“Why celebrate New Years'? Next year will be the same as the last!”
Have you ever said that to yourself?
Most likely part of you has thought that.
Feeling like you are stuck in Groundhog’s Day with Bill Murray (film from 1993) is a natural part of life.
In the realm of psychology it can be associated with a fixed mindset - a condition of beliefs that continually confirm that your life is set in place and no matter how much effort you apply, you cannot change it.
This is something that many entrepreneurs suffer from.
On the surface, we act positive and offer “You can do it!” platitudes handed down from the self-help gurus, but deep down there is always that inner critic that says “why try?”.
If you can relate, you’re not alone.
Here are 4 tips for shifting that fixed mindset into a more successful growth mindset and enjoying the process of learning along the way.
Use the goal for the Journey, not the journey for the goal
Imagine embarking on a road trip from New York to Los Angeles.
If all you can think about is arriving in Los Angeles, then the land in between becomes a dreary means to an end. The journey is something you only use to reach your goal.
Determined to arrive in Los Angeles overnight without stopping for sleep, gas, or bathroom breaks, you’re going to break down somewhere in Chicago.
This is what happens to many business leaders who only focus on achieving goals.
We get so fixated on reaching the goal our thinking becomes rigid and stiff, relying solely on willpower, which is a limited resource.
And then when we break down it confirms the inner critic’s belief that Los Angeles is unreachable.
There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, but to cultivate a growth mindset and achieve your goals more readily, it’s important to use goals to better the journey, not the other way around.
Imagine walking through a forest using tiny goals as trail markers to keep you on track.
Once you reach your final destination you can look back at the tiny goals that have helped you along the way as well as the final goal, which was the inspiration for the journey.
If you were thrown back into the forest could you find your way again?
Focus on the process
When directing actors in my film career, there were two types of directions I could give.
The first being result-oriented direction and the second process-oriented.
Result-oriented direction only focuses on the result of what we are trying to achieve in a scene.
If the actor’s job was to convey happiness, then a result-oriented direction would be to “be happy”.
The problem with this direction is that it is extremely vague. If you told me to be happy I would put an SEG (shit-eating grin) on my face and start acting some silly vaudeville routine unconvincing to any audience.
This is the type of direction actors are used to getting from untrained directors who fail to properly communicate the ideas they have in their heads.
On the other hand, if a director does her homework and wants to create a realistic performance that an audience can relate to then she would take the actor through a process of exploring the character - wants, obstacles, strategies for success, etc.
The process of exploring the character and doing the deep work would yield a much more authentic performance.
Let’s say the character wanted to celebrate a long awaited promotion, but his wife had a rough day at work. The actor’s task would then be to cheer up his wife. This task would provide a much more authentic exhibit of happiness than a surface level SEG.
Lead with curiosity
Curiosity and inquiry are what I use to fuel my process of working with actors.
In the curiosity model there are no mistakes, just questions asked.
This leads to an exploration, which yields creativity and authenticity.
In a fixed mindset, curiosity is seen as a threat. Anything that conflicts with a said goal gets discarded as it challenges the authority of the primary idea.
The equivalent in business is a phenomenon known as CEO disease, where leaders surround themselves with “yes” men/women who only confirm ideas rather than challenge them. This leads to catastrophe and ruin as it blinds decision-makers and leaves them out of touch with reality. Think the Emperor’s New Clothes.
I see many of my clients getting hung up on making sales that they lessen their ability to be influential.
The moment they lead from a place of genuine curiosity in their prospects, the sale makes itself.
Neuroscience shows that a build-up of adrenaline, the chemical used to get work done, leads to burnout. In fact, a study of people who quit shows that they’ve built up way too much unmitigated adrenaline in the body before throwing in the towel.
Dopamine, on the other hand, the neurotransmitter secreted in the process of play, balances out adrenaline and gives us the ability to keep moving forward, similar to the idea of trail markers previously mentioned.
Lastly, don’t take it so seriously
I see a lot of people trying to make money for money’s sake but the most successful people just do what they do and once they are good at it, the money comes.
Bryan Cranston talks about how when he gave up trying to reach his goal of landing acting gigs, that’s when he started to get book gigs. He just went in and enjoyed himself and left the rest to unseen forces.
Eventually, this strategy landed him the role of Walter White in Breaking Bad, which is one of the most celebrated roles in TV history.
This constant fixation on the goal and putting so much stress on whether or not we achieve it stifles ability to do so.
Moral of the story, just LET GO.
Seriously, just let go.
Stop trying so hard. Let it be a game, a dance, a play, a drama. Stop making it so serious.
When I have followed this advice is when I have achieved great things in my respective careers.
As rapper, Common said on one of his tracks, “It’s a shame what they do for fame and to be respected. Joe, you could’ve got it if you never would’ve stressed it.”
Feeling stuck on the hamster wheel is normal and we all experience it.
What’s important is to arm ourselves with the tools to be able to shift the way we view the playing field and our position in it.
Use the goal to assist you to appreciate, enjoy, and learn from the journey.
Focus on the process and allow the results to come.
Lead with curiosity and excitement.
And finally, don’t take it too seriously.
Apply these principles to your life and your work and you’ll experience a huge shift in the way you view the year ahead of you.
Do you see yourself getting trapped in a fixed mindset?
What would it be like to view things differently?
Wishing you success in 2021!