Change your thoughts in these 5 areas of your life to change your mindset

“man looking at the skies” by prottoy hassan on Unsplash
Your thoughts drive your actions, your actions drive your habits, your habits drive your character

A paraphrasing of something I have often seen posted as a meme on Facebook, often shared but rarely acted on. Because, while the sentiment behind it is true, it is the nature of your thoughts that drive your actions.

Ask yourself what you think in these 5 situations, and it will show you how you act and what your results are.

When you face a challenge, what do you think? Do you embrace the challenge and take on new learning so that you can overcome it? Or do you look at it as something that is to be avoided? Now many of you will say “I tackle challenges head on, I do whatever it takes.” But that is so seldom true, it is one of those lies we tell in public because we want to appear to be successful, we want to have this image of strength and activity.

Challenges scare us. If we fail, we can look stupid. In schools we are praised for the results we achieve, for giving the right answer, we are organised into groups by ability, we are taught that it is better to look smart rather than stupid. So, if we can avoid a challenge — we do.

A challenge will result in two things. We succeed or we learn a lesson. If we don’t take on those challenges, then we don’t learn what doesn’t work, so we will never learn how to succeed. Failure is an option, don’t be scared of it.

How many times have you not done something because you might fail?

When you face an obstacle, what do you do? Do you persevere in face of obstacles and setbacks? Or do you give up and go and do something else?

Obstacles are frustrating. They slow you down, they make life difficult. Treat them as a challenge — failure is an option. The thing about obstacles is that all first attempts at getting round them are often half-arsed. We see them coming, we are dispirited by them. If you recognise that most first attempts are doomed to failure, you would take it less personally. The second attempt will be better (maybe only by a little) but IT WILL BE BETTER— and often the second attempt is MUCH better than first.

Most people quit after their first experience with things that don’t go well. As you get older, you use your experiences to guide you into what you do and don’t like doing. You may be missing out on something great because of one bad experience, that you couldn’t get over.

As a child my first experience of fish was fish fingers, and then fish and chips. White fish covered in batter — it tasted great, I didn’t realise what a fish really looked like. The first time I saw a fish on my plate, my mother left it with its head and tail on. The sight of its eye looking up at me freaked me out! In my mind, I hated all fish — I hated everything that came from the sea!.

It wasn’t until 30 years later, while on holiday in Italy, that my wife persuaded me to try seafood, it is awesome! I have been denying myself something because of a bad experience, I hadn’t been able to get around the obstacle of the fishes head.

Achievement is the same, if we stop at the first obstacle we miss out on that achievement. You want to run a marathon? You don’t give up because the first hundred yards hurts too much. You turn up the next day and try again, those that turn up achieve more than those that don’t.

When you need to put in the effort what do you do? Putting the hard work in paves the way to success, but often having to work hard at something to be successful is seen as a negative. We think that because some one else does something easily, we should be able to. So, because it is hard, we can’t be good rat it, we are not suited to this task. We are not smart of talented. We don’t consider the effort that those who are good at something have put into it in the past. The simple fact that we can’t do it easily means that it is beyond us.

Can you see how each of these situations start to build up. I might fail, the challenge is too great, I have tried it before, it didn’t go well, so I shouldn’t try again, it is too hard, others find it much easier than me, so I can’t be good at it.

How do you respond to criticism? Do you embrace it or ignore it? No one likes to be told that what they are doing is wrong or not good enough, we have invested our time and energy into something so it has value to us. But criticism has a purpose — yes even the stuff that just says “That’s terrible.” It is feedback, it aids us in learning. Getting feedback helps us improve much more quickly, we can evaluate it and implement it. Constructive feedback is more useful, but even negative comments can help us if we reflect on what we did.

Just because someone tells us that it was terrible, doesn’t mean that it will always be terrible. Remember there are two outcomes, success or a lesson on how to improve. (Even successes can have lessons on how to improve).

How do you view the success of others? Other people’s success should be a source of inspiration. If you view it as a threat, if it makes you feel insecure and vulnerable then you won’t learn from what they have done. Looking at what other people have done and emulating the successful behaviours can give you a short-cut to success. (You will still need to put the effort in — there is no get successful easily hack).

If you dismiss other’s success with “They got lucky!” “They had an unfair advantage.” Then you are missing a trick. Life isn’t fair, life doesn’t care about your success or failure, it just is.

These are lessons that we already know as adults, but we often ignore. Start thinking about these situations and change the way you view them. Simply by accepting that life is hard, and you will have to try more than once, putting in the effort and learning from failure you will be ahead of 95% of your peers.

If you had been encouraged to learn this as a child, how much more successful would you be now?