Why Mindset Is Everything

Most people, when faced with a challenge, will give up. They will blame their bad luck and move on to something else.

But a few people will turn a challenge into an opportunity. By reframing the situation, they will succeed where others failed.

Mindset is everything. To get what you want, you must equip yourself with better mental models.

Learn the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset, what characterizes an effective mindset, and how you can develop one yourself.

What Is Mindset?

Mindset is about how you approach challenges. It’s the inner matrix we bring to the real world. The better that matrix, the better your results will be.

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.

Jack Sparrow

Two people will face the same problem but have completely different responses to it. Person A will despair and give up. Person B will turn it into an asset.

I observed this firsthand when I was still running my MMA gym. Many of our fighters, at some point, would suffer a knee injury. As a result, they wouldn’t be able to perform their favorite moves anymore. Soon after, they would quit.

But a few athletes would turn this handicap into an advantage. They would build their game from the ground up again, working around their injury. They would come up with new techniques to surprise their opponents. In the end, they would emerge stronger than before the injury.

The only difference between these two groups was their mindset. One was willing to reimagine the obstacle as the way. The other was not.

Mindset is everything. It will make or break you.

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Henry Ford

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

According to Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, there are two types of mindsets — the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

When you have a fixed mindset, you operate under the assumption that there is nothing much you can do. You are born with certain talents and deficits, and that’s that.

A growth mindset is the opposite. The assumption here is that you forge your own destiny. If you put in the hard work, you can evolve into a better version of yourself.

At a Glance

With a fixed mindset, you …With a growth mindset, you …
… give up easily… persist
… avoid challenges… seek out challenges
… shy away from hard work… view hard work as the path to success
… fear failure… think of failure as a learning opportunity
… are immune to criticism… embrace criticism

When you make the decision to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, your physiology changes in the process.

This process is known as neuroplasticity. Your brain will reorganize itself by coming up with new neuron pathways. As a result, you will be better able to deal with the challenges in your life.

“Mindset is everything” is not some empty phrase. It is real. If you change your mindset, your body follows.

What Mindset Is Not

Many people in the self-help world get very mumbo-jumbo about mindset. Be on the watch out for these three common themes:

  1. Affirmations. Telling yourself 10 times, “I’m a winner!” will not magically change your reality.
  2. Manifesting stuff. You can’t just will your goals into existence.
  3. The self-help high. Mindset is not getting into a mass frenzy at a Tony Robbins seminar.

If in doubt, apply this litmus test. Ask yourself, “Would a professional athlete or a special forces soldier bet on this technique?”

These people cannot afford to mess around. If they entertain silly notions, they might not get paid or not come home.

You should be as strict as them. It is your success that is at stake.

20 Characteristics of an Effective Mindset

These are the 20 telltale signs of an effective mindset.

1. You Feel in Control

You are not a helpless victim, but rather the architect of your own fortune.

2. You Don’t Blame Others

It is easy to blame others — your manipulative mother, your stupid boss, your unsupportive spouse.

But you know better. Getting worked up won’t get you anywhere. Instead, you spend your energy where it will make a difference.

3. You Are Looking For Solutions

When a problem pops up, you will immediately analyze it and then attempt to solve it.

4. You Embrace Failure

You always frame failures as stepping stones. Now you know more than you knew before. This will improve your chances of succeeding next time.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

Henry Ford

5. You Are More Resilient

Challenges don’t faze you, they excite you.

Failures don’t make you give up, but try harder.

Critical feedback doesn’t pull you down, it spurs you on.

6. You Easily Adapt to New Circumstances

Most people can’t deal with change. They will resist it as long as possible.

Not you. You understand that the game always changes — and that you must adapt to it.

7. You Question the Status Quo

By constantly questioning the status quo, you uncover new methods of doing things. This gives you an edge over the competition.

8. You Are Entrepreneurial

You simply must strike out on your own. Working to fulfill someone else’s vision is not an option for you.

9. You Acknowledge Your Weaknesses

You view weaknesses as opportunities for growth.

If you are an athlete but realize you have a technical gap in your game, this means you now have leverage over the competition. Address this flaw and more wins are guaranteed to follow.

10. You Iterate

Most people aim to get it right the first time. But your first book rarely becomes a bestseller and your first business rarely makes you millions.

You understand this. For you, success is in the iterations.

11. You Use Failure for Fuel

Most people allow failure to pull them down.

You do the opposite. You use it for fuel. The more it stings, the harder you will try next time.

12. You Ask For Help

There is no point in making mistakes that could have been avoided by asking those further along. Thus, you will readily ask for help.

13. You Understand Consistency

You understand that consistency is the key to success. Put in the hours, and you will see results.

It is not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

Albert Einstein

14. You See the Silver Lining in All Situations

Instead of surrendering to disasters, you look for the silver lining. In your mind, even the worst of situations can be turned into a win.

15. You Let Fear Guide You

To you, fear acts as a guidepost. It points you in the direction of growth.

16. You Embrace Lifelong Learning

For many people, learning stops as soon as they graduate from college. For you, though, learning is a lifelong endeavor. You make time for it every day.

By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.

John Wooden

17. You Value Habits Over Motivation

Motivation gets you all hyped up in the moment — but it never lasts.

Good habits, on the other hand, make sure you do what you need to do, no matter what you feel like.

That’s why you value habits over motivation. Habits get the job done.

18. You Separate Rejections From Yourself

When you are cold calling 10 new clients, you are likely to get rejected by nine. If you let these rejections pull you down, you will never grow your business.

With the right mindset, you separate these rejections from yourself. They don’t reflect on you but on your process.

19. You Actively Seek Out Feedback

We all dislike being judged. But to grow, you must see clearly. That’s why you ask others to give you the unfiltered truth.

You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.

Ayn Rand

20. You Enjoy the Process

Everybody fixates on the outcome — the dream job, the trophy spouse, the mansion.

You are different. You focus on the process. You get pleasure from building the best systems.

Ironically, this way, you are more likely to reach your goal. If you learn to love the game, your efforts become more sustainable.

How To Develop the Right Mindset

Mindset is everything — but how do you develop the right mindset? Here is a step-by-step guide.

1. Treat It as a Skill

Most people take a haphazard approach to mindset building.

They will read a few articles, maybe get a book, or watch a few videos online. After that, they just hope that this new knowledge will somehow carry over to their lives.

That’s the equivalent of reading a book on, “How to Become a Pilot” and then assuming you can land a plane.

Mindset is like any other skill — you have to engage in deliberate practice. You must come up with a training plan as if you were competing in an athletic event.

Let’s look at how to do that.

2. Pick One Strategy

Go through the list above and pick one particular mindset.

Start with the one that you think will profit you the most. Then dedicate yourself to this new behavior. Only when it has become second nature, will you add another mindset.

If you try to adopt too many new behaviors at once, you will fail with all of them.

Be smart, start small.

3. Monitor Your Thoughts

Once you have chosen a specific mindset, you must monitor your thoughts.

Think of it like the autopilot on an airplane. Whenever you start to deviate from the optimal course, a red lamp should come on and you should autocorrect.

For example, a friend might suggest going rock climbing on the weekend. But since you are afraid of heights, your first emotional reaction is, “This will make me uncomfortable. I’ll just tell him ‘No.'”

That’s the moment your self-monitoring should kick in. Observing your reaction, you realize that you are letting your fear get the best of you.

Consequently, you start reframing the weekend as an opportunity. “The idea of rock climbing is making me afraid. But if I push against that, there will be growth. I will condition myself to not be intimidated by challenges in the future.”

And so, for the first time in your life, you go rock climbing.

4. Set Yourself an Alarm

The biggest challenge with adopting a new mindset is the high level of distraction you are dealing with on an everyday basis. Your 9 to 5, family obligations, the news, social media, etc. — it is easy to get sidetracked.

To counteract this, set yourself a recurring alarm on your phone, every two hours throughout the day.

Let’s say you went with, “Letting your fear guide you,” as your first new mindset to implement.

Now, every time your alarm goes off, sit down with yourself for five minutes and ask yourself if you applied this behavior during the last two hours.

When your boss suggested you lead the new project, were you hesitant? Or did you embrace the new challenge?

Likewise, when you were having a difficult conversation with your inlaws, did you placate them? Or did you speak your mind?

By regularly checking in with yourself, the new behavior will become anchored in your mind.

5. Set Yourself Visual Reminders

A BJJ coach of mine used to put up signs all over his house to remind himself of certain mindset hacks he wanted to adopt.

For example, in his bathroom, you would see a sign above the mirror, reading, “When you failed, it means you learned something.”

At first, I was amused. It seemed naïve to me. But now I realize that my coach had a point.

Mindset is an abstract concept; it is not something we can see or touch. Therefore, it’s easy to ignore it. By putting up signs, my coach was making “mindset” more tangible.

So, do as he did — set yourself visual reminders.

Place a sign in your bathroom above the mirror, e.g., “By facing hard truths, I grow.” Put up another one above your bed, and a third one in the kitchen.

Then, whenever you face one of those signs, read what it says aloud. It will solidify the new mindset in yourself.

6. Journal About It

At the end of each day, sit down with a notebook and a pen and journal about how you did today.

Ask yourself:

  • In which instances did I succeed with my chosen new mindset?
  • In what situations did I fail?
  • With these failures — what could I have done differently? Imagine your alternative actions in detail.
  • Why am I still struggling with the new behavior? Is there something holding me back? For example, am I afraid of how people will react to the new me?

Journaling is one of the most potent tools you have to install new mindsets. It addresses challenges and simultaneously reinforces good behavior.

7. Give Yourself Time

Changing your outlook on life will take time.

You have established your current mindset over the course of decades. You won’t reverse it in a week or two.

So, be patient with yourself. Don’t think in days or weeks — think in months and years.

8. Surround Yourself With the Right People

One of the best “hacks” to develop a growth mindset is to surround yourself with the right people. If you constantly interact with high achievers, you will pick up their mindset through osmosis.

However, at least initially, these high achievers won’t want to hang out with you. They are already successful; you are not adding anything.

To get around this, make yourself useful. Offer to be their unpaid helper. For example, if you want to learn from an influencer on YouTube, offer to edit their videos for free.

Simultaneously, work on building up your own value. Learn everything there is to learn about your chosen area of expertise.

Over time, people with a success mindset will recognize you as one of their own and invite you into their circles.

9. Study High Achievers

Study how high achievers communicate. By seeing their thought process in action, you will eventually be able to emulate their thinking.

MasterClass.com is great for that (I am not an affiliate). You get to listen to some of the most successful people on the planet.

Podcasts are another great option. Make it a habit to listen to a high-quality podcast every day.

Don’t get too hung up on the actual information being presented. Instead, focus on how these high achievers arrive at their conclusions.

It’s not so much about the “What,” as about the “How.”

10. Optimize Your Sleep

Sleep is the basis of optimal mental performance.

If you don’t get adequate sleep, all the mindset hacks in the world won’t do you any good. It’s like owning a race car but being out of gas.

To get optimal sleep, do the following:

  • Go to bed at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Your body needs that regularity to get the deepest rest possible.
  • Get some sunlight soon after waking up, to prime your circadian rhythm.
  • Do some kind of physical activity during the day to feel tired at night.
  • At least an hour before bed, don’t use any electronic devices anymore. Screens emanate blue light which keeps you from falling asleep.
  • Use candles at night (don’t burn down the house).
  • Read something calming right before bed.

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