A strong mindset is unafraid of the risks in the unknown. I learned this as a kid growing up in Wyoming while playing among rocks and sagebrush that hid rattlesnakes.
When you are not certain of your environment, it pays to be alert and ready to make sudden changes when confronted with unexpected—whether they are rattle snakes or a volatile stock market.
A strong mindset is open to possibilities. It is constantly on the watch for potential opportunities and it works hard to make them happen. Sometimes, it means being alert to rattlesnakes camouflaged as sagebrush; sometimes it means embracing a different way of thinking about a career change.
Learning to build a strong mindset is crucial as we encounter changes in the economy or fierce challenges from our competitors. It is a strong mindset that will get us through the challenges we will meet in both business and life.
Here are 5 tips to help you build a strong mindset:
1. BUILD CONFIDENCE ONE SMALL STEP AT A TIME
When I took the physical fitness test at the FBI Academy I was the 1 percent that makes the top 99 percent possible. I failed miserably, so my challenge became twofold: maintaining confidence in myself while training to pass the rigid test.
My confidence plummeted. I worked with a coach at the Academy who taught me the secret to building confidence—take small steps.
By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial, you can sail through obstacles that you never thought you could defeat. Slowly, you can cultivate an appreciation for the small improvements when they happen. Success builds upon itself, and slowly, it lays down a permanent route to change.
TIP: Small steps are concrete. Mountains are climbed one step at a time, not by giant leaps. You are less likely to feel out of control if you can locate the smaller problems within the larger situation.
My coach encouraged me to acknowledge the small accomplishments and savor them before moving on to the next.
2. EMBRACE YOUR OWN HELL
Everyone’s hell is different. I was scared—if I didn’t get pass the Academy’s physical fitness requirements, I couldn’t become an FBI agent. I needed courage. My strength came from facing the reality of the obstacles in front of me and reaching deep within for the resolve to overcome them. My courage came from facing inward and developing a strong mindset. I told myself:
- Don’t run
- Don’t panic
- Face the situation
- Believe you can do it
- Fix it as soon as possible
- Waiting will only make the situation worse
- Now is the best time
- I am the best person
The fear I felt did not weigh me down; instead, it deepened my resolve. A strong mindset is not built on something that is slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock—like a skyscraper, the higher you want to go, the deeper you must go.
TIP: Remain alert for both positive and negative changes in your environment. When the negative turns into your own personal hell, look at your obstacles and setbacks as challenges to be met rather than threats to be avoided.
3. COMMITMENT COMES FROM WITHIN
In the deepest part of me I knew that I would make the FBI my career. It wasn’t a stepping-stone to something better that might come along. I was a disciple of my own deep values and beliefs. I had the will to subjugate my feelings to those values.
People are often unsuccessful because they lack commitment to their deepest values. Competence is not an inherited trait, like blue eyes. Competence is the result of working hard and concentrating on bringing about the desired result. No one succeeds overnight; failures do not happen overnight, either. A person who is fully committed can find a creative solution to almost any task.
TIP: Keep these words from Jim Collins in mind: “The best form of commitment comes from a single-minded passion for what they do and an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and work.”
4. WHEN YOU TAKE CONTROL, YOU EMPOWER YOURSELF
To be in control means that, through personal struggle, you can find ways to empower yourself and influence both the direction and outcome of your own life. A strong mindset shuts out feelings of fear and inadequacy and focuses on reaching the goal.
I learned a great deal about developing a strong mindset in firearms training. As a shooter, I employed many of the contemplation techniques I used in prayer; emptying my mind of extraneous thoughts and keeping my mind’s eye focused on one thing—the target. And then I narrowed the focus even further so my total concentration was on one thing—the gun sight at the end of the barrel.
Once your mind is quiet, you can challenge the beliefs you hold about yourself that are false or can be changed. Athletes will not improve their performance unless they reach for the goal that is beyond their grasp.
If you settle for mediocrity in yourself, that’s what you’re going to get, so don’t be surprised when your response is not what you had hoped it would be.
Challenge the beliefs you hold about yourself and enlarge your territory.
TIP: When you take control, you empower yourself because you are the one who shapes your destiny rather than passively accepting events as they come along.
5. PURPOSE IS NOT OVER-RATED
I learned from my firearms instructors that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Live your life with a purpose. No matter how many major changes and transitions you go through in your life, if you rely upon guiding principles and values that are important to you, they will always give your life meaning.
Dr. Benjamin Mays said,
“The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals, the tragedy lies in not having any goals to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It’s not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideals, but it is a disaster to have no ideals to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach.”
TIP: To have a strong mindset, it’s essential that you align your career and life with your deepest values.
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