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You’ve probably heard how your mindset can either hold you back, or be the key to your success.

Mindsets are beliefs which influence what we do, and how we show up in life.

They are usually not obvious to us – a bit like the water a fish swims in. Mindsets are unexamined assumptions which we hold to be real. Mindsets feel true, in part because we gather evidence and reasoning to validate our world view. We don’t think to question beliefs we hold because ‘that’s just the way it is’, or ‘that’s just how I am!’

Being awake to your mindset and how it drives you is at the heart of leadership. I know this because mindsets have been the basis of my work for the last 20 years. I’ve seen first hand its power. People who have been hungry for years are only able to start on the path of leading change when they have a shift in their mindset. When people’s mindsets shift from ‘I can’t do anything, I’ll always be hungry, it’s not up to me’ – as reasonable and understandable as this is – to ‘I can end my hunger’, the journey to ending hunger has begun. Mindset beats circumstances every time. This can be hard to get. But it is true.

I’ve seen this too in organisations I’ve worked with. When people are making decisions and taking actions at work without being awake to their limiting mindsets, mediocrity reigns. Cultivating expansive, inclusive and change-resilient organisational mindsets is key to staying alert and relevant in the 21st century.

So how you do you uncover a mindset that’s not working for you?

Take a moment to think of something you want to be or do. It could be:

“I’d love to get fit”, or “I really want to meet a nice person and fall in love”, or “Working at a great company would be amazing.”

Got one?

Now, notice if there’s a ‘but’ that followed what you want. As in, “I’d love to get fit, but I don’t have time”. Or ‘I really want to meet a nice person and fall in love, but all the good ones are taken”. Or, “Working at a great company would be amazing, but I’m not experienced/talented enough to work there.”

Everything that follows the ‘but’ is your limiting mindset.

An example of one of my limiting mindsets was around writing my book Unlikely Leaders. I really wanted to write a book that made a difference …BUT …”writing a good book is what other people do.” WOW! I didn’t even know I believed this! This was a hidden mindset running my show and keeping me small.

So how do you change your mindset to one that is more empowering?

Firstly, recall your mindset from above (in my case, “only other people write books”).

  1. Ask – Is this true? Really? In my example, was it true that only ‘other people’ could write a book, and I was not one of those people? No! Of course not! So I got writing!

But, if the answer to that was yes, then…

  1. Look for evidence to support a different world view. For me, that could look like finding examples of other people who wrote books that mattered, who weren’t professional writers. Or times I wrote something that was proficient like an essay at university, or a report for work. Anything really to break up the ‘truth’ of what I believed.

Note: this isn’t positive thinking. A mindset is there because it makes sense to you, and you have a history that justifies it. Pretending the opposite won’t cut it. You need to build up new beliefs and find new evidence for them so you can own it for yourself. This can take time. Women and men in villages didn’t magically go ‘ok, we can do anything’. No! It took a lot of time, trust and deep work to be able to come to a place of authentically knowing that some other future was possible.

So now you try it. Dig out those hidden limiting mindsets, then interrogate the ‘truth’ of them. What new freedom did you discover?

I’d love to know what limiting mindsets were a surprise for you, and what you created as your more empowering belief.

Till next week,