I have a recurring nightmare. It goes like this: I’m 16 years old again, back on my old newspaper route. But there’s a major problem: I’m late. I’ve overslept. Now it’s 6:43, and I have 150 newspapers to deliver by 7:00 a.m. If I don’t, I start getting complaints. It’s an impossible task. A wave of immense anxiety immediately follows. Followed by a feeling of pressure, all over my body.
At this point, I usually wake up in a cold sweat–thankful that all of this was simply a dream, until … I realize the dream is related to a real-life situation. The true source of the anxiety, and a real-life feeling of “overwhelm-ed-ness.” After facing this situation over and over, I’ve discovered a rule that helps me to push through those negative feelings, move forward, and do what I need to do.
I like to call it “first things first.”
First things first
When I find myself in an “impossible paper route situation,” I tell myself:
Focus on first things first.
In other words, I narrow my view so as to focus on the first few things I need to do. This allows me to avoid getting overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the situation, or the huge mountain of tasks before me.
Instead, I make a new list of only two or three things that I need to get done that day.
Then, I look only at the first one, and start chipping away.
First things first has many benefits, but here are four of them:
1. It keeps you moving.
When you have more work than you can handle, the temptation is to not do anything.
But by creating a new list of just two or three tasks, things look manageable again. You regain control of your emotions, allowing you to once more be productive.
2. It builds momentum.
Think about that feeling you experience once you finish a task. Then another. And another.
Next thing you know, you’re hooked. You see results, so you keep going–because at this point it’s easier to keep going than it is to stop. This is what famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as “flow”–that highly focused mental state conducive to productivity.
Once you start building momentum …
3. You see more clearly.
In my nightmare, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, there is no tunnel. Just an unscalable mountain.
But once you start building momentum, you build the tunnel. Once you make enough progress, you can clearly see the path forward.
And once you see the path, it really starts to get good. Because now …
4. You believe.
Things are no longer dark.
The impossible task is no longer impossible.
Seeing the path forward turns into hope, and hope turns into reality.
Following the rule of first things first is how:
Entrepreneurs turn complex problems into simple solutions–and then build companies out of them.
Championship sports teams claw their way back from huge deficits.
Singers turn melodies into albums.
Authors turn words into books.
Artists turn sketches into masterpieces.
And paperboys finish their routes–even when they get very late starts.
Motivation is what explains why people or animals initiate, continue or terminate a certain behavior at a particular time. Motivational states are commonly understood as forces acting within the agent that create a disposition to engage in goal-directed behavior. It is often held that different mental states compete with each other and that only the strongest state determines behavior.
This means that we can be motivated to do something without actually doing it. The paradigmatic mental state providing motivation is desire. But various other states, like beliefs about what one ought to do or intentions, may also provide motivation.
Various competing theories have been proposed concerning the content of motivational states. They are known as content theories and aim to describe what goals usually or always motivate people. Abraham Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs and the ERG theory, for example, posit that humans have certain needs, which are responsible for motivation.
Some of these needs, like for food and water, are more basic than other needs, like for respect from others. On this view, the higher needs can only provide motivation once the lower needs have been fulfilled. Behaviorist theories try to explain behavior solely in terms of the relation between the situation and external, observable behavior without explicit reference to conscious mental states.
Firstly, don’t beat yourself up for caring about the opinions of others – we’re actually programmed to do it, so that’s extra negativity you don’t need.
“We care about what people think about us because we need to belong to a group,” says Counselling Directory member Dr Melissa Sedmak. “This is hard-wired into us and there was even research a few years back about how we accept lies from people (unconsciously) just to be a ’member of the tribe’.
“As species, we have an innate need to belong in order to survive. Therefore, caring about what other people think, and tailoring how we express ourselves and who we are, enables us to fit in and not become an outcast.”
Like most things in life, it should be activated in moderation, though, says life coach Kanika Tandon. “Caring about the opinions of other people helps when it comes to working as a group,” she says, “but it turns into a problem when we begin to lose the path to our integrity by putting others before us.
“It crosses a line when we begin to make decisions on how it will be received by others instead of what we truly, genuinely want and desire.”Taking time to figure out what you truly value in life can be the first step in realigning your behaviour.
“A lot of people in lockdown have come to question their choices because they realised they were loving life according to other people’s standards and values,” says Tandon. “Realising that we are people-pleasing is the first step to finding solutions.”
To further redress the balance, it can also help to ask yourself whether your group – or “tribe” – would really judge you for making a mistake/saying what you think, or whether this fear of judgement stems entirely from you.
“We need to ask ourselves: is this just a perceived mould we are trying to fit in or are these expectations of my tribe really this high? And if they are real, do I want to associate with the tribe where people impose this mould on the members?” says Dr Sedmak. “Is there another tribe where I would fit better, with having to let go of less of myself?”
Having strong self-esteem will help you stick to your decisions, adds life coach Joanna Ward. “Remind yourself of your achievements, qualities, skills and your unique perspective,” she says. “Be in touch with your purpose. Understand why you’re taking the path you’re taking. If you can explain it to yourself as much as to others, you’re less easily swayed by alternatives.”
For big life choices, Tandon recommends asking big, long-term questions, such as: “Will I regret the decision five-10 years down the line?”
But for the smaller, every day worries, when our biggest concern is looking a bit silly, Ward says it’s good to respond with humour and never be afraid to laugh at yourself and at life. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
I’ve said before the first 3 hours of your day can dictate how your life turns out. And this often begins with the very first thing that you decide to put in your brain. You can either start you day with junk food for the brain (the internet, distracting apps, etc) or you can start the day with healthy food for the brain (reading, meditation, journaling, exercising, etc). When you start the day with junk food for the brain, you put yourself at a self imposed handicap that inhibits your ability to get into flow and prevents you from doing deep work. When you start the day with health food for your brain, the exact opposite happens.
Anytime I start my day with junk food for the brain, the quality of the day goes down. I’m less happy, focused, and productive. I spend a ton of time on the internet and don’t get any real work done. But if I start my day with health food for the brain, I find that my mood is better, I’m happier, more focused and productive.
Why Junk Food for the Brain is Toxic
If you woke up in the morning, smoked a cigarette, ate 2 donuts, and washed it down with 2 cups of coffee, it wouldn’t be surprising that your physical performance is subpar. You’re probably not going to go out and run 2 miles or win a prize fight after that kind of breakfast.
But when it comes to our brain, we’re not nearly as mindful about the idea that we should treat the information we consume like the food we eat.
“When you wake up you’re in this theta alpha state and you’re highly suggestible. Every like, comment, share, you get this dopamine fix and it’s literally rewiring your brain. What you’re smart device is doing especially if that’s the first thing you grab when you wake up and you’re in this alpha theta state, is rewiring your brain to be distracted.” — @Jim Kwik
If we start our days by checking email, instagram, or the internet, we keep reinforcing the behavior of distraction until it becomes our new habit. Some of the smartest behavioral scientist and designers in the world have worked really hard to make sure that their products are addictive, habit forming, and only provide you with a temporary sense of fulfillment so the you are always jonesing for your next fix. As Mark Manson so brilliantly said, cell phones are the new cigarettes, And a significant amount of what’s on the internet is nothing more than junk food for the brain.
Why Healthy Food for the Brain is So Powerful
If you woke up in the morning and had a really healthy breakfast, that revitalized and energized you, you’d likely hit the gym or a morning run expecting to be at your peak. The same goes for our brains.
When we start the day with health food for the brain, instead of a self imposed handicap, we give ourselves a massive competitive advantage. On the days when I religiously follow through on the 8-step daily routine that allowed me to write multiple books and 100’s of articles, my productivity goes through the roof, flow happens effortlessly, and I end up doing a lot of deep work. The idea for this article was actually the result of giving my brain some health food to start the day.
I did 20 minutes of meditation
I did almost an hour of reading
I wrote in my journal for 30 minutes
When I turned on my computer, I blocked distractions and started writing.
When you start the day with health food for your brain, you don’t end up depleting your willpower, and as a result you get more done in far less time.
So how exactly do you start the day with health food for your brain? To wean ourselves off of junk food for the brain, we have to actually replace it with something else.
Don’t use your devices in the morning
Smartphones distract us whether they are on, off, in our pockets, or on a table, and they command our attention even when they are not our own. The best solution for preventing smartphone distraction is to remove it from the picture altogether — Steve Magness
If your refrigerator or pantry is filled with junk food, you’re going to be much more likely to eat it. Same goes for your devices. If you turn them on first thing in the morning, you’re going to be much more likely to give into the sources of distraction that they make accessible. The only thing that I use my phone for in the morning is a 20 minute meditation with the Calm app. After that, I take it out of the room I’m working in.
Set aside 20 minutes to meditate
Reality as we know it occurs in the space between stimulus and response. An event happens and we make it mean something. But this happens so fast that we don’t question the validity of the meaning we’ve assigned to an event, situation or circumstance. The way to take control of the meaning is to slow that process down, and the way to slow that process down is with meditation.
I have a natural tendency to overreact or make situations more stressful than they really are. But as my meditation practice has deepened, I’ve noticed a profound energetic shift. Many of the things that would have previously rattled me don’t. On the mornings that I follow through with my 20 minutes of meditation, I’m able to focus more easily, and I don’t crave sources of distraction nearly as much
The most successful people I’ve interviewed on Unmistakable Creative, all of the peak performance books I’ve read, spiritual teachings, and many billionaires all reference the role that a daily meditation habit is played in their life. That was convincing enough evidence for me to make it a daily habit.
Read books, not the internet
When we read on the internet, we tend to scan more than we read. How often do you sit around at a dinner party discussing the amazing article you read on the internet? Almost all of my ideas for what I want to write about have come from books. Almost none of them have come from reading articles on the internet. I’ve even found in my cases that when I read a physical book that I previously read on Kindle, I tend to get far more value out of it.
Years ago when I interviewed Julien Smith, he said “I don’t read blogs. I read books.” And he had one of the most popular blogs on the internet. I stopped reading blogs, started reading books, and as a result became a more prolific writer. After watching the prolific career that Ryan Holiday has built, and observing his reading habits, I decided to follow his lead. Believe me the irony that you’re reading this on the internet is not lost on me.
Do 1 hour of Deep Work
One hour of deep work is a form of self care. It’s incredibly fulfilling. It’s an affirmation to yourself and to the universe that you value yourself and your time. You can accomplish extraordinary things in just one focused hour a day of uninterrupted creation time. With deep work, you get disproportionate results from your efforts. It’s the 80–20 rule at work. 80% of your output will come from 20 percent of your effort.
Just some food for thought. When I started writing this article I set my distraction blocker for 45 minutes. As I wrote this sentence I decided to do a check on my word count and realized I’d written over 1200 words in about 35 minutes. That’s what happens when you combine flow and deep work together
One last thing to consider. What are you really getting out of checking Facebook, instagram, or anything on your phone when you wake up in the morning? Is it making you happier or more successful in any way at all? If you added up all the time you possibly waste over the course of a year on this behavior, it’s likely you could write a book, build a business, or learn an instrument, all of which are going to do far more for the quality of your life than the temporary dopamine fix your phone provides.
Motivations After Dark is a PM remix of our signature morning Motivations and a great opportunity for our supporters to meet and mingle with Cara participants. Join us for an evening of great conversation centered around the very topics we speak to in the Motivations circle, while learning more about our transformative work. Light refreshments are served.
[…] Read More Author Nicole is the author of Monday Morning Motivations: Encouraging Words to Start Your Week and contributing author in the upcoming release of Th […] Monday Morning Motivations The words in this book comes from a space in my spirit and in my heart that desires to be […]
Are you seeking blogging inspiration to create content regularly? Blogging can be a fantastic tool to manage your content online, which results in organic traffic to grow your coaching business as a bonus if done right. As a coach, you can seek blogging inspiration easily using the following seven ideas. Assuming that you are willing to do the hard work and not afraid of sharing your why, how, and what.
1. Explore your inspiration.
It sounds simple, but many miss this easy and important source of endless blogging inspiration. If you are genuinely inspired, you should have more topics to blog about then you can handle.
The best use of blogging is to write down:
Why you do what you do ( your inspiration)
How you do what you do (your processes/tools)
What problem you solve (your solutions)
The immediate benefit of documenting the above helps you understand:
Do you really know your “why”?
Do you understand the details of how you do what you do?
Do you have the clarity of the problems which you are solving?
The more you write about these things, the more clarity you get about your why, how and what.
2. Practice focus.
I believe all ideas are great, usually. However, amazing things happen when you practice focus and pay attention to one thing or thought over a longer period of time.
Try it yourself to focus on any of the following aspect of your life over a longer period of time and see how it add value to your life.
Health. Paying regular attention to eating, exercising, and sleeping habits can improve your life significantly.
Family time. Lines are quite blurred between work and family time nowadays. Keeping an eye on this area daily can improve your work-life balance for good.
Work projects. Completing one project fully before jumping onto the next one can enhance your work quality immensely.
Finances. Focusing on finances can save you several unnecessary direct debits and missed investment opportunities.
Time off. Taking breaks without checking work communication is a superpower, which can be a game-changer to increase your focus and quality of life.
Similarly, blogging instantly becomes easy when you say no to everything and focus on your coaching inspiration. Mehdi’s weight lifting passion and focus helped him write over 25,000 words on a single page to explain a simple weight lifting exercise of how to do a bench press with proper form.
3. Clarify your blogging purpose.
A blog is an excellent tool for:
Managing your content online
Sharing your ideas and getting feedback
Creating a community around your passion
Establishing rapport by documenting your learnings
Promoting your coaching business
All or some of the above can be the purpose of your blog. Getting clear about your blogging purpose helps you seek blogging inspirations.
A clarity of blogging purpose help you:
Pick your minimum viable audience
Answer actual audience questions
Use language your audience uses
Write detailed and in-depth content
Create the best user experience
Do you have clarity for your blogging purpose? If yes, then it can be a great source of ongoing blogging inspirations.
4. Document your learning and experiences.
Business blogging isn’t writing.
Most people don’t search to read. They search to find solutions to their problems. A blog enables you to solve their problems using text, images, audio, and video. The better you solve your tribe’s problems, the more traction generally you’ll get online.
The more disciplined you get at documenting your day-to-day learnings, experiences, and solutions you offer to your customers, the less blogging inspiration you’ll need to seek.
Gary Vaynerchuk, who is a big advocate of “document, don’t create” content creation strategy, has a camera crew, which follows him around to record everything he does daily. The Kardashians are another great example of documenting their life.
5. Be curious.
Some say that you don’t seek inspiration; instead, it is the by-product of curiosity. Aim for continuous improvement. Measuring backwards, instead of stressing out by staring at your ultimate big goal really help to reduce the daily stress level.
How can I improve blogging 1 percent better than yesterday?
Asking this question to yourself daily can lead to amazing progress over time, and also lead to several blogging ideas to document. You can ask this question regarding all aspects of blogging to reap the benefit of compounding.
Imagine how improving 1 percent daily in all blogging areas can help you grow your coaching business over a year?
British cyclists’ fate changed one day in 2003 when Brailsford had been hired to put British Cycling on a new trajectory. Following this 1 percent improvement in every aspect of cycling took struggling British Cycling team to dominate the road.
During 2007 to 2017, British cyclists won 178 world championships and 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals and captured five Tour de France victories widely regarded as the most successful run in cycling history.
6. Answer support emails.
If you are already in business, answer support emails for a day. Your customer requests and questions can be the most useful blogging topics.
It will also help you build your frequently asked questions & answers collection, which will:
Save you time on answering the same questions repeatedly
Improve the speed & quality of your customer support
Increase your blog’s chances of getting traction in search engines
This is an easy way to seek blogging inspiration and improve your coaching services.
7. Start now and optimize later.
Don’t compare yourself with those who are years ahead of yourself. Your favourite blogger’s first blog post likely wasn’t as impressive as they are today. Be kind to yourself and write often. There is no other way to get better at writing than start writing and publishing often.
Our creative writing abilities are trainable and can be improved with regular practice. Therefore, don’t wait and start your blogging journey today.
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We’re always chasing something—be it a promotion, a new car, or a significant other. This leads to the belief that, “When (blank) happens, I’ll finally be happy.”
While these major events do make us happy at first, research shows this happiness doesn’t last. A study from Northwestern University measured the happiness levels of regular people against those who had won large lottery prizes the year prior. The researchers were surprised to discover that the happiness ratings of both groups were practically identical.
The mistaken notion that major life events dictate your happiness and sadness is so prevalent that psychologists have a name for it: impact bias. The reality is, event-based happiness is fleeting.
Happiness is synthetic—you either create it, or you don’t. Happiness that lasts is earned through your habits. Supremely happy people have honed habits that maintain their happiness day in, day out. Try out their habits, and see what they do for you:
1. They slow down to appreciate life’s little pleasures
By nature, we fall into routines. In some ways, this is a good thing. It saves precious brainpower and creates comfort. However, sometimes you get so caught up in your routine that you fail to appreciate the little things in life. Happy people know how important it is to savor the taste of their meal, revel in the amazing conversation they just had, or even just step outside to take a deep breath of fresh air.
2. They exercise
Getting your body moving for as little as ten minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Happy people schedule regular exercise and follow through on it because they know it pays huge dividends for their mood.
3. They spend money on other people
Research shows that spending money on other people makes you much happier than spending it on yourself. This is especially true of small things that demonstrate effort, such as going out of your way to buy your friend a book that you know they will like.
4. They surround themselves with the right people
Happiness spreads through people. Surrounding yourself with happy people builds confidence, stimulates creativity, and it’s flat-out fun. Hanging around negative people has the opposite effect. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with negative people.
5. They stay positive
Bad things happen to everyone, including happy people. Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, happy people reflect on everything they’re grateful for. Then they find the best solution available to the problem, tackle it, and move on. Nothing fuels unhappiness quite like pessimism. The problem with a pessimistic attitude, apart from the damage it does to your mood, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you expect bad things, you’re more likely to experience negative events. Pessimistic thoughts are hard to shake off until you recognize how illogical they are. Force yourself to look at the facts, and you’ll see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem.
6. They get enough sleep
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep for improving your mood, focus, and self-control. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, removing toxic proteins that accumulate during the day as byproducts of normal neuronal activity. This ensures that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your energy, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Happy people make sleep a priority, because it makes them feel great and they know how lousy they feel when they’re sleep deprived.
7. They have deep conversations
Happy people know that happiness and substance go hand-in-hand. They avoid gossip, small talk, and judging others. Instead they focus on meaningful interactions. They engage with other people on a deeper level, because they know that doing so feels good, builds an emotional connection, and is an interesting way to learn.
8. They help others
Taking the time to help people not only makes them happy, but it also makes you happy. In a Harvard study, employees who helped others were ten times more likely to be focused at work and 40% more likely to get a promotion. The same study showed that people who consistently provided social support were the most likely to be happy during times of high stress. As long as you make certain that you aren’t overcommitting yourself, helping others is sure to have a positive influence on your mood.
9. They make an effort to be happy
No one wakes up feeling happy every day and supremely happy people are no exception. They just work at it harder than everyone else. They know how easy it is to get sucked into a routine where you don’t monitor your emotions or actively try to be happy and positive. Happy people constantly evaluate their moods and make decisions with their happiness in mind.
10. They do things in person
Happy people only let technology do their talking when absolutely necessary. The human brain is wired for in-person interaction, so happy people will jump at the chance to drive across town to see a friend or meet face-to-face because it makes them feel good.
11. They have a growth mindset
People’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged, because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.
People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. This makes them happier because they are better at handling difficulties. They also outperform those with a fixed mindset because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.
Happiness can be tough to maintain, but investing in the right habits pays off. Adopting even a few of the habits from this list will make a big difference in your mood.
Do you think you remember a movie in which a knight gallops toward a castle just as its drawbridge is going up, and his white horse jumps the moat in one glorious airborne leap? I could picture it too, but when I went looking for this image on the Internet, all I could find was a couple of cars sailing over rivers via lift bridges and the Pink Panther detective flailing around in the murky water, having missed.
Nonetheless, we’re that rider. Chasing us is the dreaded coronavirus. We’re in midair, hoping we make it to the other side, where life will have returned to what we think of as normal. So what should we do while we’re up there, between now and then?
Think of all the things you hope will still be there in that castle of the future when we get across. Then do what you can, now, to ensure the future existence of those things.
Health care workers go without saying: everyone should be supporting them, because let’s assume we all want a health care system in that Castle Future. But what made your life worth living when you were healthy, apart from friends and family? We each have our own lists. Here are some of mine.
Favorite restaurants and cafés. Strange how we assume these happy places will always be there, so we can step out or drop in whenever we feel like it. To help them over the jump, order takeout and buy gift certificates. You can usually find out online what’s on offer, where.
Your local bookstore. Some offer curbside pickup, some delivery, some mail-order. Keep them going! In the same department, publishers and authors can use a hand—especially those whose spring book launches have been canceled. All sorts of inventive solutions are popping up: Twitter launches, podcasts, virtual events of various sorts. People are fond of saying “the reading community” and “the writing community,” which is not exactly true—there are many groups and entities, not all of them friendly to the others—but you can make it truer. When I was 25, things were so sparse on the ground in Canadian publishing that it was a truism that writers should help both other writers and their publishers. And we did, mostly, even though some of us hated some others. (That’s part of “community,” too. Ask anyone from a small town. In face of an emergency you support your local enemies, because though they might be jerks, they’re your jerks, right?)
Your trusted newspapers and magazines. Democracy is increasingly under pressure, since there’s nothing like a crisis to allow an authoritarian regime to toss civil liberties, democratic freedoms and human rights out the window. Part of this tossing is the always popular move toward a totalitarian shutdown of information and debate. It’s vital to keep the lines of communication both open and independent. Give subscriptions. Support sites that combat fake news, and others, such as PEN America, that fight for responsible free speech. Donate to publicly supported radio stations. Provide some free ad time by spreading the word via your own social media. Don’t let a virus cut out our tongues.
Arts organizations, of all kinds. Art is how we express our humanity, in all of its dimensions. Through art, we descend to the depths of our human nature, rise to the heights and everything in between. Theater, music, dance, festivals, galleries—all have had to cancel shows, all are hurting. Donations, gift certificates, ticketed online events. Without an audience there is, eventually, no art. You can be that audience.
Your planet. One you can live on. Short form: kill the ocean, and there goes your oxygen supply. Many have commented on the fact that during this pandemic, global emissions and global pollution have actually gone down. Will we live differently, to make that a reality in the Castle of the Future? Will we source energy and food in better ways? Or will we simply revert? Choose an environmental organization or two, or more, and donate. Now’s your chance.
Finally, keep the faith. You can make it across that moat! Yes, this moment is scary and unpleasant. People are dying. People are losing their jobs and the feeling that they’re in control of their lives, however cliff’s-edge that control may have been. But if you aren’t ill—and even if you have small children and feel your brain has been kidnapped—you’re actually in a good place, comparatively speaking.
You can enjoy this time, albeit at a pace somewhat less frenzied than it was when things were “normal.” Many are questioning that pace—What was the hurry?—and deciding to live differently.
It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. How you experience this time will be, in part, up to you. If you’re reading this, you’re alive, or so I assume. If you’re not alive, I’m in for a big surprise.
When it comes to success, it’s easy to think that people blessed with brains are inevitably going to leave the rest of us in the dust. But new research from Stanford University will change your mind (and your attitude).
Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent her entire career studying attitude and performance, and her latest study shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ.
Dweck found that people’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.
People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.
Common sense would suggest that having ability, like being smart, inspires confidence. It does, but only while the going is easy. The deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People with a growth mindset welcome setbacks with open arms.
According to Dweck, success in life is all about how you deal with failure. She describes the approach to failure of people with the growth mindset this way,
“Failure is information—we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.’”
Regardless of which side of the chart you fall on, you can make changes and develop a growth mindset. What follows are some strategies that will fine-tune your mindset and help you make certain it’s as growth oriented as possible.
Don’t stay helpless. We all hit moments when we feel helpless. The test is how we react to that feeling. We can either learn from it and move forward or let it drag us down. There are countless successful people who would have never made it if they had succumbed to feelings of helplessness: Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas,” Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a TV anchor in Baltimore for being “too emotionally invested in her stories,” Henry Ford had two failed car companies prior to succeeding with Ford, and Steven Spielberg was rejected by USC’s Cinematic Arts School multiple times. Imagine what would have happened if any of these people had a fixed mindset. They would have succumbed to the rejection and given up hope. People with a growth mindset don’t feel helpless because they know that in order to be successful, you need to be willing to fail hard and then bounce right back.
Be passionate. Empowered people pursue their passions relentlessly. There’s always going to be someone who’s more naturally talented than you are, but what you lack in talent, you can make up for in passion. Empowered people’s passion is what drives their unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Warren Buffett recommends finding your truest passions using, what he calls, the 5/25 technique: Write down the 25 things that you care about the most. Then, cross out the bottom 20. The remaining 5 are your true passions. Everything else is merely a distraction.
Take action. It’s not that people with a growth mindset are able to overcome their fears because they are braver than the rest of us; it’s just that they know fear and anxiety are paralyzing emotions and that the best way to overcome this paralysis is to take action. People with a growth mindset are empowered, and empowered people know that there’s no such thing as a truly perfect moment to move forward. So why wait for one? Taking action turns all your worry and concern about failure into positive, focused energy.
Then go the extra mile (or two). Empowered people give it their all, even on their worst days. They’re always pushing themselves to go the extra mile. One of Bruce Lee’s pupils ran three miles every day with him. One day, they were about to hit the three-mile mark when Bruce said, “Let’s do two more.” His pupil was tired and said, “I’ll die if I run two more.” Bruce’s response? “Then do it.” His pupil became so angry that he finished the full five miles. Exhausted and furious, he confronted Bruce about his comment, and Bruce explained it this way: “Quit and you might as well be dead. If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”
If you aren’t getting a little bit better each day, then you’re most likely getting a little worse—and what kind of life is that?
Expect results. People with a growth mindset know that they’re going to fail from time to time, but they never let that keep them from expecting results. Expecting results keeps you motivated and feeds the cycle of empowerment. After all, if you don’t think you’re going to succeed, then why bother?
Be flexible. Everyone encounters unanticipated adversity. People with an empowered, growth-oriented mindset embrace adversity as a means for improvement, as opposed to something that holds them back. When an unexpected situation challenges an empowered person, they flex until they get results.
Don’t complain when things don’t go your way. Complaining is an obvious sign of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset looks for opportunity in everything, so there’s no room for complaints.
Bringing It All Together
By keeping track of how you respond to the little things, you can work every day to keep yourself on the right side of the chart above.
Do you have a growth mindset? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
I am the author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart, a consultancy that serves more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies and is the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training (www.TalentSmart.com). My books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. I’ve written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review. I’m a world-renowned expert in emotional intelligence who speaks regularly in corporate and public settings. Example engagements include Intel, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Fortune Brands, the Fortune Growth Summit, The Conference Board: Learning from Legends, and Excellence in Government. I hold a dual Ph.D. in clinical and industrial-organizational psychology. I received my bachelor of science in clinical psychology from the University of California – San Diego.
Helping others is a known enhancer of quality of life. Volunteering and giving back to your community helps increase your gratitude, reduces anxiety and may even increase your productivity.
Research suggests that people who volunteered weekly experienced the same happiness boost compared to receiving a life-changing increase in pay. Giving back doesn’t just feel good in the moment; it has long-lasting benefits for your health and well-being.
But even with the best of intentions, you may find it hard to make time to get involved.
If you need extra motivation, here are the five critical career lessons you will learn from helping others and engaging in social causes.
Lesson #1: How to speak up when you disagree
Knowing how to express concern and push for organizational changes is one of the hardest career lessons to learn. Come on too strong and you risk being pegged as a troublemaker, but speak up too infrequently and you aren’t taken seriously as a professional.
This is especially sensitive if you are a woman or person of color, with the additional burden of overcoming an unconscious bias that you are complaining or being emotional.
Regardless, choosing when to speak out against an established cultural norm or way of doing business isn’t an easy decision.
Volunteering for a cause you believe in forces you to wrestle with this dilemma in an environment that isn’t tied to your paycheck. You get a chance to practice expressing your values and advocating for people with less power than you.
The more you get to exercise this skill, the better you will get at channeling your displeasure, or even outrage, into actions that actually address the issue. You learn to move from personal frustration to solutions much faster, which will make you an invaluable resource to any company.
Lesson #2: How to be a follower
There’s a lot said and written about how to be a good leader, but not nearly enough attention is spent on how to be a follower. Yet much of your career success will be determined by who you choose to follow and how you manage those relationships.
Playing even a small part in a volunteer organization teaches you how to evaluate what makes you trust a leader and how to derive satisfaction from pursuing someone else’s strategy.
The goal is to walk away from your time volunteering with a much clearer sense of your ability to follow. Are you able to trust the judgement of others or do you get easily frustrated when you aren’t in charge?
Following isn’t about blind devotion; it requires discernment, commitment and loyalty. These are the same values that will help you achieve on behalf of your boss or organization and build strong sponsorship.
Lesson #3: How to tackle problems others are afraid of
No matter how senior you are or what field you are in, being a sought-after problem solver is the secret to advancing your career to the next level.
When the hardest issues or most challenging clients come your way, you need to be prepared to address them. But learning how to solve hard problems isn’t easy.
You get better at it when you develop your ability to gather and understand historical context and quickly consolidate many differing views. You also have to be willing to work toward a less than perfect solution and refine your approach as you go. These are the exact skills that are built from engaging meaningfully in hard societal problems.
Taking time to give back inevitably enhances your career by further developing your capacity to address complex and difficult issues.
Lesson #4: How to defer to experts
Passion is not the same as expertise. You may be passionate about climate change, human rights, affordable housing or stopping animal cruelty, but you might not know enough about these topics to propose viable solutions. You have to defer to the experts.
In your career, learning when to bring in outside expertise can save you from making bad, potentially career-derailing business decisions.
Your volunteering and philanthropy should allow you to meet and learn from experts in a variety of fields. Take the opportunity to watch for examples of leaders that leverage expertise well and build strong cases for the solutions they propose.
But also pay attention to the pitfalls of decisions made without supporting data or without the inclusion of relevant experts on the topic. Sometimes seeing what not to do is the more effective teacher.
Lesson #5: How to accept defeat and play the long game
It would be nice if you could fix all the world problems simply by putting forth your best effort, but that isn’t how life works. All causes have victories and setbacks and knowing how to accept disappointment is a critical skill you will learn while trying to give back.
Take a look at your career to date and assess your ability to fail or accept defeat.
There’s a time and place for switching jobs if you are undervalued or can’t achieve your purpose, but you’ll be hurt in the long run by hasty decisions that may be motivated by a fear of failure.
Playing the long game in your career helps you see when a setback on the job should be overlooked or when it is in your best interest to weather a storm. Remember that ambition gets all the glory, but patience is often the hidden secret to extraordinary careers.
By giving back and volunteering, you can practice and learn each of these lessons while making your unique contribution to the world.
I’ve spent my career helping people reach their work goals, from executive searches to counseling to career coaching, through my leadership positions at top executive recruiting firms and consulting companies. I currently work to advise senior industry leaders at Fortune 500 companies on making career transitions and securing board placements. My site, SimplyService.org, is an online community supporting the creation of a values-driven work life. I hold a master’s degree in education and human development from George Washington University and am a frequent speaker and podcast guest on the topics of careers and fulfillment. My new book, Working Whole, shares how to unite spiritual and work life.
Helping others brings good feelings to the giver and the receiver of the good deeds. Using your special gifts to help others can be a gift to yourself as you enjoy a self esteem boost for making others’ lives better, and make the world a better place. You feel more worthy of good deeds yourself, your trust in the decency of people is reinforced, and you feel more connected to yourself and to others.
“Warm weather fosters growth.Cold weather destroys it.Thus a man with an unsympathetic temperament has scanty joy:But a man with a warm and friendly heart is overflowing with blessings,and his beneficence will extend to posterity.” Hung Tzu-Ch’Eng “Even more important than the warmth and affection we receive,is the warmth and affection we give,It is by giving […]