How to Train your Mindset: Five-a-Day to Domesticate your Inner Dragon
The human mind is like a dragon, with a twoheaded superhuman power: one head wreaks chaos in the world and one makes magic in it.
One of Life’s most important challenges is to learn to manage that power. How you do this gives you your unique creative signature for success… or your formula for a lifetime of frustrating failure. How you do this creates the meaning of your life.
Mind over Matter
One of the greatest predictors of your success is your Mindset. Your mindset is the set of assumptions, beliefs, methods or interpretations you hold… about anything. Groups have mindsets too, and in order to stay powerful, those groups – and the individuals within them – must challenge those assumptions. Because adaptability and flexibility are crucial ingredients of relevance.
As a human being you are wired to make sense of what you experience. Neuroscience tells us your brain helps you do that by…
- Answering questions
- Seeing patterns
- Creating associations
Sometimes the answers, the patterns and the associations are accurate. But often they’re not, especially if you’ve been gathering evidence all your life to support the ones you formed as a child. And this is exactly what we all do.
How often do you challenge your own assumptions?
Growth versus Fixed Mindsets
Probably the most familiar name in Mindset theory today is Carol Dweck, the professor/researcher at Stanford who coined the terms Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset. By studying students’ reactions to failure Dweck observed two distinct types of thinking:
- In one group, students believe that their abilities are innate, and failure means they lack the abilities required to succeed. In other words, you’re stuck with what you have and you can’t change it. You are simply doomed to fail. This set of beliefs she called the Fixed Mindset.
- In the second group, students believe that their abilities are acquired with the necessary work; failure means you need to keep working until you succeed. In other words, you can grow your abilities with training, effort and persistence. You can change, and the result is a more successful, less stressful, life. This set of beliefs she called the Growth Mindset.
But Mindset itself is a byproduct of something deeper. So let’s go there.
Mindset & The Roots of Meaning
Having earned my degree in psychology way back when, I’d like to look back a little farther, to a few of the philosophical roots of modern psychology.
- According to Danish existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, meaning is a lived experience – a quest to find your own values, beliefs and purpose in a meaningless world. Kierkegaard (1813-1855) proposed that the crucial thing in life is to find your own truth – the core idea for which you are willing to live and die – and then to live your life accordingly. Meaning is a process.
- French philosopher/artist/activist Jean Paul Sartre did not necessarily belief even in purpose. Unlike Kierkegaard, a Christian, Sartre (1905-1980) was an atheist; he did not believe we are created, nor that we have an innate essence; we simply exist, and our lives have meaning by what we do with them. Meaning is not given but achieved by how we live. So meaning is unique to each person who lives.
- For Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Victor Frankl (1905-1997), meaning is something we create for ourselves. During his internment in four Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust, he formulated his idea that life has meaning under all circumstances, that finding meaning in our lives is our main motivation, and we are always free to do so. Meaning occurs when we identify a positive purpose for our lives and immerse ourselves in it.
The Meaning of Life is not discovered. It is created. You create it every day by how you live. The result is your Mindset.
Frankl recognized three ways we give our lives meaning:
- Creation - by creating a work or doing a deed
- Experience - by experiencing something or encountering someone
- Attitude - by the attitude we take toward inevitable suffering
I see all three of these as acts of creativity. Creativity is not just an act of creation. It’s not even a mindset of innovation. Creativity is a way of life and living.
Mind makes matter… and Meaning from it.
Everything that exists started as an idea in someone’s mind.
Somewhere along the way every innovator, every creator (i.e. every human being) has to confront the naysayers (within and without) who tell them theirs is a stupid idea. Not just once, but time after time after time. You can’t control the external voices, but you can manage the internal ones.
It is how we manage these internal voices (including how we respond to the external ones) that determines the quality of our lives. You create your own stories about your life. You give all your experiences a meaning by how you interpret them. Knowing this – and learning how to use the skill – is the difference between Heaven and Hell on Earth.
How to Train your Mindset
To create you must disrupt. When your brain doesn’t read situations accurately, you have to challenge your assumptions, make your default patterns conscious and practice detaching from them. You have to become a disruptor.
Only you can free your mindset. Pull back the curtain. You assign value to everything around you. You might name it Good or Bad. It might empower you or strip you of power. But remember, you can always reframe any situation to give it a more empowering meaning.
Since your mind is designed to…
- Answer questions… ask yourself how you can improve the quality of those questions. Replacing the thought, “How could you do that?!” with the thought, “How could you do that differently?” will dramatically change the answers you have to work with… and the quality of life you can create with them.
- See patterns… ask yourself how you can interrupt those patterns. Replacing “Either/or” with “Both/and” offers you the “out of the box” kind of thinking that opens you up to new possibilities where none existed before.
- Create associations… ask yourself how you can invite new elements into those associations. Replacing “You always…” with “What if…” allows equally viable solutions to emerge through a flood of imaginary possibilities.
The Five-a-Day of Mindset Training
- Food. What do you feed your mind? How might upgrading your thoughts contribute to your success? …support you to achieve your vision?
- Water. How do you contain and channel your emotions? What are the negative thoughts or limiting beliefs that no longer serve you? Where do you go when the going gets tough? Do you seek relief or do you make space for information? Who in your life can support you through to the other side of intense times?
- Rest. What do you need to let go of for your mind to think more clearly? What do you need to stop doing to make space for creative energies to flow?
- Discipline. What actions do you need to add/subtract/adjust to achieve your vision? What are the next steps you need to take?
- Reward. Where do you look for inspiration? How do you celebrate your achievements? How do you nourish yourself when the well is running dry?
Stop waiting for someone else to do this for you. This is your one and only life. If you do not get your turn this time around (whatever that means for you), only you will regret it.
Live loud. Live now. Live creatively. And train you dragon to make magic out of chaos.
And if you'd like to learn more about creating a positive purpose with your life, check out my free QuickStart e-guide to explore the magic within you. www.wheelofcreativity.com/quickstart