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How Successful People Think: 10 Mindsets to Cultivate

How Successful People Think: 10 Mindsets to Cultivate

Where you see people succeeding in ways you want to emulate in your own life, know that it’s not by accident or luck that they got there. The truth is they learned how to think in ways which brought them that success.

Whether you’re looking to experience better results and/or quality of life in your career, business or any other area of your life, you can. You simply need to examine where you feel your mindset might lack clarity, structure and direction.

As you look at the following mindsets and how successful people think, you’ll be pleasantly shocked to discover the missing links between where you are and where you want to me.

1. A Growth Mindset from Intrinsic Motivation

Chasing tangible rewards as validating measures of our success satisfies our human senses. However, we can be chaining ourselves to a dangerous psychological treadmill when we pin how we measure our personal success to things which are inanimate and extrinsic.

Even worse, attributing success to trophies makes it extremely difficult to weather the stormy challenges that erupt and can completely derail us on the way. What will sustain your motivation to succeed?

Pivotal research by psychologists and researchers Edward Deci, Richard Ryan and Richard Koestner revealed significant findings highlight the risk of attaching our success to external rewards. Their meta analysis of 128 studies found intrinsic motivation decreased by a whopping 36% when external tangible rewards were being chased.[1] Lessons from Carol Dweck’s lifetime of research also teaches us that developing and exercising a growth mindset supports us drawing motivation, resilience and energy to maintain the pursuit of our goals to achieve success regardless of the reward.

Mistakes are re-written as learning experiences. Failures become lessons teaching us how to adapt, change and improve. We become able to see opportunities regardless of the trials and tribulations we face.

By practicing and adopting these perspectives, your emotional attachment and desperation to achieve certain outcomes in certain ways softens. Your resilience is much stronger and you’re able to get back on track faster and stronger, chasing your dreams without so much as a speed hump on your journey to success.

You still inevitably make the stakes to achieve the external rewards you desire. The difference is this momentum and energy you need now comes internally from a constantly flowing foundation of passion and drive.

2. Goal-Oriented with a Grounded Emotional Compass

Goal-setting isn’t simply a matter of setting a target to hit and a deadline as to when you’ll hit it. It’s engaging in well-researched, planned and staged thinking coupled with measured and well-resourced actions and behavior.

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The other essential ingredient to developing and applying an effective goal-setting mindset is having sound wisdom of the emotional, personal satisfaction that will signal you have achieved your successes.

Knowing what achieving your measures of success means and says about you is essential. If you don’t know why you’re chasing certain ambitions and even worse, if those reasons are not truly your own, you risk heading down a path that you’ll come to realize brings you little personal fulfillment and emotional enlightenment.

In Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open, he candidly conveys he hated tennis but now loves the game for the platform it offered him to set up the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. Through his personal experience of being shipped to tennis school to practice six hours daily, Agassi recognizes he lost the love and support he needed from his parents to survive in such a high-pressure environment and structure from an early age.

For children to be their best, his foundation seeds education which focuses particularly on providing a nourishing, supportive and empathetic environment for developing champions. Agassi’s goals are clear to the world. The over-arching drive to succeed at all costs is almost non-verbal; it’s clearly and powerfully emotional.

3. Imaginal

More research is demonstrating the power of harnessing an absent-mindedly applied skill we use every day: daydreaming.[2] According to Harvard Medical School’s Assistant Professor in psychiatry, Dr. Srini Pillay, our mind is aimlessly wandering for approximately 46.9% of our waking day.

For decades, elite athletes have been well-known the world over to use orchestrated visualization – also known as imagery – as a bread and butter skill to help them hone skills, techniques and their mindsets. Starting his lifetime exploration into why we daydream in the 1950s, Jerome Singer coined three styles in which we mentally procrastinate:

  • Positive constructive daydreaming (PDC) refers to planning, playful and creative imagery we engage in;
  • Guilty dysphoric day-dreaming which encompasses obsessive, anguishing fantastical thinking; and
  • Poor attentional control which is our inability to remain focused on a task which is necessary but often undesirable, an all too familiar feeling to those of us who’ve had to study oceans of information toward passing an exam.

More recent research by Johnathan Schooler and Johnathan Smallwood explains how your procrastinating habits can actually serve you.[3] If you haven’t already, it’s time to capitalize on the benefits orchestrating PCD to chase your own measures of success.

Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging show your brain cannot tell the difference between what’s real and imagined. As a result, other systems within your brain start to direct your behavior in response to what you see in your mind’s eye.

Your reticular activating system in your brain stem also serves as a radar and deciphering system for information and opportunities that help you toward your cause. When you direct your brain to ‘daydream’ about the things you want to be, do, experience and have you direct your brain to proactively work for you; as opposed to having it haphazardly fall into the guilty dysphoric or poor attentional control patterns that don’t serve you — this requires practice.

First, developing your imagery skills with a performance or sport psychologist will skyrocket your momentum to achieving success. You will feel far less cluttered in your mind, clarity around your day to day activities will be far stronger. And emotionally, you feel purposeful even if achieving your goals toward success entails treading a longer, challenging path.

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4. Accountability

Failures and mistakes are a natural and (unfortunately) uncomfortable part of our human existence. What many of us don’t realize is that owning up to mistakes, failures and errors actually increases our emotional resilience, not to mention respect in the eyes of others and their willingness to support us.

The decisions we make across all areas of our lives are often the hardest. Take responsibility early by exercising forethought about the different consequences your decisions and actions could unleash. How could your decisions help? Who they benefit? Who could they hurt? What will be the collateral damage? Are you prepared to mitigate the fall-out?

Deliberate consideration of the consequences of your decisions and actions before you execute them will greatly increase your likelihood of making choices that align with your conscience.

When you make choices using this compass, it won’t matter whether perfect outcomes or perilous circumstances come to pass. You’ll be emotionally and mentally equipped to handle it because you’re operating from a considered, authentic place.

5. Emotionally Intelligent

To succeed in life often means you’ll require the support of others. It almost goes without saying you, therefore, need to invest in considering how to plant, water and nourish your relationships with those people whose love, support and guidance you will need.

Givers give because takers take. Takers take because givers give. Despite the clinical description, realizing in all friendships and relationships are indeed transactions will serve you to better experience better quality, genuine, emotionally and mentally satisfying exchanges.

Possessing an emotionally intelligent mindset isn’t just about having awareness of your own emotions, self-regulating them and being aware of those for others. It’s also about investing in learning how to nurture and influence the emotional status of others to help you all in your cause.

6. Entrepreneurial

You might wonder how exercising an entrepreneurial mindset could help you achieve success in your personal life. Cleverly marketing your product or service, networking, strategically sharing your goals with the right people, taking chances and managing risks are activities which can greatly accelerate you toward your personal goal targets.

Think about it. If you are single but wanting to find that person to spend the rest of your life with, you are the product. Your current thinking and habits may be what have kept you single. Now those patterns need to change.

As opposed to staying in each night in front of the television, you will need to go networking. Commit to exploring different ways to meet people and go on dates. Share your goal with your friends you are ready now to meet people. Be open to opportunities. You may even have one of your friends ready with a strategic telephone call as a fast escape route if you feel unsafe.

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Strategize a plan, risk-manage stepping out of your comfort zone and go forth. You can’t help but become a better version of yourself along the way.

7. Peak Performance, not Perfectionism

Whilst the pursuit of excellence seems like a noble cause, perfectionism can have detrimental effects on both individuals and the organizations they work for.

Research has been showing that whilst perfectionist tendencies are indicative of individuals with higher motivation and conscientiousness to deliver quality output in the workplace, there are also strong correlations with individuals experiencing stress, burnout[4]  and anxiety.[5]

A meta-analysis of 95 studies led by Assistant Professor Brian Swider at the University of Florida, explored relationships between employee effectiveness and perfectionism, finding no clear relationship between perfectionism and performance.[6]

If you have principles and expectations to achieve perfection in even one area of your life, it might be time to consider embracing the sentiment of the phrase “near enough is good enough”.

If you find it hard to let go, it might be high time to consider working with a therapist to explore if your perfectionist tendencies are stalling your progress toward achieving success. There’s also a risk you could be doing injustice to your work colleagues and the organization you work for, too.

8. Exercise a Scale and Leverage Mindset

If you own or run a business, thinking about how you can achieve a return on investment in any opportunity that presents itself, is an imperative mindset feature. Even as an employee or a stay at home parent, you’ll do yourself incredible favors emotionally and mentally if you’re looking at how you can maximize and leverage your time.

Would it be wiser and more economical for you to do the household ironing and cleaning? Don’t just consider this from a time and money perspective. Also, consider your own energy and brain power as a highly-prized commodity. If your earning capacity is $100 per hour, would you look to:

  • Pay a bookkeeper to get on top of your home-business receipts for two hours a week at $50 an hour and do the household chores yourself; or
  • Do the bookkeeping yourself and pay someone to do the ironing and cleaning for three hours a week at $25 an hour?

Either option is going to bring better use of your time than doing both. The decision you make comes from considering what you’re undertaking the activity that will serve your highest priorities and delegating those which don’t. When you do what’s most important to you, you’ll not only do it highly effective, you’ll also enjoy doing it. Find ways and move toward letting go of what’s tedious for you, where you can and you’ll move faster and more enjoyable toward reaching your goal milestones.

9. Learn To Teach

It’s one thing to read, watch a video or attend a lecture or conference. It’s common knowledge that the majority of information we have received, we forget within a 48 hour period.

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What stops most of us from achieving the success we want is not taking action afterward. We change nothing and the status quo remains.

Diving in deep to apply a brand new skill can be scary. One of the ways to help you develop the confidence to apply your new knowledge is to set up practice opportunities with people who will be non-judgemental, supportive and understand you’re developing your skills. See yourself as a messenger to teach these people what you have learned and practice your skills at the same time.

Research shows that when you teach others what you have learned, you actually learn more and accelerate your ability to apply new skills more effectively.[7] Your confidence will massively expand and you will love even more what you’re learning.

10. Dare Greatly

Stretch your vision of what you want to reach for.

Martial arts teaches us that to pulverize an inch-thick plank of wood in half with one strike, our arm’s full stretch doesn’t stop at the board. We aim to hit a point which is beyond it and break the board en route to our arm’s full stretch.

When you’re setting goals, think of the target you want to reach and ask yourself to set the target a little further. Be playful and cheeky. State the target of your goals and always add: “This, or better.”

Be cautious to never put a cap on the levels of success you can reach.

Final Thoughts

One thing that connects all the above points is that successful people don’t do the normal or expected thing.

The norm, is the regular, the conventional standard. And to truly stand out become successful, you need to do things differently.

Whether it’s one or all of these mindsets you identify as your missing links between where you are and where you want to be, the great news is now you know your benchmarks from which to spring forward.

More Articles to Help You Achieve Success

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Malachi Thompson

Executive Leadership and Performance Consultant

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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