The Mindset of Success
By Justin Wright
When thinking about what it takes to be successful, and how to have the mindset of a winner, there are specific qualities that we must focus on. Developing this mindset requires riding the fine line between happiness and dissatisfaction, between comfort and drive, between acceptance and vision. It is crucial to have two disparate qualities that act as a yin and yang in balancing our goals and desires: being grateful, but never being satisfied.
What does this concept mean? How can we be grateful, yet not be satisfied with our position in life? It requires us to be thankful for the blessings and opportunities we have been given while also asking more from ourselves. Despite being happy with the things we currently have, the people who are currently present in our lives, and the friendships and relationships we enjoy, we must always search for the next piece of the puzzle. To accomplish great things requires us to always be pushing the envelope; yet we must always stop to (briefly) smell the roses.
The first piece of the equation, gratitude, is crucial for maintaining a positive mindset and remaining hopeful for the future. Starting each day with a gratitude practice can quickly shift our mindset from a negative place to a positive place. Understanding that there is much in our lives to be thankful for is a necessary prerequisite to wanting more for ourselves. If we don’t stop and appreciate how far we have come, how will we ever be satisfied with our accomplishments in the future?
There are many successful people who miss this key step and float through life battling unhappiness and even extreme depression. Look to Hollywood as an example of this: how many movie stars, despite achieving colossal success, battle depression? How many stars have we lost in recent years to suicide? This is not solely due to lack of gratitude, and many of these individuals were battling their fair share of demons, but being grateful can set the stage for increased happiness and quality of life.
I recommend the following: begin each day by deeply reflecting on 3 things you are grateful for in your life. Be as specific as possible, and dedicate yourself to this practice on a consistent basis. If you are unable to do it first thing in the morning, ensure that you complete this task at some point during your day. Focus on three simple items; write them down and think deeply on them. Let these thoughts fill your mind and try not to take these moments for granted. After this practice, make a note of how you feel. Start to think about how your thoughts progress each day after completing your gratitude practice. You will find that your thoughts tend to shift, ever so slightly, the more often you start your day with being thankful. Why does this occur?
In modern neuroscience, we understand that the brain is not fixed and permanent. Every thought we have, every action we take, every stimulus we encounter molds and changes the brain. The way different synapses fire and the proportions of grey matter available are all in constant flux based on our life experiences. We have discussed this in the past, but the thoughts that we most commonly have actually alter our brain chemistry. This is the underlying principle of neuroplasticity.
If you are a chronically negative person, your brain activity will show up differently on a CT scan than someone who is chronically positive. Furthermore, we attract the kind of energy we put out into the world. We are also extremely impressionable; this endless loop can destroy your ability to think positively and be productive if you let it. The more negative thoughts you have, the more negative people you attract. The more negative people you attract, the more negative thoughts you hear. The more negative thoughts you hear, the more negatives thoughts you have. This can continue in perpetuity.
There has also been recent research that correlates the length of our telomeres with the positivity or negativity of our thoughts. These telomeres affect gene expression and can actually reduce or increase our life span. Daisy Robinton recently did a TED talk on this phenomenon. In summary, our thoughts not only affect our quality of life, they can actually affect our quantity of life.
By focusing on gratitude for what we have and reflecting positively on what we have already accomplished, we take control of our brain chemistry and move the needle in a better direction. We learn to greatly appreciate our most valuable resource: time. This also causes us to waste this resource less as we focus on the things that bring positivity into our lives. This is only one side of the coin, however. It is equally important to have a mindset focused on the future and to be constantly pushing ourselves forward.
Never stagnant, never satisfied
Gratitude is important, but it can also be taken too far. If we focus on what we currently have to the point of becoming complacent, we will lose the drive and determination to continue making forward progress. Setting goals is crucial, but it is also necessary to update and revise those goals as we accomplish them. Life is constantly moving, and if we lose our determination to keep progressing then we will get swept away by life’s current.
It is likely that you have seen this phenomenon occur to people you know: they get a big promotion or accomplish some major goal, they become comfortable in that success, and they start to let things decline. Maybe they stop paying as much attention to detail in their business. Maybe they win a championship and stop training as hard for the next season. Maybe they land a big role in a movie and stop taking on as many auditions. Whatever the reasoning, becoming caught up in our accomplishments and not staying focused on the future can lead to stagnation.
In order to remain successful, accomplishments should be celebrated briefly and then new plans should be created. After a big win, the focus should always remain on the future. Some of the greatest athletes of all time became great because they were always focused on the next game and the next season. They enjoyed the fruits of their labor, but once the celebration was over they shifted gears and began preparing for the next event. Business works much the same way; after a big sale or a major product launch, the most successful businesspeople are already planning and preparing for the next deal.
Yin and yang, perfectly balanced
As you can see, both sides of the coin are equally important. If we never stop and smell the roses, if we never appreciate the fruits of our labor, then misery and dissatisfaction are sure to follow. It is impossible to be happy when we are constantly focused on the future and never shift our gaze to the present. Learning to be truly aware of what is going on in the current moment, and learning to be grateful for our position in life, is critical for achieving true happiness.
On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to become too comfortable with where we are, years may pass by and we may waste the time we have. Life is incredibly short in the grand scheme of things, and failure to plan for the future and reach for the stars can cause our lives to truly flash before our eyes. One of the worst things that can ever befall us in old age is regret. Regret rears its ugly head when we become complacent, when we refuse to take risks or continue pushing forward. Becoming comfortable and stagnant is a fast lane to regret later in life.
Both gratitude and dissatisfaction must work together, in perfect balance, in order for us to be both happy and successful. Being able to count our blessings in the present allows us to be grateful and happy. Being able to check off goals and continue setting new ones allows us to build a future that fulfills us. These two things together create a potent recipe for a life well-lived. They allow us to leave a legacy while enjoying every step along the way. Combine these principles in your life to shift your mindset towards success and take one step closer to the future you deserve.