“If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.” —Rob Liano

It’s all about mindset. What you think is what you get. A few years ago I read a great little book by Carol Dweck, PhD called “Mindset, The New Psychology of Success: How we can learn to fulfill our potential” and I had a huge ah-ha moment. I love the science behind what makes us tick and Carol’s research at Stanford University on achievement and success really spoke to me. Dweck explained that success is not just about our skills or talents but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset.

Why is this important?

We are a product of our DNA and our environment and contrary to previous belief, we possess a capacity for lifelong learning and brain development. Through practice, training and method, we can improve both our intellect and our emotional control and responses. In other words, we can increase our attention, improve our memory, our judgment, our thoughts and our responses. Therefore the view you adopt for yourself profoundly effects how you live your life (Dweck, 2006). This is why some people with high intellect flounder when the going gets tough and others who believe that growth is a lifelong process may achieve success that others thought wasn’t possible.

When I returned from Brazil in 1974 and had to put myself through college, one course at a time, I could have given up – it was a tough road. After all, I saw students all around me giving up and dropping out. But I also saw others who struggled with some pretty adverse situations but they kept going and kept getting up after each set-back. Some actually had a sense of humor about it.

How do you respond?

Imagine that you are a college student and the professor returns your midterm with a C-. What are you thinking? How are you feeling? A person with a fixed mindset might look at the paper with disbelief and take on the victim mentality. “I feel like a failure, an idiot.” Or, you might feel that the exam was unfair and blame others. You may even challenge the professor and deny that you had a role in your own grade. On the other hand a person with a growth mindset may indeed be disappointed, but you begin to look at what you need to do next to improve. The difference is in how you cope.

The field of social and emotional intelligence, teaches us that we often respond to the story we tell ourselves over something that we see or hear. That story evokes a feeling or emotion and we react to that feeling. The problem is that the story we tell ourselves often has flaws and is based in assumptions that are incorrect. But instead of challenging that story, we feel and act inappropriately and the spiral begins.

Your challenge

Over the next week, when you see or hear something that poses a challenge for you, stop and pause. Pay attention to the story you are telling yourself and challenge its assumption. Pay attention to what you are feeling and how you are reacting. Ask yourself, is this reaction helping or hindering me? Is it moving me forward or holding me back? If it’s holding you back, challenge yourself to identify other possible options to your story. Obstacles will be put in our path—that’s a given. It’s our choice how we decide to see them and whether we will push them aside or let them way us down. The road to success is never a straight line.

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