Success is a choice and choosing to be successful – in family life, in business, in relationships, in health – is a matter of deciding to set goals and attain them. Reaching goals does not have to be an overwhelming prospect, though. Creating a mindset that welcomes success is about taking small steps toward a larger objective.
A Fixed Mindset can Impede Progress
According to Carol S. Dweck, author and professor at Stanford University, success or failure is directly related to one’s mindset. She contends that individuals are either fixed-minded or growth-minded. A fixed mindset categorizes personal traits like intelligence and character as unchanging or etched in stone. A growth mindset determines that traits and qualities can be improved with effort. Individuals operating with a fixed mindset often find it difficult to advance in their careers, are ineffective in leadership positions, and are generally more pessimistic about life. They are unable to admit when they are wrong and do not adapt to change well. Those with a fixed mindset cannot gauge their own abilities accurately, feel that their current intelligence level (and the intelligence of others) is permanent, are frequently judgmental, and are unable to read other’s ability to change.
This is not to suggest that those with a fixed mindset are any less interested in advancing or succeeding than their growth-minded peers. “The irony of a fixed mindset,” says Dweck, “is you want to be so successful so badly that it stands in the way of going where you want to go.”
Overcoming a Fixed Mindset
Often, a fixed mindset is the result of years of personal experience or emotional trauma that has caused psychological pain or doubt in one’s worth. The seeds are planted in childhood or adolescence and may be very difficult to overcome. As perceived disappointments mount, the negative or defeatist mindset compounds until an individual believes this perception to be reality. Achieving success and true fulfillment requires amending a fixed mindset. The process must begin with a period of intense self-evaluation.
Question deeply entrenched personal beliefs. Examine self-image and identify ways in which the subconscious mind limits success or growth. Pay attention to the inner voice that prevents progress or complicates goal-setting. For instance, an individual wishes to lose weight. If he is of a fixed mindset, his inner voice will constantly flood his subconscious with reasons why he is wasting his time – the holidays are coming and the weight will just come back, there is too much going on at work, it will require too much effort, it will never work, etc. Conquering this kind of self defeat is crucial to obtaining success.
The next phase in the process is to focus on a goal. Whether it is to get a better job, be happier in one’s marriage, be a better parent, or buy a bigger house, the goal should be something significant and meaningful. Once a large goal has been established, create a path to that goal by plotting several smaller goals along the way. These mini goals represent tangible, attainable steps that will eventually lead to the main objective. Breaking substantial goals into stages reduces the weight of achieving what is truly desired and puts success closer at hand by situating many little victories along the way. This generates a sense of encouragement that keeps an individual focused upon the process; the main goal is reached organically, without much of the trepidation and disappointment of past attempts.
The man who wants to lose weight may set a smaller goal of taking a 10 minute walk after dinner every evening for an entire week. At the end of the week, he might set a new goal of a 20 minute walk every day for the next week. Each week is another victory and by the end of a month he’s lost ten pounds. In taking these specific, manageable steps toward his main goal he is quieting the negative inner voice that was overwhelmed by the vague idea of losing weight.
Priming for Success
Once those negative inner voices have been quieted, it is still necessary to open oneself to the possibility of success. This is especially true for those who have long believed themselves unworthy or ill-equipped for achievement or fulfillment.
Many individuals believe it is possible to train the mind in a new reality through positive affirmation and visualization. By repeating goals aloud or imagining a desired outcome, one can prepare the mind to be more receptive to change and to welcome it when it occurs. In this way, success gradually becomes an expected outcome, not something unusual or unlikely. Failure is transformed from an embarrassing circumstance or a defeating experience to an opportunity for learning and growth.
There are three central components to preparing the mind for success. These are gratitude, faith, and purpose.
*Having a gracious attitude toward individuals and situations allows one to find peace. One is able to let go of the past and learn from mistakes, grateful for the chance to have obtained an important lesson or to have had a particular experience.
*Nurturing a strong sense of purpose allows individuals to have full control over their futures and to set the terms for their own destiny. This creates a sense of power and ownership that is not easily defeated by the self, by others, by circumstance, or by setback.
*Faith is also important, and not necessarily the spiritual or religious type. Having faith in oneself and in one’s abilities is critical in building a link between past experience, present circumstance, and future goals. Trusting that change is possible is the driving force behind achieving success, no matter how dire the current state of affairs may seem.
Putting it into Practice
Altering one’s mindset is a constant, ongoing process. It is important to work diligently to maintain progress and to strive for further development. Encourage gratitude by acknowledging the present situation for what it is, and admit that no matter how bad it seems it could have been worse. Be thankful for the way events have unfolded and learn relevant lessons that will cultivate future success.
Fortify a sense of purpose by frequently setting goals, no matter how insignificant. Contemplate the things that are important and be brutally honest about what is truly desired. For some, it helps to write down these goals or discuss them with others. Keeping one’s wishes and desires at the forefront of consciousness ensures that one’s sense of purpose is never in danger of wavering.
Strengthen faith by practicing self care. This can be achieved through daily meditation, spiritual pursuits, physical activity, reading and writing, artistic endeavors like painting or sculpting, and any other way in which the self is nurtured and one’s self-confidence is boosted.
No matter how deeply ensconced one’s fixed mindset or negative self-image may be, there is always opportunity to silence the inner critic and open the mind to success.