In every single situation we experience in our lives, there’s the situation itself, and then there’s the story we tell ourselves about the situation.
Every single action we take (or don’t take) is a reflection of these stories that we tell ourselves.
For example, say you’re standing in an elevator and a beautiful girl walks in. You desperately want to say something, but you end up talking yourself out of it because the last time you tried talking to a beautiful girl you froze up, had a mini panic attack, and the few words that did make it out of your mouth made absolutely no sense.
Because of that one bad experience, now every time you want to talk to a girl you tell yourself that there’s no point in trying, because you’re probably just going to make a fool yourself again. So, instead, you stand there in the corner of the elevator silently kicking yourself for being such a wimp.
This is just one example, but how often do we do this, without even realizing it? We take one bad experience and extrapolate it to all future experiences. We let one bad experience convince us that there’s no point in trying, so we give up. And then we complain about feeling “stuck.”
But the only reason why we’re stuck in the first place is because we gave up before we even gave ourselves a chance to succeed.
The Fixed Mindset vs. The Growth Mindset
You’ve probably heard of the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
The fixed mindset says, “I am good at this,” or “I am bad at this.” It also says, “I’m not good enough… I just can’t change… This is who I am.”
The growth mindset, on the other hand, says, “Anyone can be good at anything. Skill comes only from practice.”
Everyone wants to have a growth mindset, but few people actually do. Few people actually believe—really, genuinely believe—that they are capable of achieving anything they set their mind to, so as long as they devote the necessary time and effort.
Most people will get a burst of inspiration after reading an article like this one, and for a short period of time—a day, a couple of days, maybe even a week—try to approach their life with more of a growth mindset.
But, as soon as they’re confronted with a difficult situation that requires them to act on that mindset, they fall victim to the same destructive stories and negative thinking they’ve always struggled with. And just like that, they revert back to a fixed mindset.
How To Develop And Maintain A Growth Mindset
So, how do you permanently maintain a growth mindset, eradicate negative thinking and be more confident?
“Just believe in yourself! Accept yourself for who you are!” – Every self-help guru ever
Not very helpful, I know.
Everyone talks about the importance of having a growth mindset, but no one talks about how to actually go about developing and maintaining a growth mindset.
Here are a few things that have helped me.
1. Knowing that lasting change takes time, prepare your mind for the long haul.
Any change that happens overnight will not last. On the flip side, the longer a change takes, the longer it will last. Viewing things from this perspective, you’ll be less likely to let small failures discourage you from continuing, because you know that failure is just a natural part of the process.
Success is the result of small intervals of improvement, over long periods of time. Improvement, no matter how small, is improvement. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like you’re not improving fast enough. Constantly remind yourself that you’re in this for the long game.
2. Devote time to internalizing key learnings and new thought patterns.
Most people will hear something that makes them stop and think, “Wow, that’s SO true,” but then forget about it by the next day.
From now on, if you hear something that you know will help you, write it down and then do whatever it takes to make it a part of your every day thinking.
I recently listened to an amazing podcast interview with Tim Ferriss and Derek Sivers, and in it Derek talks about the reason why he started taking notes on every book he reads (he now has notes on over 200 books on his website), and why he’d go back to re-read his notes on a daily basis — because he wanted to internalize what he was learning. Not just learn it and forget it.
This is such a simple thing to do, yet no one does it. Here are some key phrases I’ve spent a lot of time internalizing over the last few years:
- “Any attempt at action is better than inaction. An attempt can go wrong, but inaction inevitably results in failure.”
- “You cannot change the outer event, so you must change the inner experience.”
“If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard, but if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.”
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
“Work hard; forget about the outcomes.”
- “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
- “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”
- “Be confident enough to ask, but humble enough not to expect.”
3. Do little things to build your confidence.
Beliefs are built on experiences. This is why we extrapolate one bad experience to all future experiences. But, this is also why doing things that are hard, no matter how small and stupid they may seem, makes it easier to do more hard things.
A few examples of little things that can make a big difference:
Remember, beliefs are built on experience, and because confidence is nothing more than a belief– a belief in your own ability–don’t underestimate the power of doing little things to build your confidence.
No matter where it stems from, self-confidence will carry over into all areas of your life.
It isn’t easy to change negative thinking, but if you keep these things in mind (and devote some time to really internalizing them), you’ll slowly begin to change the stories you tell yourself, and that will change every thing. You’ll still hear your old stories try to creep in every now and then, but you will learn to ignore them, and eventually, they will disappear entirely.
In the mean time…
- Pick out at least one main idea from this post that “clicked” with you. Write it down in a note in your phone, and the next time you catch yourself thinking negatively, pull out your phone and read it aloud to yourself.
- Leave a comment answering this question: What’s a story you tell yourself (or used to tell yourself) that has prevented you from taking action? Alternatively, what’s one key learning or thought pattern that you’d like to better internalize in your life?
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