The path to self-enlightenment and happiness is not paved with stardust and lined with unicorns. Nor is it a journey we can take our family, friends, or boss on, hoping that if we can change their behaviour then everything else will magically fall into pace. This is one road we need to travel alone if we really want to reap the rewards of a more purposeful and abundant life. It’s time to ditch the habits that are dragging us down, and design the life that makes us want to jump out of bed in the morning.
- Avoid playing the blame game. The reality of the human experience is that we get to experience the highs, the lows and everything in between. When things are going well we accept them more easily, but when times get tough it’s human nature to look for causes and seek an explanation for our circumstances. Often this involves looking to people, places or events on which to allocate blame. The problem is that if we are always looking to external forces as the cause of our situation, we give away our power over our experiences. To live in an empowered state we need to take responsibility for how we act and react in any situation. We always have a choice and we are ‘response able‘.
- Change the language of the voice in your head. Our mind will only ever respond to two things – the words we say to ourselves and the images we create in our heads. This determines our reality so we need to make sure they’re worth watching and listening to. We need to tell our minds exactly what we want in very specific and positive terms. The mind is wired to work in the affirmative, so if we say I DON’T want something, the mind interprets this as I WANT that same thing. For example, “I don’t want to be lonely” becomes “I want to be lonely” or “I don’t want to be poor” becomes “I want to be poor’. Negative words are almost imperceptible to the mind, so we need to frame our dialogue in the positive. Try saying “I have a wonderful circle of friends”, or “I have everything I need.”
- Embrace an abundance mindset. To believe in abundance is to believe that there is plenty of everything – resources, love, relationships, wealth, opportunity etc. An abundance mindset is a direct result of believing that we absolutely deserve everything we desire – that we deserve to be here exactly as we are, perfectly imperfect and totally worthy of love, success and happiness. So turn up the dial on your self-worth and invite abundance into your life. When you lock on to what you already have, you also attract more of it.
- Let toxic people go. Remember that our vibe attracts our tribe and vice versa. Any emotion, be it positive and upbeat such as happiness or enthusiasm; as well as negative emotions such as anger and fear, are easily passed from one party to another, without either consciously realising it. This means that our happiness is directly related to that of our friends, our family, anyone in our inner circle. The same can be said for negative emotions, which are as toxic as second hand smoke. We need to be careful what energy we are surrounding ourselves with and whether this energy serves or depletes us. Surround yourself with people who instil confidence and boost self-esteem.
- Stop Reliving Your Failures. Move on from challenges and obstacles and simply embrace them as a learning opportunity. Reliving the past doesn’t give us the power to change it, so we need to move on. This quote from JK Rowling points to the very necessity of failure “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case you fail by default.”
- Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. No matter who you are, how successful you are, how intelligent or attractive you are, or how wealthy you are, there will always be someone who has more. Comparing yourself to others will drain you physically and emotionally, over and over again. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’, and an artful one at that. Remember that nobody is you, exactly like you, and that is your true power.
The concept of a growth mindset was first proposed by Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor, who suggested that our beliefs around intelligence and personality have a significant impact on how we live and what we accomplish. Dweck identified two opposing mindsets that lead to very different outcomes in the context of self-awareness and success.
The ‘fixed’ mindset is based on:
- A constant need for approval, demonstrating and affirming over and over that intelligence, skills, talents, character and personality traits are sufficient for success.
- An assumption that all traits are permanent and cannot be influenced.
- Assessing every experience according to how the individual is perceived i.e. success versus failure, smart versus dumb, accepted versus rejected, or winner versus loser.
- Accepting the ‘hand that was dealt’ and spending a lifetime proving that this is enough, even where there is a personal sense of deficiency or lack.
- Safety - because it doesn’t allow straying outside the comfort zone.
- Can be exhausting due to the constant need for validation.
Conversely the ‘growth’ mindset is based on:
- A passion and desire for continuous learning.
- A belief that individual potential – the combined application of intelligence, talent, aptitude, creativity, and behaviour can be improved by experience, motivation and practice. Nothing is fixed.
- The tenacity and resilience to apply oneself leads to personal accomplishment – talent is the reward of effort.
- A belief that success can be cultivated.
- An appreciation that setbacks are an opportunity for learning.
A growth mindset gives us freedom and empowerment, a knowing that we are in charge of our own destiny. When we operate from this perspective we have an absolute belief that anything is possible and our potential continues to expand as we move towards it. We see our success as something that is completely within our control and take all steps necessary to bring our goals to fruition.
Conversely, when we operate from a fixed mindset, we see our future as pre-determined. We shy away from challenges and opportunities that present development and growth because there is a risk of failure. We stay small and safe, but we sabotage our future potential and put limits around our capacity for success, health and happiness.
So how can we make the shift to a growth mindset?
- Embrace imperfection. Remember that nothing in nature is perfect. Perfection goes against the very law of nature. It is a race you cannot win, and one you will never finish. Every time you think you’re getting closer to those illustrious goal posts, they move. It’s a long and exhausting road that has no end. Don’t hide your imperfections, celebrate them. These are what make you unique. Acknowledge your weaknesses and reframe them as an opportunity for growth.
- Swap the word ‘failing’ with ‘learning’. Every time you make a mistake you have learned something new. Every failure, big or small, is a single step on the road to success. Stop and really listen to what your failures are telling you and decide how you will adapt moving forward. You are building a strong resilience muscle in the process.
- Stop approval seeking. You don’t need to prove yourself to anybody. The need for approval kills freedom. Learn to accept yourself for who you are. Your opinion is the only one that really matters and a little bit of self-appreciation goes a long way. When you make any decision, check in with how it feels to you and validate based on internal rather than external needs.
- See criticism as productive. Criticism doesn’t always need to be perceived as negative. It’s simply a matter of context. Reframe criticism as another opportunity to learn and adapt, to push you out of your comfort zone and embrace a different perspective. When delivered with the right intent, it is simply a form of communication and feedback that can be used to propel you forward.
Everything in life starts with ‘self’. This is the innermost circle, and the centre of all things. So it stands to reason that on the road to personal and career success, the journey must start with you. So what really makes you, you?
To understand this at a really simple level, consider that we are all made up of a number of layers, just like an onion. And while there are many layers, lets focus on the ones that have the biggest impact on behaviour. After all, it’s behaviour that is the key driver for success. So behaviour is determined by our needs, values, experiences and beliefs.
Let’s break that down:
- Needs – physical and emotional requirements for us to live a healthy life.
- Values – what we determine as being most important in life and which guide our motivations and actions.
- Experiences – the things that happen to us and how we interpret them.
- Beliefs – what we determined to be true based on the meaning we give our experiences. These can be either ‘limiting’ (stop us from doing something) or ‘empowering’ (propel us to do something).
When we take time to understand these layers we can better identify and connect to our own internal state. It is tuning into our needs, values, experiences and beliefs that gives us an understanding of why we do what we do (our behaviours) and start to challenge ourselves to do things differently and better (new habits).
Self-awareness allows us to view a situation or experience objectively rather than critically and to challenge our thinking around self-limiting beliefs. When we learn to see things from a different perspective and reframe our experiences, we can face challenges more easily and develop improved relationships with self and others. Self-awareness facilitates an ability to accept opinions, feedback and criticism from others without being negatively affected by it.
It invites a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset, where we can embrace failure, engage in continuous learning, and continue to develop talent over a lifetime. Rather than being paralysed by uncertainty, we can think outside the box, and act confidently to remove obstacles that get in our way. Our judgment is sound and rooted in logic, rather than clouded by emotional reaction.
So, the big question is, how do we do it? Following are some simple tips:
1. Identify your needs – write down the emotional and physical things that you require to function at your best and ensure you are meeting as many of them as possible. While it’s not realistic to have all of our needs met all of the time, it is important to understand what they are so we can direct our energies towards having them in place.
2. Identify your values – having an appreciation of what motivates you into action is really important. Your values point to the things that you have identified as being most important in life, and any decision you make or action you take is based on an underlying value.
3. Get to know your emotional triggers – these come from our experiences and the meaning that we attach to those experiences. For example, consider a child that answers a question incorrectly at school, or is asked to read aloud and falters over a sentence, who forms a belief that they are dumb. As an adult, this individual may be emotionally triggered in the workplace by any feedback that suggests they are lacking in a skill or area of knowledge.
4. Ask for feedback and take it on board – it’s important to seek feedback in the context of personal growth and not take it as an insult. Remember that without development, your weaknesses can impact future potential and success. So use it as an improvement opportunity and choose to be empowered by it.
5. Practice self-discipline – if you want to rein in the behaviours and tasks that take you off track and interfere with achieving your goals, you need to practice some self-discipline. Self-discipline keeps you focused on what you believe matters, helping to shape positive habits that move you in the direction of your goals.
6. Meditate – mediation is a great way to improve awareness in the moment. It doesn’t always need to involve a yoga mat, guided relaxation apps, or a 30-minute lie down. Meditation can be as simple as focused deep breathing, even if only for a few seconds. You can ask yourself questions in this space to get clarity around any issues or obstacles that have presented themselves.
7. Consider doing a behavioural profile – these are a great way to gain immediate and accurate insights into what drives your behaviour – what makes you who you are, the environments that suit you, how you communicate, what energises you and what causes you stress. There are a number of free profiles online or several paid options if you want to check out DiSC, Myers Briggs or True Colours.
Remember that self-awareness is key to personal growth and success. With accurate information regarding strengths and weaknesses, motivation, behaviour style, and learning preferences, you are free to ‘get out of your own way’ and achieve everything you want to achieve – be it business or personal!
If you want to know more about mindset and self-awareness coaching please get in touch. I would love to help!