Boost your mindset
“Creating a positive mindset ultimately boils down to talking differently to yourself.” – Folef Bredt
What do you tell yourself when you miss an important deadline, you get negative feedback on your presentation, or an important customer complains about something? Do you think: “I should have pushed harder or prepared better” or even: “I’m not good enough for this role”?
Don’t worry, thoughts like these are normal. Evolution wired our brains for negative thinking, because it helps us to learn from our mistakes. It only becomes a problem when these negative thoughts hang around for too long. You’ll start feeling worse about yourself, which will, ironically, hurt your performance. See the spiral effect?
Change the conversation
There’s only one way out: make a conscious effort to see the upside of things, as the brain won’t do this for you. I like to use the term ‘self-talk’, because creating a positive mindset ultimately boils down to talking differently to yourself .
For example, being a perfectionist, I have a habit of always pushing for a better result, even when the result stops getting better. It helps to say to myself: “perfect is the enemy of good” or “good is good enough.” Similarly, when things goes wrong, say something like “things don’t always work out the way you expect, interesting…”.
However, changing your mindset is often more work than just saying a few friendly words to yourself.
Mistakes – get used to them
The truth is, we make lots of mistakes throughout our lives – even when we’re older and ‘wiser’. How do we process these mistakes properly? Firstly, by leading a healthy lifestyle – getting enough sleep and exercise, eating well and taking enough breaks. But even this isn’t always enough to shift your brain into a positive state. That’s when you need to manage your mindset. Here are eight ways to do this.
- Manage your goals. It’s okay to dream big, but remember to break them down into small steps and attainable goals. Trying something for the first time? Then let your goal be to simply enjoy what you’re doing. Chances are you’ll not hit a home run right away, just give it your best shot.
- Focus on the throw. Professional tennis players excel at this – at least those who win Grand Slam tournaments do. Concentrate on the task itself and not the result. Made a mistake? Just breathe, stick to what you’re doing and focus on the next shot. Train that focus muscle!
- Make your wins count. Think of your last performance review: there’s a tendency to focus on what went wrong and what we could have done better. Instead, ask yourself what went well. This is not the same as bragging. It’s about identifying things that took effort and motivated you.
- Accept failure. Something went wrong? The first step is to acknowledge it and accept that it hurts. Once the disappointment or frustration fades away, you’re ready for the next step: learn. See what you can do differently next time. And cut yourself some slack. Imagine a good friend tells you something went horribly wrong for them. What would you say? Treat yourself the same, show yourself some compassion.
- Have a Plan B. If failure is likely, have a back-up plan. Suppose you want to go to the gym three times a week, but you’re too busy. Instead of being defeatist about it, do some shorter workouts at home. This will keep your workout routine alive and offer an immediate positivity boost.
- Start a journal. Say you’re doing all of this, but you’re still bothered by negative self-talk. Then it’s time to rethink your thinking. Make time every day to write down what’s on your mind and how you’re feeling. It’s a great trick to be able to identify your thought patterns and the situations (or people) that trigger them. Then, challenge those thoughts: are they realistic? Are they helping you?
- Practice gratitude. Each day, write down three things you’re thankful for. Reflect on the positive aspects of your life, even if they seem small.
- Hang out with positive-minded people. Finally, here’s a simple one: hang out with colleagues and acquaintances who have a positive vibe. Their energy will rub off on you too.
Any one of these tips can help you to drive away negative thoughts. The more tips you follow, the more likely you’ll succeed. However, if certain negative thoughts keep returning, you probably need extra support. In that case don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional coach to you help address your specific challenges!
The upside of failure – tips for managers
Everyone makes mistakes, even managers. Perhaps a failed project, a bad investment or a poor hiring decision. As a manager, however, you might be reluctant to share your failures. After all, why show weakness? But if you accept failure is a natural learning opportunity on the way to success, your team members will see it that way too. After all, their mindset reflects the things you do and say. So be vulnerable, share your ‘failures’ and encourage your people to do the same. This openness will increase the psychological safety in the team and foster positive thinking.
Folef Bredt is founder of Lifeguard, ING’s vitality and wellbeing partner for the WQ Program, WQ Connect, WQ Insights and global Think Forward Leadership programmes. This is his fourth blog in a monthly series.