The Mindset Myth

Work on your mindset, that’s what everyone, including me, keeps on saying. Work on your mindset. But actually it’s a myth. It’s hard to work on your mindset, because mindset is not a single thing.

It might be more accurate to extol the virtues of working on your mindsets. The fact is that we all have multiple mindsets, not just one. Think about it for a moment. Is the mindset that helps you sit down and write a report, article or proposal a good mindset for meeting a new customer or the key sponsor of your latest project? Probably not.

Is the mindset that serves you best when you’re having a tough day and you need to just grit your teeth and get on with it going to be a good mindset for taking stock of the week and working out the priorities for next week? Of course not!

So the reality is that we all need multiple mindsets, each useful in different circumstances. Working out which mindset will suit the occasion is one skill to cultivate. The other is your ability to change from one mindset to another.

It will be irrelevant that you’ve cultivated a super-positive, can-do mindset for getting things done if you find it impossible to get out of a down-hearted and demotivated mindset at the end of a difficult day.

So practice shifting mindset, rather than trying to stay upbeat all the time. It’s not easy to do, and pretty well unnatural for most people. It can also be very irritating to other people (remember Pollyanna?) Cultivate mental agility, it will serve you better.

The Danger of Mixed Messages

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken” is a slogan that made me smile recently. It’s good advice. Trying to be something that you’re not usually results in you giving out mixed messages and either confusing other people or leaving them slightly mistrustful of you.

Mixed messages happen when the words we use are not backed up with matching tone of voice or body language or when there is a conflict between what someone is saying today compared with what they said yesterday.

I’m sure you can recognise this problem when you see it in others. Do you also recognise it when you do it yourself?

The times when it most often occurs that we give off mixed messages are when we’re out of our comfort zones. Doing something for the first time, it can be hard to exude an air of total confidence. But don’t make this an excuse for not doing anything new or challenging. The key is in preparation.

If you find that you don’t feel totally comfortable about something you’re going to do, here are a few things to check:

Do I believe in what I’m going to do? Is it valuable, worthwhile and constructive?
Do I believe what I’m going to tell other people?
Do I believe I am competent to do it?
Am I comfortable with the consequences of what I’m going to do?

If you find that the answer to one or more of these questions is ‘no’, then dig a bit deeper. Is there a conflict with your personal values? Is there a reason why you don’t feel good about it? Uncovering these internal conflicts before you set about your new challenge will be very important in avoiding the danger of giving off mixed messages.

Lack of confidence is easy to fix. Rehearse. Do as many rehearsals as you need until you feel totally at ease with the task. Yes it takes time, yes it takes effort. But I think you’ll find it’s worth it to be sure that when you announce your intentions to the world you sound like you mean it!