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Do You Have the Right Mindset for Personal Development?

Mindset is “the established set of attitudes” you hold. An attitude is “a settled way of thinking or feeling about something, typically in a way that is reflected in a person’s behavior.” Before you can make lasting progress in personal development, there may be some established attitude(s) you’ll need to work on first.

Graphic Showing Thinking WrathFor me, it’s been a lifelong struggle to adjust my attitude about weight loss. Even as a baby, I was always a little chubby. At some point, I came to believe that I could never lose weight. I quit trying. I gave up. It took many years to learn that my mindset was the only barrier to my weight loss. Day-to-day, the old attitude asserts itself. I have to confront it in order to overcome it. 

The same is true for everyone. We have all experienced mindsets that could derail us if we let them. Acknowledging them and deliberately challenging them is essential for personal development.   

It Takes More than Desire to Develop Personally and Professionally 

If desire alone were enough to make things happen, weight loss would have been a lot easier for me! I wanted, very badly, to weigh 20 pounds less in high school when designer jeans were fashionable. My desire to lose weight, though, wasn’t backed by sustained behavior change. To me, making those changes didn’t seem worthwhile because I was so convinced that nothing would work. It may seem absurd, but I truly believed I could not, would not, and did not deserve to lose weight.    

There’s a myth that says you can do anything you want IF you want it badly enough. I don’t believe that is accurate. I’m a very determined, hard-working, goal-oriented person. I’ve achieved a lot in many areas of my life. In every success, there was more than sheer will required. By contrast, I’ve had my share of failures. I’ve failed in things I wanted very badly to accomplish. If desire were the only requirement, those failures would have been successes.

Reflecting on my failures, the missing ingredient was not desire. It’s my own mindset. I’ve achieved what I believed I could achieve. I’ve failed when I indulged negative attitudes and self-doubt.  It’s the only common denominator and sole differentiation between successes and failures I’ve experienced. 

In this series, Why Wait to Be Great?, our focus is unleashing hidden potential. Self-doubt is one of the greatest inhibitors of potential, and that’s why we’re calling it out here. 

Is Your Personal Development Stunted by Debilitating Self-Doubt?  

Self-doubt is a mindset. It’s the attitude you have when you lack faith in yourself. Self-doubt is when you feel uncertain about your ability to do or be something. It may not be rational, valid, or based on proof. More often, it’s a nagging feeling that is difficult to overcome. 

If you’re battling with that persistent voice that keeps telling you how things could go wrong, how you may not have worked it out right, then you’re dealing with self-doubt. 

If you’re stuck in a rut, self-doubt may be what’s keeping you there. Work on this before working on the specific personal development goals you’ve set. What you desire will be easier to acquire when you eradicate self-doubt. 

Self-doubt can spring from all sorts of experiences. Diagnosing why you have these doubts may require therapy or deep reflection. Regardless of the root cause of self-doubt, there comes a time when you have to challenge it by asking questions like these:

  • Is there any evidence that this doubt is valid? 
  • Is there evidence to the contrary?
  • If this self-doubt were eradicated, is this something you could otherwise do?
  • What would you have to do to feel more confident in this situation? Why not do it?
  • Are you reacting to this situation/challenge alone? Or are you conflating it with other ones?

As you’re challenging self-doubt, you’ll be acknowledging that it might not be valid. That’s a good first step toward taming it. This is imperative for changing your own mindset. Unless you change it, you’ll be accepting and amplifying it… you’ll be validating that mindset and allowing it to be a limitation for you. 

Almost everyone struggles with self-doubt at some point in their personal and professional lives. 

Researchers warn us that self-doubt can be dangerous to your overall wellness; it is not only physiologically harmful but also harmful in terms of living productively and with emotional and spiritual wellness. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a pervasive condition… 

Unfortunately, it’s something we don’t talk about often enough in the workplace. It’s a taboo topic because we’re all trying so hard to seem like we’re capable and bullet-proof.

Although it seems innocuous, self-doubt is a powerful inhibitor of potential because: 

  • Self-doubt causes us to embrace mediocrity.
  • Self-doubt leads to procrastination.
  • Self-doubt turns into self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • Self-doubt limits risk-taking, creativity and innovation.
  • Self-doubt fuels anxiety. 

If you’d like to learn more about the ways self-doubt can manifest themselves in individuals, check out this presentation (available live on April 11 and on-demand afterwards). It will address imposter syndrome, self-sabotage, risk aversion, the perfectionism paradigm, and other prevalent issues that may interfere with unleashing your own potential.    

Recognize and Challenge Self-Limiting Beliefs

Like self-doubt, self-limiting beliefs are a barrier. In many cases, self-doubt stems from self-limiting beliefs. Self-limiting beliefs sound like:

  • I can’t…
  • I’ve never…
  • I’m not good at…
  • I don’t deserve…
  • I’m not sure…
  • I don’t have what it takes to…
  • I’ll probably fail…

As long as you’re thinking this way, you’re right. To shift from can’t to can, not sure to certain, and probably failing to probably succeeding, you’ve got to challenge those self-limiting beliefs. 

Consider this 4-layer drill down for understanding what to focus on for changing your mindset. 

  1. We tend to focus on results. For me, the number on the scale is a result. Focusing on results, though, is insufficient. 
  2. To drive results, it’s more productive to focus on the actions required for getting results. With weight loss, focusing on nutrition, diet, and exercise will get you better results than looking at the results alone. 
  3. But, at times, we all make behavioral choices that produce the wrong results. Why? Because, in the moment, something causes us to believe that different actions are acceptable or better than the ones that will drive results. What we believe is what compels our behavioral choices. 
  4. Our beliefs stem from our experiences. What we’ve seen, heard, and done in the past shapes our beliefs. 

Here’s the formula: to get the results you want, you have to create new experiences that will shape new beliefs and cause you to more confidently and easily choose the right actions (the ones that will produce your desired results). If you don’t have new experiences, you won’t have new beliefs… meaning you won’t change your actions and get the results you want. 

Getting new experiences requires a willingness to fail. Enter into any new experience with a desire to learn instead of a desire to succeed. Without embarrassment, shame, or unreasonable expectations, do something new with absolutely no judgement – the success is in trying and learning, NOT in doing it right. After all, why should you do it right if you’ve never done it before? 

After a few attempts and failures, you’ll find that it’s increasingly difficult to fail and that there’s less and less to learn. Only then is it reasonable to set slightly higher expectations. Give yourself grace and maintain a mindset that’s open to learning and imperfections. 

To get comfortable with this approach, try it first on something that’s low stakes. For example, if you’ve never mastered bowling, try it there. Keep a “so what?” attitude because, truthfully, so what if you throw 10 consecutive gutter balls? Laugh it off. No one really cares! 

Continue stretching into other areas where failure can be your teacher. Shed shame and embrace opportunities to fail, learn and grow. Celebrate your successes and reflect on failures (without harsh self-critique!) so that you can learn from each one. 

Remember that the only truth in self-limiting beliefs is the power you give them. They are no longer true just as soon as you decide they’re false.