Rhubarb at SkillsYouNeed

This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.


By Nicholas Davies - psychologyofsuccess.org.uk

Success is really a state of mind. (Well, it is in my humble opinion!)

I can definitely speak from experience here. In the past, I can honestly say - with definite hand on heart - that I’ve had varying degrees of success in both my professional and personal life. Sometimes, I’ve achieved some great things, for instance I once won top prize at a public service training college I attended. Other times, I seem to have fallen flat on my face with my goals having become nothing more than dismal ‘failures’.

Now I use the word ‘failure’ euphemistically, as it is actually a word I now wholeheartedly refuse to believe in. I prefer to call it - in the manner of the Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Peter Jones -  ‘feedback’. And to me, this change in belief is the core point to achieving that seemingly elusive thing called ‘success.’

This was one of the reasons I created the ‘Success Psychology’ website – to investigate the ‘psychology of success’ and overcome failure. I’ve always had a strong interest here and my aim is to share some of the things that I’ve learnt or encountered with others so they too can benefit from the knowledge I’ve accumulated about this intriguing subject.

It was also through creating Success Psychology that I found out about the excellent site upon which this article is placed – ‘Skills You Need’. What I really like about this website is that it has a massive wealth of knowledge on all sort of skills required to progress in life. In fact, much of what is covered here is actually essential. You might have heard that knowledge is power? Well, the skills featured on here give an individual the power to change and developing a powerful ‘psychology of success’ requires a particular type of knowledge as well.  In other words, we need to develop an understanding of how to change what is known as ‘Mind Set’ for better results.

The problem that many people have when establishing goals and successfully achieving them is that they don’t have the right strategy in place in the first place. The minority who do might be fortunate enough to have either have been born with the right Mind-Set to develop the strategies they need (unlikely), or,  (more likely), they have been subjected to the appropriate ‘conditioning’ that has allowed them to get them where they want to be, precisely as a result of being able to create and follow the necessary game plans required for success . So, in light of this, what’s this thing called ‘Mind-Set’ really all about?

If you’ve never heard of Mind-Set before, essentially it’s about the way we perceive things according to how our minds are programmed. The best way to understand it is to pause for a minute and ask yourself the following question: how do you view the world? What are your beliefs about it? Do you think of it as a positive place where there are lots of developmental opportunities? Or do you think of it as frightening and inhospitable? Your answer will very much depend on how your mind has been programmed to engage with your environment. This is influenced by a range of factors and personally-held values, anything from within your background, family upbringing and education to cultural and spiritual beliefs. (In a nutshell, values are things that we hold in esteem and believe to be of the utmost importance to our lives.)

In fact, beliefs are very much key to Mind-Set, as it is these beliefs (as well as whatever values we hold) that underpin thoughts which in turn lead to actions. In this respect, beliefs form reality.

Think about it from this perspective. It was because of the process of belief that the United States was finally able to finally put a man on the moon. In the past, the commonly held view by many was that this was impossible. Yet it was a strongly-held belief by a small group of people (i.e. NASA, as inspired by President Kennedy) that it could be done that eventually led to this event taking place. What does that tell you about the power of this particular concept? That, in itself, is another lesson, but in terms of Mind-Set, having the right outlook with the right belief system will lead to success. I’m confident to be able to state that, as it’s been proven time and time again!

So, Mind-Set is important because it affects how we perceive the world and, therefore, how we create it; decision-making, action-taking and behaviour that we engage in are all influenced by Mind-Set.  What makes it especially important in this respect is the fact that the resultant decisions, actions and behaviour can massively affect the direction we take in life, the outcome of whatever goals we set for ourselves, the chances of achieving what we want and even the quality of life itself. All this is purely because of the power of thought influenced by whatever ‘Mind-Set’ we have instilled within.

Now, you might well be able to understand the damage a negative Mind-Set can do. If we hold negative beliefs, then these negative beliefs will translate into negative thoughts which will ultimately lead to negative actions. For instance, if you believe that you are not worthy of being fit and healthy (say, due to low self-esteem), you will - in all probability - avoid any thoughts about taking positive action to get fit and healthy. Instead, you’ll just focus on over-eating and not bothering with exercise. These thoughts translate into action, in that you don’t exercise and you eat too much. Consequently, you become overweight. It’s a bit like a ‘self-fulfilling’ prophecy.

Sound simplistic? Maybe, but the brain is a very complex organ after all. It seems to me that so many people slip into negative habits and actions purely by having a negative Mind-Set in the first place. It’s something the Neuro-Linguistic Programmers call ‘limiting beliefs.’ It’s important to remember that this is (more often than not) a subconscious process. In other words, most people don’t often realise that they’re doing it. For instance, you might have good intentions to lose weight and get fit, but if your subconscious Mind-Set is undermining you then these good intentions may well soon go to pot.

The great thing about Mind-Set is that it’s not ‘set’ in stone! It can be changed…

One powerful way to do this is to actually consciously recognise how your Mind-Set is influencing your thought and actions. This was expounded recently by my mentor Jurgen Wolff - who is an authority on focusing on success - in one of his MAD (Massive Action Day) sessions. He calls this little technique ‘paranoia vs pronoia’.

Basically, it works like this:

  1. When undertaking an activity or planning to undertake it (maybe working towards your goal or dealing with a situation), stop and ask yourself what your likely state of mind is. Is it paranoia? By this, we mean a total state of fear about your activity where you feel everybody and everything is against you. (Note, this does not mean ‘clinical paranoia’ as in the medical condition.) Or is it pronoia? By ‘pronoia’, we mean the total opposite of paranoia where you feel everything and everybody is on your side.
  2. Now consider how you would behave if each of the mind-states applied in this situation. If you were paranoid, what sort of behaviour would you display? If you were the opposite, how would you behave then?
  3. In both cases, what would be the likely outcome? What results do you think you would get? How would things turn out?
  4. Having considered both of these mind-states, ask yourself which one you’d prefer to adopt. If you were truly honest with yourself that you wanted to succeed, then you would naturally opt for pronoia. All you have to do is start thinking pronoia – it’s really as simple as that! (However, if you think that staying with paranoia is the better option and really couldn’t face it, then the best thing you can do is probably give up and try something else!)

The great thing about this little exercise is that it allows you to consciously recognise which Mind-Set you have, and if it turns out that you are running the negative one i.e. paranoia then all you have to do is stop, pause and reflect on the outcomes linked to each one and change your thinking to one of ‘pronoia’. Your subconscious mind will naturally follow and will seek to make whatever your thoughts are focusing on reality. In other words, you can consciously control your thoughts and redefine your Mind-Set according to whatever goal it is you wish to achieve.

What is at the heart of Mind-Set that makes changing it such a powerful boost to the chances of us achieving success?

To my mind, this is quite simply explained in the context of paranoia vs pronoia. It’s essentially about changing from a negative way of thinking to a positive one instead. Sure, it’s a cliché, but it’s all about the ‘power of positive thinking.’ The Mind-Set is essentially a like a computer programme for your mind, as Paul McKenna has frequently described it.

Of course, it’s all very well changing our thoughts just like that. But how can we make it permanent and, thus, stop our mind relapsing back into the same-old habit patterns of defeatist thinking? The key to this is repetition. In other words, repeating the same action over and over again until becomes second nature.

This is where NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) can come in useful, as the system (developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, and promoted by Paul McKenna quite extensively) has a huge armoury of exercises which can assist with programming the mind to adopt a more positive outlook. However, unless these exercises are repeated on a regular basis, their effects will be minimal. This is why repeating an exercise over a period of 30 days is a very effective way to embed this programming permanently. (The reason for this is that it is widely accepted that it takes 30 days to effectively form a habit. By implication, Mind-Set creation should be about habit forming positive thinking into the subconscious.)

As stated above, NLP is an excellent way to reprogram the mind to create a more positive ‘Mind-Set.’ There are countless books on the subject, as well as audio/visual material available which can be found with a simple Google search. However, as with many of these things, you’ll find a whole wealth of information out there to search through – and this can be a little daunting! (To be honest, I think the best starting point is probably the work of Paul McKenna, although if you want to investigate the field more in-depth, you couldn’t do worse than the work of Joseph O’Connor and Ian McDermot.)

However, there are also some very simple courses of action you could try to get you into the right ‘frame of mind’. The following are some of the methods I’ve found quite useful in the past and which I’d like to share with you:

  • Visualisation: visualisation is basically picturing ideas or goals in the mind and can be a very effective method of reprogramming.  I have seen this technique recommended in many a book, website, blog-site and journal over the years. The sub-conscious mind does not know the difference between what is real or imagined, so a lot can be suggested to it by what is consciously created and visualised. Visualisations are basically like ‘day-dreaming.’ This is essentially what hypnotherapy does. However, if you know what goals you want to achieve but are unsure whether you can achieve them, why not try to visualise them as much as possible?  Find some time on your own, clear your mind and try to visualise your goals as vividly as possible. The important thing about this is not to try and force your imagination to visualise your goals, just relax and enjoy your day-dreaming. The more you do this, and the more you vividly perceive the images of success in your mind’s eye, the more your Mind-Set will change to one that will seek to make them a reality.
  • Affirmations: affirmations tend to be more auditory than visual, in that the signals to the subconscious are heard as opposed to seen. As humans, we tend to learn from one of three perspectives: visual,(learning from things we see); auditory (learning from things we hear); kinaesthetic (learning by doing). If you are inclined towards auditory learning, then affirmations can be a very effective way of reprogramming your Mind-Set. Affirmations are basically positive statements which are repeated regularly. The theory is that the more they are repeated, the more the subconscious believes the statement to be true. So if you believe yourself to have low self-confidence, you can counter this by repeating the affirmation ‘I am becoming more confident day-by-day.’ If you regularly repeat this affirmation to yourself, within time your subconscious will begin to permanently restructure its programming around the statement with the aim of making it reality.
  • Use of visual reminders: if you use affirmations, why not write them out on index cards and place them in prominent places at home so that you see them on a regular basis? This is a good way of combining both the advantages of visual learning and the auditory benefits of affirmations. In other words, every time you see your affirmations on display you will have an opportunity to read and repeat them. You could also just use these reminders as a way of remembering your goals. Simply write your goals out on the index cards and put them in prominent positions such as mirrors, fridge doors, noticeboards, pictures  etc. By repeatedly viewing these messages, you will increase your focus and, again, assist in subconsciously reprogramming your mind to a more positive Mind-Set.
  • Set yourself a 30 day challenge to effectively habit-form: this is one of my favourite methods which I started adopting recently. As stated above, it’s generally believed that it takes about 30 days to form a habit. In other words, if you repeat an action frequently over this period then after 30 days it will become second nature (this applies to both good and bad habits!) From a positive perspective, if you set yourself a goal to achieve within the given time period (and by this I mean a simple, easy target to start off with) and take positive actions towards achieving this goal, the result will be – in all probability – that these actions will be hard-wired into your subconscious. As with the other methods, you are probably seeing a pattern here – repetition is the key! It can also be highly motivational, because you are holding yourself to account (this is even better if you actually publically blog about your challenges, as I do!) From personal experience, I can state that setting yourself a 30 day goal is a very powerful way of altering your Mind-Set. (If you are interested in finding out more about this and the inspiration for it which was derived from a TED video by Matt Cutts, a Google employee, check this post on my blog: http://psychologyofsuccess.org.uk/habit-forming-over-30-days/.)
  • Professional coaching, working with an NLP practitioner or hypnotherapist: perhaps one of the best ways of changing your Mind-Set is to obtain professional assistance. There are plenty of good life coaches, NLP practitioners and hypnotherapists out there who can provide one-to-one coaching to assist you in the process of reprogramming your Mind-Set.  This way, you can obtain personalised guidance from a qualified professional who can set you on the right track. It usually helps if you can find someone by personal referral or word-of-mouth, as this is the most reliable method of checking out their reputation. (Failing that, they should have a website where testimonials and reviews should be displayed.) Also, it is always advisable to check out first if they have been certified and accredited by a suitable professional organisation, such as the Association for NLP (ANLP - http://www.anlp.org/). If they are, this should also be displayed prominently on their website. My personal preference would be to use an NLP practitioner or hypnotherapist, as they can assist with dealing with any subconscious issues – especially if you find it difficult to consciously change your Mind-Set and find yourself being impeded by deep rooted beliefs.

So in, my humble opinion, changing your Mind-Set can lead towards a more positive future. At the end of the day, what happens in life is very much affected by our attitude and beliefs. Although the mind is very complex organ, I still strongly believe that if your Mind-Set is generally negative in structure, then the only logical outcome is going to be a largely negative existence. It is not, however, impossible for us to change the direction or course of our lives because this programming is not set in stone.

With the right reprogramming and guidance, we can shed any outmoded thinking patterns and proceed to a more successful and fulfilled life through sheer ‘mind-power.’ Think of how many (seemingly ordinary) people have achieved extra-ordinary things simply though using positive thinking. This is all it takes, and yet it can be the hardest thing in the world to change. But it is not insurmountable. A great future filled with success and fulfilment awaits when you change your Mind-Set!

If you’d like to know more about Mind-Sets and the ‘psychology of success’, then check out my blog: psychologyofsuccess.org.uk. ‘Success Psychology’ is dedicated to investigating and presenting the best resources for developing a very powerful psychology of success.

Select Bibliography:

  • Joseph O’Connor and Ian McDermot ‘Way of NLP’ Thorsons 2001 ISBN 0-00-711020-0
  • Peter Jones ‘Tycoon’ Hodder & Stoughton 2007 ISBN 978-0-340-95235-1
  • Paul McKenna ‘Change Your Life in 7 Days’ Bantam Press 2004/2010 ISBN 978-0-593-0661-4
  • Jurgen Wolff ‘Focus: Use The Power of Targeted Thinking To Get More Done’ 2nd Edition Pearson 2010 ISBN 978-0273734611