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8 Successful Habits that Lead to a Winning Mindset

8 Successful Habits that Lead to a Winning Mindset

What makes a person successful?

What sorts of successful habits do they cultivate?

While there are a myriad of self-help strategies out there, focusing on mindset is one of the most important.

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Mindset determines your attitude when walking into any situation. Many “lucky” people only have a positive mindset to guide them. A negative mindset, alternatively, can cause a host of problems for people.

These are 8 successful habits that you can use to think yourself successful.

1. Affirmations

Think some positive thoughts about yourself. Eg. “I’m going to achieve my goal”. “I am a powerful, confident person”.

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The most effective time to do affirmations is first thing in the morning. That way, the benefits carry on throughout your day. Need some more examples? Here are 100 positive affirmations that cover all areas of life.

2. Negative visualization

Born out of the ancient Greek philosophy of stoicism, negative visualization involves picturing yourself losing what you have. While that doesn’t sound positive, it’s a useful exercise. For example, imagine your car vanished out of the driveway and you weren’t able to replace it. Really imagine how that would affect your life. Next time you jump in your car, you’ll be grateful to have it. How is this a successful habit? You’ll begin to treat where you are in life as a gift. Your problems will be of small consequence because you’ll be so grateful for all the things going right.

3. Choosing love

According to Harvard researchers, “Happiness is love. Full stop.” Choosing to have loving relationships in our lives is a big key to success and happiness. When it comes to love, you’re much more likely to get after you give. Spend some time on building loving relationships with friends, family, and even your pets.

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4. Gratitude

This habit is all about seeing the positive things in life. Being in a constant state of gratitude is what helps people carry on even in the toughest of times. Developing this mindset is as simple as keeping a gratitude journal. Simply write down three positive encounters that you had a part in creating, everyday. Your brain will begin to recognize positive situations unfolding and you can take full advantage of them. Gratitude also insulates you from the negativity in the world. If you only notice the bad things happening in life, it’s going to cause you stress.

5. Solution-oriented

Framing is the concept of viewing things from different perspectives. Most of us get stuck in a problem framework, where we see the problem and don’t search for solutions. A successful habit is to shift into using a solutions-based perspective. When a problem arises, don’t complain, dwell, or try to place blame. Simply start thinking of solutions to the problem and work at getting things back on track. Not only will this make you valuable in the eyes of others, it’s going to make you feel capable and confident.

6. Thinking flexibly

There’s a reason stubbornness is not considered a virtue. Inflexible people don’t lead effective lives. The more flexible you are, the more you will succeed. Consider this quote from Thomas Edison:

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“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have
succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have
eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will
work.”

Thomas Edison had a flexible way of thinking about failure. You can use the same concept to any roadblock you might encounter. Are problems insurmountable obstacles or merely challenges for you to overcome?

7. Curiosity

Being intensely curious is a massive part of success. Look at the most successful people today and this is a common trait you will find across all of them. Cultivating a curiosity mindset requires that you ask lots of questions, learn new skills wherever you can, and search for the silver lining in failure. You walk into new challenges, just to see if there’s some value to extract. You need curiosity to spot the opportunities that others won’t see and ultimately, to lead a fulfilling life.

8. Optimistic

We can’t be positive all the time but taking on an optimistic mindset is still worthwhile. Life rewards people who delay gratification and grind away at tasks. Without an optimistic mindset, you’re bound to give up early and often. You need to believe that the journey is worthwhile. It takes more than just thinking positive to adopt an optimistic mindset. It involves avoiding excessive negativity (like what can often be found on the evening news) and surrounding yourself with other optimists.

The reality is that we get one shot at life. A great mindset is the essential ingredient to a successful life. These successful habits will teach you to maintain an optimal mindset, regardless of the situation you find yourself in.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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