Want to understand how to change your mindset and improve your life?
It’s the happiest time of the year…for people to panic. Yep, all your regrets resolutions are just around the corner…good times!
Even as I type these words, people are hitting snooze on their alarm clocks, promising themselves, however, that come January 2018, they’ll be bouncing out of their beds like a young gazelle on the plains of the Serengeti, doing a triathlon every morning, bro, eating only kale and pure protein, writing a novel on their morning commute, discovering love, and, just generally, Living Their Most Authentic Life.
Not to sound utterly cynical…but why wait? If you want to learn French or write that book of poetry…what’s the holdup? Your goals aren’t somehow going to be any easier to achieve just because the calendar reads 2018, instead of 2017.
In fact, as someone who made a comeback in her own life, allow me to tell you what you already dread know: resolutions don’t matter, goals don’t matter, your mindset matters.
Your mindset is what will give you the belief that your goals are worth the exhausting, terrifying, frequently frustrating, always liberating, concentrated effort.
Your mindset is what will get you up out of that toasty bed on a cold morning to run. Your mindset is what will give you the courage to pay for an introductory French language class, and then force you to ask that beautiful blonde Parisian for directions…ooh la la! Your mindset is what matters. Your mindset is all that matters.
True story: when young Kurt Vonnegut was just starting out as a writer, he received 800(!) rejection letters, before he sold his first story. Not only did he receive 800 rejections…he saved them. Shortly after he passed, I went to an exhibition celebrating his life.
Central to that exhibition, was the stack of saved rejection letters, in all their grisly glory. As a young man, Vonnegut had survived the horrors of the World War Two Dresden Bombing; what did he live to lose? (What do you?) Vonnegut took those 800 rejection letters on the chin…and kept on writing.
I remember being almost spellbound by those rejection letters: the idea that Kurt Vonnegut had the courage to save them, to fight through them, to refuse to give them the power to demolish his dreams. That exhibition was probably one of the most important events in my emotional development.
As an entrepreneur, who started a coaching business with only debt and determination, there have been countless occasions when something didn’t work out, and I’d think,”…800 rejections letters and Kurt kept on writing. Okay, b*tch. Stop whining and get back to work.”
When I was finally embarked on the process of re-writing the script of my life, my mindset is what allowed me to shrug off defeats, to cry in the shower and just keep going. I learned to grit my teeth, and dig deep and keep on keepin’ on, instead of listening to the whining part of my brain, which tends to display a marked tendency towards moist self-pity.
That part of my brain is very tiresome and very dangerous; she wants to drink dirty vodka martinis and watch Adult Swim at 9am while cramming dozens of frozen Girl Scouts Thin Mints into her maw. She wants to blame everyone else, anyone else, when the universe doesn’t reward her for that magnificent smile. She’s a real pain in my ass; I’m working on kicking her off the lease.
For you kids playing along at home, a huge part of changing, for the better, your mindset is to understand how much of our planet actively requires your self-doubt and self-loathing: diet pills? Our exploding private prison industry and bankrupt, broken schools? Kim Kardashian? Global warming? Donald Trump as a viable presidential candidate? Say what?
In an intelligent world, a world predicated upon humans achieving their highest potential, a world driven by compassion and empathy, exactly none of this soul-withering nonsense would be tolerated.
Right about now, you need to realize that changing your mindset is not about sexy resolutions, or constantly beating yourself up but:
1. understanding and accepting yourself, as you are, so that
2. you can commit to a realistic–as per your personality–schedule of small, steady, ongoing changes.
You can decide that you’re going to force yourself, for example, to be an extrovert, and thus sign up for that hardcore public boot-camp on the Brooklyn Bridge every morning. And then, “weirdly,” “suddenly,” it’s January 8th, and you have to admit that you’ve gone to exactly none of the boot-camp workouts so far because the idea of exercising in public horrifies you.
“Suddenly” it’s January 8th, and you’re so frustrated with yourself, that you eat a pint of Chunky Monkey at 4am, in your underwear, washing it down with bourbon, as you stand barefoot in front of the freezer, sniveling, cursing yourself. That certainly is a workout, but probably not one Jillian Michaels would endorse.
What about if, instead, you had simply accepted yourself as an introverted personality, and looked for a workout that suits you as you are? What if you just tried to exercise your waistline, instead of your self-loathing?
If you want to make significant, lasting changes in your daily life, start by understanding that nothing can frighten you without your help.
I, for example, as a former playwright, spent years talking myself out of my dreams of entrepreneurial success, due to my incredibly dramatic and embroidered fantasies about how the cats and I would end up living under a bridge somewhere as urban trolls; think “Starlight Express,” without the gritty realism.
Ready to change your mindset? Bueno! Let’s get started today: no resolutions, no waiting. Change takes real hard work, not resolutions.
1. Create an Action Diary
An Action Diary is something as simple as a Word document, in which you list, for example, your three major goals for 2016 as well as the daily positive steps you take, each and every day, to bring those goals to life. These daily steps, some big, some small are how you will change your mindset for success; the more of these steps you do, the more you’ll be able to do.
Now, your goals have to be specific, since if you say, “Be successful”…well what does that mean? If you spend the next year stuck a job you loathe, and you don’t quit, or get fired, or embezzle corporate funds and run away to Tahiti…hey, sure, that’s “technically” a success: you aren’t, after all, a felon on the lam.
But the whole point of changing your mindset is to allow yourself to dream big and create actionable, achievable goals. Instead of “Be successful,” how about, “Get a 5% raise,” or “Get promoted,” or “Apply and be accepted to X business school.” Instead of “Change my miserable life,” how about, “Meet a nice guy who treats me with respect and love,” or “Make 3 oil paintings,” or “Do something fun every single day.”
2. Identify the steps necessary to achieve your goals
Start thinking backwards from your goals: what steps will you have to take to bring these goals to life? Write those steps out. These are your positive steps: positive steps are any and all positive actions you take to achieve your goals. If you’re trying to get a raise, for example, every step, from arriving every day on time, shaven, in a nice outfit, to studying at night school is a positive action.
Unfortunately, many people think that every action has to be AMAZING and BOLD. Meh, not so much: when you’re changing your life, every step, every decision to no longer wallow in your fear and misery is a bold step. (Boom. I just blew your mind. I know. You’re welcome, America.)
3. Commit to taking three positive steps every. Single. Day.
The more you do, the more you’ll be able to do…so start small. Make a decision that, bare minimum, you’ll do three positive steps every day. Each time you do something, write it down in your Action Diary. Big or small, your daily steps get noted down.
That way you’ve done something. You’re going toe-to-toe with the Universe, kid, so each step counts. If after you’ve done your three steps for the day, you’re still on fire, hey, no one’s stopping you, Champ: keep knocking ‘em dead!
On the other hand, if you’re giddy and exhausted, shake up a cocktail, put your face in a carton of Cherry Garcia and feel smug: you’ve earned that smugness. After multiple orgasms, isn’t smugness just the best feeling? Tomorrow’s another day, and the steps you took today will make tomorrow all the brighter. (I promise.)
4. Get started as you are, before you’re ready to become the you of your dreams.
Finally, and perhaps most crucially, you’re going have to get started on this revolution before you’re ready. (Oh, don’t even give me that look.) Many people seem to think that once they magically fall in love with themselves, all of the other aspects of their lives they loathe will presto! snap into place.
I envy those people—their magical, mystical planet must be an awesome place to live. However, me and my freeloading cats are stuck on Planet Earth, where, last time I checked, change comes only when you earn it.
Change comes when you allow it. Changes comes when you commit to it, as you are, in tears, in frustration, despite being 10 pounds overweight, despite being hugely in debt, despite having a broken heart, despite not getting enough sleep: change happens when you fight for it.
I started my business with no business experience—did I mention I was a history major at Wellesley College, for god’s sake? To quote the wit and wisdom of Homer Simpson,” I was told there’d be no math.”–and after years of daily steps and fumbles and crying under my desk and sniveling on the treadmill and determination, I now own a successful international business.
I’ve coached clients in the Obama White House. I have clients from Queens, NYC to Queensland, Australia. People in Kansas and Kazakhstan have emailed me, letting me know that my Huffington Post articles have made them feel less alone and more hopeful. I’m a very lucky girl. And the harder I work, the luckier I get.
However: if, in the early days, I had decided I must do everything all at once, or that I had to wait until my life made more sense to save it…um, not so much. Right about now, I’d still be stuck in a career I loathed, crying in the bathroom mirror, unable to recognize my life.
I did what I could with the little I had, which, over time, allowed me to do more with more, creating the opportunities and experience my ambition required, out of the scraps and fear I currently had. I’m not bragging, I’m reminding you: I got my mind right, and I built what I needed. You must do the same. Get to work.