Why Mindset Matters & How to Shift It
What is Mindset?
It seems like everyone is talking about mindset these days. It’s definitely become a bit of a buzzword. And with that, there’s the danger that it becomes cliche and eventually overlooked as too hooky or woo-woo.
I’ve been guilty of thinking that mindset is just a bunch of feel-good silliness made up by new age thinkers that taps into some weird energy. But my mind has changed a lot recently.
Have you ever had a day when you woke up and everything just seemed to go wrong? You slept through your alarm, you got a ticket on the way to work, your big meeting got cancelled, you burned dinner, and the dog puked on your carpet.
I know I’ve had those days. And from the first moment, my mindset was panic and frustration. It seemed that nothing would go right and that everything I did to try and fix it went horribly wrong, too.
Or consider the dandelion – some people look at it and see a weed that just needs to be squashed out of existance. But other people look at it and see a beautiful, happy flower full of possibility and wishes.
That’s mindset. It’s the attitude with which I view and approach the world. And it’s easy to overlook how much my attitude and view can bring shadows or light to my day.
Mindset Isn’t a One-Time Fix
Anyone who tells you that shifting your mindset is a quick and easy, one-time fix, is selling you a story. Mindset is something that takes time to shift because it’s something that is a fixed pattern in our thinking.
People talk about seeing the glass half-empty or half-full, or finding the silver lining. This is also mindset. And just because you see the world one way or the other, it doesn’t mean that your viewpoint is permanent.
Image your days starts of great – you wake up full of energy, you work out and get out the door on time. You’re feeling amazing, right? You’re happy, excited, optimistic.
And then your car gets a flat tire. Now what? You have two choices – start thinking about how horrible your car is, how crappy the roads are, how frustrated you are that now you’re going to be late to work, spiraling into a pit of anger and despair.
Or you can think about how thankful you are that you have a car to drive to work in, that you have work to go to, that you can call roadside assistance or AAA to help you (or that you know how to change a flat tire), that your boss is totally understanding about your predicament, and that it’s not raining. The situation still isn’t ideal, but now at least you’re not miserable and angry. And there’s hope for the rest of your day.
You can control your mindset.
Tips for Shifting Your Mindset
Before you can do anything about your mindset, you want to take a couple of days or even weeks to become more mindful (aware) of what your current mindset is. As you go through your day, think about what kinds of things tend to throw you off or cause you to become angry, frustrated, or unhappy? As you go through your day, what kinds of things make you energized, hopeful, and joyful?
Once you are aware of your patterns (and what messes with them), you can start to make small changes. For me, one of the most helpful ways to start doing this is by finding affirmations that reprogram what I’m used to thinking.
I’ve found that I tend to be very negative about certain aspects of my life (money, health, job, for example). So I’ve looked for affirmations in these areas so I can start thinking differently about them. I can’t necessarily change that thinking on my own, because I’ve become so used to thinking a particular way. Sometimes I don’t even realize that I’ve been negative until someone points it out!
Affirmations are great (and I’ll write more on them soon), and you can find them by doing a simple Google search. I tend to like using Pinterest for this, but if you’re more of a list person and Pinterest feels too cluttered, Google is great. Print them out, or even better write them out by hand to get that kinesthetic connection which will help cement them in your brain. Then read them out loud each day.
At first it will feel a little weird. I know the first several times I read affirmations I felt like an idiot who was reading a bunch of lies. But as time went on, I started to internalize what I was reading and my voice was more confident and determined. So, don’t give up!
Another great tool to help you here is to practice reframing your thinking. Basically, here you turn your negative thoughts around and make them more positive. For example, instead of thinking about how much you dislike cooking dinner each day, shift that thought be focusing on how awesome it is that you have fresh food to cook and that you live in a place that allows you to have a variety of foods and that you have a living situation that gives you the ability to cook. You can also think about who is benefiting from the effort that you put into cooking and the love you have for that person or people (even if it’s just you and the dog).
Finally, you’ll want to enlist the help of a friend. Accountability has been shown to increase the probability of a person following through with their goals or intentions. Asking a friend to point out to you when you falling into old patterns of negativity or pessimism can be super helpful at catching yourself and reframing your thinking.
A Positive Mindset is Possible
Although it might seem like a long and tedious journey, it’s possible to change your thinking. It’s something I’m particularly focusing on doing this year. I have a tendency to sink into those dark places and see only the bad stuff. But this year I’m working on changing that. These tips are ones that I’m taking to heart so that I can face each day with a more positive outlook.
I also want to be more joyful in my day for my family, and for those I work with and teach. I especially want my children to grow up considering the bright side of things. Not so they can be unrealistic about life, but rather so that they can find their own ways to be happy and thankful, regardless of what the day looks like.
What do you think? Is mindset important? What do you do to have a more positive mindset?