I have a confession to make. A deep, dark secret which is tough to admit even to myself.
The secret is that a negative mindset has destroyed progress toward so many of my goals in life.
Goals such as getting (and keeping!) my house organized. Expanding my piano repertoire by learning new pieces. Becoming more intentional about my time by saying “no” to people pleasing.
The Root of the Problem
The problem isn’t that I don’t have a strong “why.” It also has nothing to do with being unaware of how to get where I want to go.
For me, the problem lies with negativity.
There have been so many times when I make actual progress toward a goal only to wake up one day with a negative mindset. Maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before. Or maybe I missed my morning run.
Whatever the initial reason, negativity sinks its teeth in and takes over.
It all starts with doubt which causes me to question the validity of my goal.
Accomplishing the goal suddenly seems impossible, unattainable, and even a waste of time.
Something which once seemed absolutely worth doing loses its meaning in the face of negativity.
Does this sound like you? Have you ever started passionately chasing a goal only to be stopped in your tracks by a negative mindset?
A Cycle of Negativity
A negative mindset, however small it starts, can be powerful enough to send me into a cycle of self-sabotage.
The cycle goes something like this …
I get excited about a new goal and figure out which small, daily steps will help me accomplish it.
At first, I’m so excited about this goal that nothing can dissuade me from believing I will acomplish it.
Taking those small, daily steps is simple at first because when you start from zero, seeing progress is easy.
Regardless of the goal, progress gets tougher at some point.
The initial excitement of having a new goal begins to fade away. You hit a wall and are forced to either learn and adapt or abandon ship.
Growth is required to move beyond the starting point. And growth never comes without some type of turmoil.
Seeds of Doubt
And for me, that turmoil usually involves a tiny seed of doubt.
It typically boils down to perfectionism and (admittedly) unattainable standards.
The lie of perfection feeds thoughts of inadequacy and stalls progress. My mindset suddenly shifts from positive to negative.
It quickly becomes easy to find every excuse in the book to stop taking action toward my goal.
After all, with a husband, 3 kids, and a full-time career I don’t have to look very far to find an excuse!
Armed with an excuse rationalized as quite validly justified in my mind, all daily actions stop. And my goal withers away to nothing.
The tiny seed of doubt, watered by ridiculous excuses, soon grows into a huge tree preventing personal growth.
“We are all gardeners, planting seeds of intention and watering them with attention in every moment of every day.”
Goals, Mindset, and Success
If going after goals is so difficult, why do it? Why not just stay exactly where you are right now? And what does mindset have to do with any of this?
I am a firm believer that growth is essential to life itself. We are constantly evolving into different versions of ourselves.
Goals provide a framework and a direction for growth. There are a million different ways we could choose to grow. But chasing all of them at once means never making meaningful progress in any of them.
It’s only when we focus our attention on a specific goal that we see progress. Whatever has our attention sees progress.
Our mindset ultimately determines success or failure in the areas where our attention is focused.
If we don’t pay attention to keeping our mindset positive, overwhelm, self-sabotage, and a tendency to remain stagnant can easily creep in.
We remain stuck where we are if we don’t keep pursuing goals. We ultimately fail to accomplish what we set out to do.
And even beyond the disappointment of one failed goal is the pattern of quitting which can quickly establish itself.
A negative mindset can set you up to fail time after time. After awhile, negativity can convince you that trying again one more time is simply not worth it.
Awareness: The First Step Toward A Positive Mindset
We need positivity and small achievements here and there to encourage us to keep going even when it’s tough.
The abilites to enjoy life, experience happiness, and achieve success depend upon mindset. Achieving a positive mindset is crucial!
Are you ready to learn how to transform your mindset from self-sabotaging negativity to one of goal-conquering positivity? Although incorporating the following tactics does require some consistency, each one is actually quite simple.
As with most things in life, the very first step is awareness.
Pay attention to your thought patterns. Are the conversations you have with yourself dominated by motivational self-talk? Or do they tend to have negative overtones causing you to question yourself?
Capture your thoughts on paper by spending some time writing them down.
Can you identify any common themes to your thoughts? Can you figure out the root cause behind the negativity?
In many instances, self-defeating thoughts are driven by a random negative comment made by someone years ago. Or a past situation which you perceive as having ended poorly.
Our brains tend to drudge up negativity from the past and automate it into self-defeat or other negative thought patterns.
It’s only when we take the time to process through our automated thinking that we begin to make connections and positive change.
I have found that it’s incredibly easy to let my thinking go on auto-pilot. When on auto-pilot, the mind brings forth patterns of thinking which have developed over long periods of time.
Patterns which may be based upon completely false information but which evoke feelings of low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and defeat.
Challenge Your Thoughts
Transferring your thoughts to paper gives them an element of reality which is otherwise difficult to capture. Seeing the words in black and white gives you the opportunity to analyze and even dispute the negativity.
Patterns of thinking can become so ingrained into your thought life that they are nearly impossible to identify unless they are written down.
And yet these patterns are powerful enough to hold you back from your full potential and stop personal growth.
Once you have started writing down your thoughts, you can begin to challenge them. Is there any truth whatsoever behind those self-defeating thoughts? Begin to focus in on where the thought originated from and then work to re-frame it.
Through writing down my own thought patterns, I have discovered that perfectionism often holds me back from progress. I have held onto the false belief that everything in my life has to be absolutely perfect for my life to have meaning.
Perfectionism is a lie which has kept me stuck in a negative rut.
Unfortunately, growth is messy and imperfect. Mistakes and missteps are a prerequisite to finding the right path.
There is no perfection in life and continuing to believe this lie would forever keep me stuck.
Uncovering the source of my negative mindset has been incredibly helpful in moving toward a more positive one. Learning or doing something new requires mistakes!
My need to live up to some skewed definition of perfection has so often caused me to abandon goals and remain stagnant.
But the good news is that through awarenss, I have now been able to identify exactly where my goals derail. Instead of letting myself go down the perfectionism trail, I can use various other tactics to keep myself going toward growth.
Find a Mentor
Adopting a growth mindset is often easier when you are surrounded by others who have a similar mindset.
Seek out the company of others who are also interested in personal growth and maintaing a positive mindset.
Consider finding a mentor or coach to assist you in attaining your goals. This is especially helpful if you are looking to advance your skills in a particular area.
Finding a coach has been pivotal in several areas of my life, most notably in one of my favorite hobbies.
A few years ago, I decided to pursue a type of horseback riding called dressage. I grew up riding in a completely different discipline but had always been intrigued by dressage.
And so, I looked around for an instructor.
A couple of weeks later, I finally found someone with not only a great deal of experience in the sport of dressage but who also has a growth mindset herself.
It’s been 4 years and I continue to take so much value from not only the lessons themselves but their application to life in general.
Finding an instructor with a positive mindset has been such a blessing in my own life! I highly encourage you to find that person in a relevant area of your own life.
Accountability and learning from others propels growth in ways which are otherwise difficult to achieve.
Your Physical Health
And speaking of personal growth …. maintaining a positive mindset is nearly impossible if you’re not paying attention to your physical health.
The food you put into your body, exercise, and sleep all have a profound impact on your mental wellbeing and simply cannot be ignored!
The Gut-Brain Connection
Believe it or not, there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut.
Think about the last time you did something which made you nervous. Maybe it was a job interview, presentation, or even watching your daughter’s big soccer game. Did you have butterflies in your stomach?
If so, you have experienced the gut-brain connection firsthand.
Although we are only beginning to understand the science behind the connection, the fact that there is a connection simply cannot be disputed.
When your brain is stressed and in a negative mindset, your stomach is impacted. You may even experience abdominal pain and cramping during times of high anxiety and depression. Likewise, when your stomach is in distress, signals with the potential to darken your mindset are sent to your brain.
The great news is that there are certain foods which can reduce anxiety and therefore minimize abdominal distress.
Foods high in vitamin C, healthy fats, and magnesium work in different ways to naturally reduce stress hormones and elevate your mood. Look for ways to add foods such as pistachios, salmon, oranges, and avocados to your diet.
Move Your Body
I know that exercise may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but it does wonders for your brain health!
Exercise actually releases feel-good hormones in your brain, elevating your mood and giving you a sense of accomplishment.
Beyond the natural release of hormones which comes with exercise is the focus required to do it.
Shifting your focus to completing a physical task often leaves little mental space to ruminate yourself further into a negative spiral.
It gives your brain an opportunity to shift the focus elsewhere and to stop the tendency to spiral further.
One of the reasons that I love dressage so much is that it requires a great deal of both mental focus and physical energy.
Great riders make it look completely effortless but the truth is that the sport requires the rider to constantly adjust the horse into “effortless.”
The rider must always read the horse’s movements and transfer that information into physical movements communicated back to the horse.
In short, dressage requires intense focus combined with physical prowess and there is little room left over to ruminate on the negative.
It completely engrosses me and by doing so, gives me a sense of wellbeing and accomplishment that few other activities do.
I highly recommend that you find some type of physical activity which mentally and physically challenges you. You will find it much easier to develop a positive mindset by regularly exercising!
Somewhere along the line, we have developed a distorted view of sleep.
In today’s world, it’s all about how much can be accomplished on the least amount of sleep. Society today wears sleep deprivation like a badge of honor.
Everywhere you look, there are ads for energy drinks, supplements, and caffeine-filled products guaranteed to help you stay awake for days.
Meanwhile, there are equally as many ads for medications and supplements guaranteed to put you to sleep when you’re struggling with insomnia.
The reality is our bodies NEED sleep. It’s the reset button which brings us back to neutral and refreshes our minds and bodies.
There is no positive mindset without adequate rest.
And we are making sleep way too complicated. Caffeine, screen time before bed, and unrelieved anxiety all work against quality sleep.
Simple adjustments to your daily (and nightly) routines can do wonders in helping you get a good night’s sleep. Check out this post for more tips on getting restful sleep at night.
Calm Your Mind
Learning how to calm your mind can also have a dramatic impact on your ability to attain a positive mindset. One way to do this is through meditation.
This ancient practice helps you become more aware of your thoughts. You can then begin to control your thoughts and learn how to manage negative feelings.
I was sceptical of meditation until trying it a few months ago.
Meditation does require practice however I immediately began noticing positive changes. It helped me develop an awareness of my thoughts and the need to stop thinking on auto-pilot.
I have also learned techniques for avoiding negative chatter in my mind. Negative chatter, fueled by insecurity and overwhelm, can swirl into a perfect storm of anxiety.
Although it can feel as if we have no control over our thoughts (and especially the negative chatter), we absolutely do.
Meditation clears space for peace and introspection within your mind, essential components to developing a more positive mindset.
Meditation is an essential piece of developing a more positive mindset!
If you are completely new to meditation, I highly recommend this app. I can’t say enough about the positive changes I have seen since I started using it!
It’s Your Turn to Work on a Positive Mindset
Goals are important because when done consistently, they build into habits. Habits form the backbone of lasting change and goal attainment. Without small goals performed consistently, goal attainment is impossible, even more so without a positive mindset.
I hope you have found these tactics helpful. You can do hard things! But you must work to establish a foundation based upon positivity in order to do so.
Developing a more positive outlook doesn’t have to be difficult. Take small action every day to see bigger changes down the road.
I’d love to hear your thoughts below on what you found most helpful! Until next time …. keep chasing after those goals! Remember, the only failure in life is quitting.