Wake up, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, drive to work: a common pre-work experience most people do almost unconsciously every day until they have to get to work and start being productive (hopefully). Unless your life is unpredictable every day, you probably have a morning routine that you could run through without thinking about.
Now if your daily habits include skipping breakfast, sitting at a desk job all day, then coming home and scarfing down a frozen pizza with a nice diet Coke to wash it down, then you might want to look at making some changes. Starting a habit is notoriously difficult because your mind and body are so accustomed to certain ways of doing things, so it takes a lot of conscious effort to add something new to the mix and make it part of your routine.
Everyone should feel empowered enough make a change. You know that feeling you get when you start a new job or begin a new diet that’s really going to make you feel better? You know it’s going to be difficult, but you’re excited anyway. The problem comes when that fire and excitement dies down at the very first hint of an obstacle. So how do we keep those flames lit in spite of sure winds?
If you know how to get into and maintain a positive, goal-oriented mindset, that excitement and motivation to be successful doesn’t wear down so easily. You’re able to stay motivated and you put yourself in a much better position to handle any challenges along the way.
“But Danny, I can’t even pay attention to my boss talk for more than 30 seconds at a time without being distracted… How am I supposed to stay in a focused mindset when my goal is to get promoted?”
I’m glad you asked!
Define your goal, visualize it, and know why it’s important
In order to even start trekking along, you have to know where you’re going. Are you looking to just “get in shape” or are you looking to lose 35 lbs. and firm up your arms? Are you just looking to get a job or are you looking to become the head chef of that expensive restaurant down the street? Be specific with what you’re trying to do or you’ll end up with results that are only in the ballpark of your vision. If you only have a foggy, general idea in mind for what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s much harder to stay focused because your idea for what you want has so much room for other things to pop up and distract you from your goal.
Take a moment to close your eyes and think about yourself in your happy place in 10 years. We visualize a variety of things every day, but the thoughts that are reoccurring eventually become our reality. So if you want your goal to become a reality, take 10 minutes every morning to close your eyes and think deep and hard about what it is that you want for yourself. By doing this in the morning, you’re priming your mindset to be goal-oriented for the day. If this is done every day, think about how many things, over time, you could be doing on a day-to-day basis to help you towards your goal just by starting the day off in the right mindset.
Create a plan
Once you define your goal and have a solid picture in your head of how your end result will look, there’s still a gap to address. That gap, of course, is how you are going to get from where you’re at now to where you want to be. Giving yourself an outline of what you need to do and when holds you accountable and makes it easier to focus on your goal task-by-task rather than viewing it as one huge, daunting undertaking.
If you’re excited about starting something, obviously it’s easy to define and visualize; however, that excitement often dawns a bit when people realize what they actually have to do. I’m not saying you have to write an organized, point-by-point essay with the blueprints of success, but get an idea of the steps you might have to take.
When deciding on how to start an exercise routine and make some dietary changes, you have to be in the right mindset to think of everything it is that you have to do. So take a end goal off of your mind and try to think about it on a month-by-month basis so you don’t get overwhelmed by trying to tackle the bigger picture all at once. Give yourself daily or weekly goals, focus on them, commit them to habit, keep adding small goals, and write it all down! Seeing that plan on paper can go a long way in ensuring that you stick to it.
Write down your progress each step of the way. A plan is great to have handy whenever you need to know what you need to do on any given day, but taking note of when you make a mistake or when you accomplish something can give you a visual representation of your progress each step of the way… your trainer could be your best friend when it comes to helping with that.
Learn to love mistakes (after you accidentally make them)
Obviously don’t make mistakes on purpose, but don’t be afraid of them. Mistakes are inevitable; you’re not going to sail across the sea without hitting some stressful storms along the way. With every mistake you make, take a step back. Move away from the physical sensation of feeling like you failed and look at the situation objectively. What happened? Did I completely ruin my chances? What could I have done to avoid this? Retroactively analyzing a situation can be the best tool for reinvigorating your mindset.
Over time, think of how many times you might run into situations that set you back on your way towards your goal: probably a lot. Now think of two paths where you may have failed on a variety of occasions, but your mindset was different: one where you’ve thought “well, I have no idea how to recover from that” every time and the other when you’ve thought “What can I do at this moment to make things better and keep moving forward?” Every mistake presents a choice: Do I let this stop me or do I work around it? The latter generates more opportunity over time than the former. Keeping yourself in a growth mindset keeps you flexible and motivated.
Give yourself credit
This technique is incredibly underappreciated, as it’s so common for people to get caught up in nitpicking what they do wrong and what they could’ve done better–which is fine to an extent–but they don’t give themselves credit when they do things right. The path to success is a mental game, and if you aren’t able to stay confident along the way, it’s going to be much harder to stay motivated.
Have you eaten a well-balanced breakfast for 4 days straight? Great! Let it be known. Recognizing when you’ve done something good for yourself can give you a much-needed sigh of relief and allows you to feel accomplished in times when you feel overwhelmed. Merely focusing on the fact that you’ve only lost 4 lbs. in two weeks instead of 7 lbs. belittles what you’ve done and makes what you still need to do feel that much heavier.
Giving yourself credit allows you to inherently learn to trust yourself. The more you recognize your small accomplishments on your path, the more you’re able to realize that you have the ability to make things happen. The more you realize that, the more you can trust yourself to keep pushing, make tough decisions, and move forward in a positive mindset.
Make your environment support your goals
If your house is stocked with chocolate chip cookies and leftover pizza, you’re likely not in an ideal environment to lose 20 lbs. by summer. We are products of our environment and our interactions with it, so in order to achieve what we want to achieve, we need to put the tools around us to make it happen.
When I say “environment,” I don’t just mean your house, work, or a place, per say; I mean the entirety of your surroundings, which includes the people you surround yourself with, food you eat, clothes you wear, etc. Someone who aspires to be a successful businessman/woman would benefit from dressing for the part (collared shirts, ties, dress pants) as opposed to wearing old, raggedy clothes all the time. Likewise, if you’re really just trying to get more sleep every night, prime your sleeping environment to support that goal by taking the TV out of your room, for example, so the temptation goes away. Maybe you’re aiming to lose 20 lbs. by summer–why not give yourself extra accountability by putting a chart on your fridge that reminds you to check off days that you exercise for 30 minutes?
The point is that it’s all about putting yourself in the mindset for success, so if you can tune your environment to the same frequency as your growth mindset, it will be that much easier to mentally keep your goal in mind while pushing through distractions.
Know that you’re not alone
Everywhere, people around you that are embarking on their own journeys, running into their own setbacks, and experiencing the same spectrum of emotions that you are going to experience when you set out to achieve something. Of course, everyone’s situation is different, but when you learn to empathize with others’ situations, you put your own in perspective.
Something as small as giving your co-worker a bit of encouragement during rough times can go a long way in terms of getting him or her back into the right mindset. By helping those around you, you’re not only making a difference to them, but you’re also initiating a positive environment for yourself and everyone else to thrive in. Learning to feel others’ success, moreover, can further motivate you to keep pushing for your own benefit. If you can recharge someone else’s mindset, just imagine what you can do for your own if you’re willing to listen to yourself.
Starting and maintaining the right mindset throughout each step on the way to your goal can be incredibly challenging, but not impossible. If you create a plan and stick to it while knowing how to manipulate your environment to support your growth mindset, you’ll not only be able to stay focused, but you’ll find it easier to recognize your mistakes and give yourself credit for how far you come with each step. By maintaining a soft, positive mindset on a consistent basis–even when you make mistakes and learn from them–you’ll develop those subconscious habits to succeed, no matter how much your original habits were keeping you from moving forward.
Your reality follows your mind, so put your mind in the right place and your reality will follow!