Friday, December 29, 2017

How Changing Your Mindset Can Change Your Life

It’s January.  It’s a new year full of new possibilities.  Want to know the fastest and most effective way to unlock those new possibilities?  It all starts with the way you think.  Yes, the way you think.  The truth is, you can write down a list of goals that will set the world on fire, but if you are still stuck in the same old self-defeating thought patterns, it’s likely those goals won’t be reached.  Why do you think most people fail in their “New Year Resolutions”?  There are a number of reasons, but one of the biggest is trying to insert new actions into a life with old, stale thinking.  The bottom line is that if you learn to think differently and imagine new possibilities, that change in thinking will enable you to get some serious traction on those goals.

In her book, “Mindset”, Carol Dweck writes brilliantly about what she calls the ‘fixed mindset’ versus the ‘growth mindset’. Understanding these mindsets and adjusting accordingly, may make all the difference in how effective and satisfied you are in 2018. 

First, let’s look at the fixed mindset.  This is a mindset that believes intelligence is static. People in this camp believe “they are the way they are”.  They see no real hope for any significant development of who they are.  Now, it’s important to say that believing this is believing a lie.  But, simply saying this is a lie and don’t believe it is not sufficient.  Let me explain why you must work to get out of and stay out of this fixed mindset. 

Although people with a fixed mindset generally believe they are the way they are, this does not mean they have less of a desire for a positive self-image than anyone else.  So, of course, they want to perform well and look smart.  This desire, coupled with the fixed mindset, leads to some negative tendencies to be front and center.  Just to name a few, people in this space tend to avoid challenges, give up easily when facing obstacles, see high effort as generally fruitless, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others.  As a result of these patterns of behavior, they may plateau early in life and achieve less than their full potential.  This, of course, ‘confirms’ their deterministic view of the world.

Now, let’s contrast this with the growth mindset.  People who hold this mindset believe that intelligence can be developed, that the brain is like a muscle that can be trained.  This leads to a desire to grow and improve.  Unlike their fixed mindset counterparts, these people believe their self-image is not tied to success or how they look to others.  For them, failure is not something to be avoided, but an opportunity to learn and grow.  So whatever happens, they win.  Generally, people in this mindset embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as a pathway to mastery, learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.  All this gives them a greater and greater sense of free will. 

So, it should be clear that the growth mindset is greater than the fixed mindset in every way.  However, this is real life and we all know that almost no one will have a 100% fixed mindset or a 100% growth mindset.  Most of us have some of both going on simultaneously.   If you’re hoping to operate in a growth mindset that may sound like bad news, but remember, free will is a gift at your disposal, so it is very possible to develop a worldview that’s ever-evolving from more of a fixed mindset to more of a growth mindset.  This is true even if you are on the older side of life and are “set in your ways”.  Dweck’s research indicates that both children and adults of all ages can be taught to change their mindsets. 

This is where a good coach can help you in 2018.  When you’re ready to get started changing that old self-defeating mindset, a great step is to get engaged with a coach who will challenge your thinking, ask you the hard questions and help you learn to think differently and imagine new possibilities.  Here’s to a happy and growth-filled new year!

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Power of the Pause

Are you a motivated individual?  Are you always moving forward?  Are you always working on the next goal?  Do you get pleasure from the hustle of creating your future?  If you’re nodding yes right now, I’m glad for you.  Those are generally good qualities to possess.  You’re well on your way to achieving your dreams.  However, let me ask you another set of questions.  Which day of the week do you generally take off to rest?  How often do you find quiet places to reflect?  What do your personal retreats look like?  How much do you value rest and reflection?  If you’re staring blankly at these words wondering why anyone would ask such silly questions, we need to talk.  You, my friend, need to understand the power of the pause.

But, why?  Why would you need to stop, rest and reflect?  You don’t get any work done that way.  You’re either taking ground or losing ground, right?  Wrong.  If you’re under the impression that you can just push, push, push and continue to take ground, you’ve bought into a lie.  Have you heard the Law of Diminishing Returns?  The Law of Diminishing Returns simply states that every individual will hit a point in time when productivity will drop off significantly and will not return, no matter how many hours worked and how hard that individual tries to push through the wall they feel they’ve hit.  Daily, you’ll usually hit this wall at the 8-10-hour point.  On a weekly basis, after 5-6 days.  Beyond that, you’ll need to experiment and figure you’re monthly and yearly rhythms.  Think of your life like a road trip.  Driving hard may get you to your destination, but every road-trip is filled with pauses to cool down and refuel.

If you’re a hard driver and have thought of rest and reflection as wasted time, let me share two truths that those of us who do take pauses have learned.

Truth #1: Magic happens when you create space to dream and reflect.  A great mentor of mine told me years ago, “Life happens in the margins.”  He was right.  What are the margins?  They are the buffer times in your schedule and your life.  If you have every minute scheduled, all the time, you have no margin and that’s no kind of life.  When you create these margins in your life, you’re creating space to dream and reflect.  Imagine how much more you could accomplish if you had a regular flood of new and creative thoughts come to you.  This is why you get some of your greatest ideas in the shower.  It’s because the shower may be the only place you ever stop working!  That’s the magic that happens when you create space to dream and reflect.  Have you ever taken a walk down streets you normally drive?  If you do, you’ll notice all kinds of things you’ve never seen before.  That mom and pop business that doesn’t have a flashy sign.  The beautiful fountain that’s slightly obscured by a strip mall.  A lone home in the middle of a retail district.  You gain a greater perspective when you slow down.  You see things that were previously hidden from sight.  Your best ideas will be hidden from you if you continue to drive hard all the time.  Slow down and create space in your life to dream and reflect.

Truth #2.  Energy naturally returns and increases through these times of rest and reflection.  Are you tired?  If you never pause, rest and reflect, the answer is certainly yes.  If you’re in the camp with so many others who desperately want more energy, let me tell you something.  A good night's sleep or a few hours unplugged from your work will give you 10x more energy than that 4-pack of Red Bull you use as a crutch.  You can’t argue with God’s design.  You’re an amazingly complex machine, but you were born with the design that requires rest.  Just like any other machine with a design, if you use it like it was intended to be used, it performs. If you use it in a way contrary to its design, it breaks down.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done nothing for nearly an entire day, feeling like I had no energy, only to magically feel my physical and mental energy hit 100% sometime in the late afternoon.  The only thing I did to replenish that energy was nothing.  We are made to rest and reflect.  If we don’t we are not using our bodies and minds as they were designed by our Creator.  No wonder we’re tired, sluggish and stuck. 

It’s counter-intuitive, but if you want max energy and max creativity, you must step back, rest and reflect.  It’s the power of the pause.  It’s real and you cannot ignore it.

Agree or disagree?  I'd like to know.  And I'd like to know why.  Please, leave a comment.

Friday, September 22, 2017

How To Become An Expert In Any Field (or at least learn a whole lot)

I pose the question, often, “How do you best manage your time?”  Since your time is your most valuable resource, it’s certainly the right question for you to answer.  So, let's talk about what you do daily to grow and learn.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying.  There is no plateau.  There is no holding pattern. Even if you believe you’re holding steady in a season of your life where you’re not growing, those closest to you will tell you that you’re regressing.  If this is true – and it is – it poses this important question.  How do you learn and grow daily?

What do you want to learn? Let's start with focus.  This is the first guide.  The subjects you could learn about and the material available for said learning are virtually unlimited.  There is more to be learned than any of us could even begin to digest in a lifetime.  So, this requires some focus on your part.  If you’re on the path to accomplishing a given dream, your daily learning must center around that dream.  Say you want to change careers and you want to become a CPA.  You can devour books on chemistry, learn a ton, and still be no closer to your CPA dream.  When we’re talking about daily learning, focus matters.  Unless your goal is to be a Jeopardy champion, general knowledge is of little use.  So, what do you need to learn? At this point, it makes sense to put this down on paper (or your phone or computer or whatever floats your boat).  The point is, you’ll learn what you decide to learn.  So, take the time to make it clear.  This is where higher-education institutions really have things right.  If your major is pre-med, there is a very detailed learning plan to get you the knowledge you need to get to your eventual goal of being a doctor.  In your case, let your goals and dreams guide you.  Take a fresh look at your goals and write down what you need to learn to make those a reality.

Who do you need to learn from?  This is the next level question.   This is a question of personality and media.  You can learn from many different people via many different media.  The step that you may be tempted to skip is research, but please don’t skip this step.  Spend some time researching the voices out there.  You can find a multitude of voices on any subject wrapped up in many different types of learning.  Do yourself a favor and do the research and figure out what voices you want to learn from and via what media.  These are decisions that will be driven by your goals, your preference, and the cost.  You can learn a lot from free podcasts and from a Ph.D. program at a university. Neither is right nor wrong, but they are different delivery methods and carry vastly different costs.  Here are some types of learning you can explore:

·    Books.  The most tried and true method is the good old-fashioned book. Imagine how different you would be if you set aside 30 minutes per day and devoted that time to a well-researched reading list.
·    Podcasts.  If you’re not leveraging this goldmine, I can’t understand why.  We’re talking about thousands of experts delivering free content to you.  If you subscribe, you don’t even have to go get it.  It comes to you automatically.  What if you redeemed that drive time to and from work each day listening to your chosen experts in your chosen field of learning?  Wow.
·    Mentors.  You probably know people who are where you want to be.  Have you considered asking them for a little of their time?  My experience says that they almost always say yes.  By the way, don’t ask someone to “be your mentor”.  That’s weird and a red flag.  Just attempt to spend time with these key people and make sure you reciprocate some value in the relationship.
·    Coaches.  Everyone who has a dream or goal needs a coach.  Generally, you’re going to invest some money into coaching and it’s worth every penny.  Why?  Because your coach will ask you the hard questions that you don’t even know to ask.  Then, he’ll hold you accountable to what you say you want to do.  If you're interested in coaching with me, just click here to get started.  We can discuss if that would be the right fit.
·    Classes.  This is the most expensive option, but depending on your goal, a degree may be needed.  If so, this is a great learning option too.  Do your research.  Not all degrees are created equal and not all degrees carry the same price tag.

So, the final question.  How much time will this all take?  I’ll answer your question with a couple of my own.  How much do you want to learn?  How quickly do you want to make your dream a reality?  If your current learning plan is non-existent, then any time spent is an improvement, but if you’re serious about becoming a student and eventually an expert, in your chosen field, 60 minutes per day is a great place to begin.  Imagine if you spent an average of one hour per day learning and growing in the specific areas you need to make your dream a reality?  This time next year could look very different for you, indeed.