The word ‘mindset’ has certainly entered the mainstream in recent years, with mastering your mindset being a topic everybody wants to learn about.
There are increasingly more transformation stories highlighting the power of a positive mindset, and resources being produced to help people who are stuck in fixed, negative ways of thinking to flip the script.
Your mindset sets the scene for your entire reality. It informs the way you perceive and respond to events, situations, information – is it going to be a disaster? Is it going to prove everything you ever thought wrong about yourself? Or is it going to be an opportunity for growth and self-development?
Well, that’s all down to your mindset.
It takes practice, repetition, and determination to see beyond the clouds we’ve been conditioned to focus on – but it is achievable.
Fighting back against a fixed mindset means rejecting black-and-white ways of thinking and exploring core beliefs in more depth, with more kindness.
The aim is to adopt a growth mindset – a mindset based on empowerment, positive framing and self-compassion. I have another blog post on re-framing anxious thoughts which explores similar themes which you can read here.
So, here are my 5 core steps to mastering your mindset – all of these are ongoing and take practice to make them familiar habits.
1. Practice self-reflection
Self-reflection, or reflexivity, is a skill that involves observing your emotions and actions from a healthy distance to gain insight into your strengths and areas for improvement.
Practicing reflexivity can be an incredibly useful exercise when it comes to disentangling your identity or sense of self worth from your thoughts, abilities, performance of a particular task, job role, etc.
It can help you to foster a more holistic sense of self; to see a whole, multi-dimensional, complex being rather than taking a black-and-white good-or-bad approach. Plus, self-reflection can help you to pivot from a fixed, perfectionist mindset to a growth mindset, and create an action plan to help you progress forward.
Becoming comfortable with self-reflection and identifying areas for improvement from a place of unconditional compassion rather than criticism and judgment is the all important first step to mastering your mindset. It looks like asking yourself questions and giving honest, insightful, nuanced answers without attaching guilt, shame or personal criticism to them.
Try using self-reflection or self-discovery journal prompts to help you get going.
Remember: we are all human beings and nobody is perfect. There is always space for growth and development no matter who you are, so there is no reason to feel ashamed or annoyed for not having perfected everything in life – it’s not attainable!
2. Recognise your agency
Recognising your agency means realising your own power and ability to do certain things.
Sometimes, when situations feel out of your control, you might feel completely powerless due to overwhelm and a subsequent lack of energy. However, it’s important to recognise the aspects of a situation that you do have control over and pay them due attention.
Let’s use therapy as an example.
Sometimes, by the time clients arrive at my office, they have dealt with a number of situations that have re-enforced a sense of powerlessness, hopelessness or stasis, and the fact that they have the ability to make changes feels a bit alien to them.
The brain seeks familiarity, and what can often happen is that your brain becomes used to the story that things are a certain way and cannot be changed. This reality is internalised and incorporated into your core beliefs. Recognising, even just saying it out loud, that you do have agency and the ability to change things up (even though it might feel scary) is a key part of mastering your mindset.
Recognise yourself as a key player – take an active rather than passive role in your life.
If you don’t shake up the belief that you can’t change, or that things are fixed a certain way, then your mindset will continue to be dominated by fixed beliefs rather than open to new, unfamiliar, exploratory ideas.
3. Set SMART goals
This is a very practical step. Breaking your big picture goals down into achievable, manageable, bite-sized chunks will help to prevent overwhelm from setting in and rocking the boat.
Using the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based) goal system will help you to identify exactly what it is you’re actually on a mission to achieve, whether it’s personal or professional. Having a set time period to work on or complete a task will help you to maintain a focused mindset.
Only focus on the bite-size task at hand – put the bigger picture completely out of your mind.
If your big picture goal is to get onto a university course to continue your learning, make the first SMART goal signing up to the application portal and filling in just your personal details by a certain date. Then the next goal might be filling in your education history by a future date, etc.
You’ve already recognised your own agency and practiced self-reflection by finally taking action to apply, after telling yourself you couldn’t for a number of different reasons, and not feeling good enough to get accepted, and exploring those feelings in a more objective way.
Once you gain clarity on what it is you want and why and make it easy for yourself to take action, then the determination and emotional fuel behind it will intensify, propelling you forward.
4. Be curious
Get into the habit of asking questions and approaching situations with a reflexive curiosity, rather than assuming everything has automatically gone wrong if something unexpected turns up.
This is another important element of a growth mindset. It can help you to embrace challenges with resilience and a problem-solving attitude, determining how you respond to certain situations and how you frame potentially stressful events.
Curiosity is a useful tool and state of mind as it invites learning, questioning and new experiences; it doesn’t automatically infuse things with judgment or criticism.
5. Cultivate your environment
Cultivating your environment is also instrumental in mastering your mindset.
How you cultivate your space has a huge impact on your mindset – is it tidy, clean, peaceful, does it reflect your taste and personality?
A messy environment can be detrimental to your mood, mindset and overall wellbeing. Setting an alarm and taking just 5 or 10 minutes between tasks to wash dishes, put things away or hoover can make a huge difference.
This is where SMART goals come in really handy. “Clean the house” can feel like an impossible, overwhelming and endless task. But “hoover the living room for 2 minutes” is much more manageable.
Go around the house and note all the individual tasks that need doing. You don’t need to do them all straight away. Over the next day or two, break them all down into 10 minute tasks to do throughout the day.
You may find that once you get started, you get absorbed into a task and want to see it through to the end. Getting into this habit will help keep your mindset positive and clear – an external reflection of the internal.
As well as your physical space, cultivating your environment to help master your mindset includes being discerning with the media you consume – especially the news and social media.
Scrolling Twitter first thing in the morning or reading an article that makes you feel angry before bed might not be the best for a peaceful morning routine or relaxing bedtime routine.
Use books, personal care or meditation to help structure your days and give your body the right cues – whether it’s winding down for bedtime or gearing up for the day.
I hope you find this post useful when it comes to mastering your mindset. These steps are the foundational blocks for creating a calmer, more positive, more empowered mindset and living a more full, vibrant life on your terms.
You don’t have to be a slave to your own mind, there is another option. There’s light on the other side. I help clients every single week to achieve these once unimaginable transformations and transform past pain, trauma and negative thought patterns into new calm and confidence.
If you’re ready to reclaim your mind and leave the past behind, book in a Discovery call with me here.
Sending you all the well wishes