therapist have some neck pain that she was trying to help me with. Then she started to work on the back of my shoulder, and I was like, “Golly, that is so tender,” and I didn’t even realize it. She was like, “Oh, yeah, anytime you have neck stuff going on, there’s going to be a shoulder component.”

I was like, Isn’t it interesting that the pain that I’m experiencing is in my neck, but the pain that actually probably where this is coming from is in my shoulder. I think our lives can be like that, where we don’t necessarily have conscious awareness of pain, because in our bodies, we just learned to work around it. I’ve got like a heating pad that I’ll sit on sometimes when my neck hurts, I’ll kind of put in the curvature of my neck. And that helps. But that’s not really a solution to the problem. That’s just a workaround to that pain. 

I think similarly, in our lives, we have these stories that can cause pain. If we can become aware of how those stories are limiting us, or how they’re hurting us, or hurting people we love, then it can give us the courage to create that space and say, “What if there was another way to think about this?”

I actually had this happen just the other day. Last Friday, I had a meeting with one of my direct reports, I have an executive team that reports to me, and I have had this thing that I’m trying to implement for a long time in our company. I just felt like there’s been some resistance to it. That was probably somewhat founded, at least a concern on the part of some of the other executives, one in particular. When I was talking to her about it again on Friday, and she said, “What can I do to help you really believe that I’m aligned with you?” And I thought, “Oh, my gosh.” I’m realizing it in like this slow motion moment. I’ve created a story that I am so attached to believing it’s true. Now, obviously, I don’t realize this, or I would just do something different.

But I was unconsciously attached to a story that she was against this idea of something that I wanted to do. I started seeing evidence for it everywhere, and I had good evidence for it based on this belief. It turns out there was a whole other interpretation for the experiences that I had had. I said, “I just have to stop for a second and tell you,” and this is ironic because I’m just publishing a book…

Lisa: I just wrote a book.

Megan: I was like, “I just realized I have a story about you about this project that I think is not true. That story is keeping me from moving our organization forward in a really important area because I’m creating a lot of drama, honestly, in my own mind, where there isn’t any. I just want you to know that right now, I’m committed to you to believing the story that you’re telling me, which is that you are aligned, you do have some concerns that we need to factor in, but that’s just normal stuff that we got to work through. I’m going to take action based on the story that you’re aligned, and you’re supportive of this, and I have your alignment so we can move forward to execute.”

It was just like one of those lightbulb moments where I went, “Yeah, I could stay committed to this story. I could just like really like the certainty of she’s against this thing.” Or it’s like, do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy? It’s like, I actually want to move my company forward in this area. To do that, I have to believe what she’s actually telling me and what another interpretation of the story that’s going to free me up to make progress here. It was just such a funny moment of like, I know this stuff. I just got stuck in the story. 

Lisa: Well, thank you so much for sharing that story. Also, what an authentic and emotionally courageous conversation to have with that person around “I’m doing this thing.” What I do the most of is, I’m a marriage counselor, couples counselor, and I can’t even tell you how often it’s exactly this process is really at the source of so much relationship conflict. Just your ability to have that conversation, it must have been such a, not just a healing moment for the two of you, but, really, a growth promoting, strengthening the relationship.

Those are the kinds of realizations that allow you to “oh, I’m having a story.” “Oh, I need to be skeptical of this.” Then that process of finding a story that feels better. I love that you said that you’re kind of tip off that there might be an unhelpful story in the mix, is when you’re feeling pain, you’re feeling frustration, you’re feeling an obstacle. Those are the ones to get real curious about.

So then in your book, you talk about different ways of kind of generating different ideas through a variety of sources that can help you find a better story. I know that we don’t have a ton of time left together, but I’m hoping that you can just share some of those strategies with our listeners so that they can, in addition to reading your book, use some takeaways around “okay, what do I do with this?”

Megan: Yeah. Well, coming back to that idea that I mentioned at the beginning, think of your narrator like a little puppy. We’re about to get a puppy so this is on my mind right now. Train your puppy and you really can become allied with your narrator when you go through this training process. So a couple of things that you can do are to ask questions, like, what would the opposite of this be like? Okay, so that would be one way to think about it. So instead of “Courtney is against this project,” I could say, “Courtney is actually aligned with me in that,” okay. That’s just like the most basic version of a flip that you can do with the opposite.

But the other thing that you can do, and this is one that I particularly like because I’m kind of one of those people that I’m sort of skeptical of my skepticism, I like to not totally abandon the original story because sometimes there is a grain of truth in that. So I say, “Courtney has some legitimate concerns about what I’ve created. But she’s willing to be aligned as we address those.” All of a sudden, if you just think about that story compared with Courtney is totally against this. That is a completely different way of relating to her taking action. It’s actually true like. That’s the one that is actually accurate to what she would say about herself versus what I’ve just kind of conjured up in myself. I think that paradox can be really helpful.

Another thing that you can do is what we call start at the beginning. This is sort of like if you were asking a question like if I were in the fifth grade, what would I think about this problem? Or, what’s the craziest solution I could come up with that might actually work? Or, if I were a consultant brought into this situation, what would I recommend? Or how would I read this? All of these questions — there are many more in Mind Your Mindset — but all of these questions are intended to just loosen the grip of that original story and get you thinking about what else might be possible. 

What’s amazing is that in our brain, we have so many neurons, and these neurons are they’re connecting together, and they’re creating these neural pathways. There are so many of these that what the research tells us is that we basically can think an infinite number of thoughts. What that means is that the connections that we’re making in our thoughts also predispose us to a nearly infinite number of solutions, ideas, stories, et cetera. 

There are really so many options that are available to us. This process of question-asking is how we get to what we might want to think instead. You’ll know when it feels good to you — it may not feel easy to you, and that’s an important thing. This is where your earlier comment about we’ve kind of been led to believe that whatever we feel is right. Where that doesn’t really work for us is sometimes we have to be really uncomfortable to actually get what we want more, and that’s okay. 

But you’ll have a sense of, “that’s right.” That’s our intuition talking to us that will help you know that you’ve landed on an interpretation of the events of your life that is going to serve you.

Lisa: Excellent. Excellent advice that you can feel the shift, and that there’s a thought process to open up other possibilities. But this idea that we all have abundance of ways of thinking available to us and to notice how it feels. 

And I’ll also say just very briefly, that can also be one of the biggest benefits of having a growth partner in your life, like a coaching a business accelerator or coaching and counseling here, just to have somebody else who is sort of an outside perspective, helping you be curious about the things that you may have otherwise assumed to be true. It can be very, very powerful. So I appreciate your work.

So I know we have to wrap up, but tell us what are your biggest hopes for this book? And where can people find more about the book and your work?

Megan: Thank you for asking that. My hope for this work is that people will experience what I’ve experienced, what my dad has experienced. Different context, but both of us have experienced a level of freedom, a level of being able to reach our potential, and the satisfaction and the contribution that brings. I want that for people. I think about my own kids, you know, I want that for my kids. I want that for my friends. I want that for my employees. I want that for my clients. I want that for everybody who reads Mind Your Mindset.

Because what I know that if you’re listening you may not know right now is it’s really possible for you. This is so doable. This is a skill that you can acquire that will literally change every part of your life once you begin to master it. And actually, it’s not that difficult to master the skill. Sometimes it’s hard to do the work, but the skill itself is actually pretty straightforward. That’s really helpful to me. I want people to have hope that there are ways to get breakthroughs in areas where you’d maybe felt stuck or to reach a new level in your life that you maybe haven’t even thought about before and that are available to you. And that’s really exciting. I think that’s what I would say with regard to my hope.

In terms of where people can find out more about me about the book, et cetera, we’ve actually created a special page for your listeners. That’s called, and at that site, there are all kinds of fun bonuses that you get when you buy the book that you can do wherever — Amazon or Barnes and Noble or whatever — including a course where we, my dad and I, walk you through the book with some exercises that we just recorded last week, as well as a self-coacher tool that takes what we’ve talked about today, but really boils it down to one page and you can print this out. It’s kind of like paint by numbers; you can just go through this process really easily. If you’re sitting in the car line, picking up your kids, you’re waiting for an appointment or something. This is a really handy tool and also the audiobooks. So don’t buy the audiobook because we’re gonna give that to you for free. So

Lisa: Okay, Alright, we’ll be sure to link to it and how wonderful and just how generous of you to put all of those activities together for people to not just read the book, but also really get more support in their journey of growth. That’s just fantastic.

Megan: Yeah, that’s what we want.

Lisa: Thank you so much for spending this time with me today, Megan. This has been wonderful.

Megan: Lisa, thank you so much for having me. This has been really really great.

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