Life’s little pearls of wisdom sometimes find us in unexpected places. Waiting for a root canal at the dentist? Tapping impatient fingers at the peak-hour traffic light? Or killing time on cold airport chairs after a flight delay?
Some of this wisdom came my way recently. Inspired, I set out to learn more about the components of a successful mindset. Mindset is a known game-changer that separates us mere mortals. Here are some things I learned:
Iconic, spiritual guru from India, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) said, “I shall pass through this world but once”. Looking at the epitaph on any tombstone, the small dash connecting two dates is exactly what he was referring to.
As mere punctuation, that dash hardly gets noticed. But in human terms, it represents the course of one whole life. Even though we have very little, if any, influence over the start and end dates, the journey between them is all about us. Personal decisions, actions and responses ultimately define our destiny.
Prosperity, a fluke? Not at all!
According to Stanford University’s Professor Carol Dweck [i], prosperity has everything to do with a successful mindset. And the good news is that we have some say in the matter.
During an interview with Harvard Business Review, the professor explained that human beings default to a ‘fixed’ mindset. Most of us believe our given qualities, talents and intelligence are pretty much set, so we just accept and live with it. That restrictive outlook, is exactly what prevents us from achieving greatness, she says.
Ideally, people should focus on adopting a growth mindset, Dweck continues. It is within our ability to pursue ambitious passions and goals, also to develop the mental tools required for achieving them.
To foster a growth mindset, she says, it’s not about ‘praising intelligence, talent and abilities’ as this can ‘backfire’. It’s about ‘the effort, the strategies, the doggedness and persistence’. It’s about ‘the grit people show, and the resilience they show in face of obstacles’. It’s about ‘being able to bounce back and to know what to try next’.
Engaging in the process is key and not just focussing on a successful outcome or praising only successful outcomes.
Dweck reflects, ‘Many successful people – Einstein, Thomas Edison – have said they’ve learned more from their failures than often from their successes. So many huge breakthroughs came after a number of huge failures that provided learning experiences.’
It’s important to come away from an experience knowing what you have learnt. To treasure the experience, and to know or explore how it can play a part in your future. When we see a negative experience as a failure, the learning process gets hindered or halted.
Closed mindset thinks: ‘All failures are bad’.
Growth Mindset asks this type of question: ‘How can that failure help me be successful?’
Tony Robbins says: “Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”[i]
A successful mindset is not something to switch on and off at will; we need to embed it into our way of life. Start off by following these simple steps:
Repetition is the recipe for success here. Your brain can be trained, over time, to automatically support a successful mindset. At first, you may need to manually kick-start the process several times. Keep repeating the process until a successful mindset becomes second nature.
During the 1990s Rich Dad Poor Dad became an international bestseller. Throughout the book it demonstrates the tangible benefits of a successful mindset. And how learning enables us to achieve our goals; in this case, financial objectives.
A craving for knowledge is pre-programmed into us as a pathway to success. We just need to trigger it ourselves.
Here’s a practical example of how a successful mindset can make a difference in your life:
Let’s say, a year ago, you followed your ‘fixed’ mindset. You had money to invest. You handed over your savings to an institution to invest on your behalf.
Why? Because it’s the “safest” thing to do and everybody else does it.
The sheer size of this investment fund meant the funds were not easy to manoeuvre. So the fund manager put your money in a blue-chip stock, like Wesfarmers (see chart) and left it undisturbed. To date, your return would be around 7%.
Instead, let’s imagine your ‘growth’ mindset had you skill up and learn the art of investment for yourself. Using technical & fundamental analysis, you actively trade twice during the same year. The return on your money would have been around 25%.
To make the most of life, it’s crucial we give it the best shot possible. This is something we can only achieve by adopting, cultivating and consciously growing a successful mindset.
Maybe, getting delayed in airports from time to time is not such a bad thing after all?