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Your Mindset is a Choice. Choose Deliberately

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You probably don’t invest a great deal of time and attention toward your mindset. I want to invite you to change that, even for the five minutes that reading this blog post will take. If you intend to successfully meet the moment, to face the challenges in front of you with greater resolve and grace, then the most choices emerge when you develop your ability to shift your mindset. Yes, easier to say than to choose, yet not by much.

Adult life generates lots of responsibility and in turn, some privileges that result from fulfilling that responsibility and achieving outcomes. Whether you are looking at your personal or your professional life, becoming competent within the context you inhabit often produces rewards that shadow seeing the entire spectrum of possible choices. Your neurobiology reinforces this in two ways. First, your brain prefers habits. While you can receive 20 million bits of information per second, you can only consciously accept about 14 bits per second. Your brain develops filters to more easily recognize the information that reinforces what is successful. Your habits form from this process because the brain uses habits to conserve energy. Second, that very process produces filters in every domain of your life. As a result, your brain reinforces what is familiar, comfortable, and part of the status quo in your life. You could say, your muscle for exploring something unfamiliar, no matter how exciting it might be, atrophies. Your success places blinders on your eyes, causing you to only see the proven success formula. You lean into those habits and preferences, and then, miss both the changing environment and trusting your own capacity to innovate. Let’s explore an example. The hospitality industry experienced a tremendous disruption as a result of the pandemic. Restaurant owners who created beautiful and delicious experiences for diners based upon a highly refined set of daily habits and preferences could not do so in the midst of the pandemic. Some chose to stop creating experiences. Other owners chose to adapt, tapping into ingenuity and belief in their ability to shift their mindset about what experiences customers could embrace. Those owners not only survived, but many also invented entirely new business models and ways to deliver an equally if not more compelling experience for their customers.

One of the missing elements in this story arises from what you pay attention to most. You like most learned early on about setting goals by getting very clear about the end result desired, the destination called success. You pursued becoming competent by building on your unique nature by nurturing opportunities to strengthen skills, apply intelligence and be an expert. The paradox shows up in the reduction of curiosity in equal measure to the increase in expertise that results in narrowing the mindset about available and possible choices. All of this occurs for you based upon faulty information from your history, crowding our present moment awareness of what has changed and is changing, very quickly. As a result, expertise becomes epically out of date very quickly and your actions are a little (or a lot) off track.

In the book, Invite Change. Lessons from 2020 The Year of No Return, I wrote that when you adopt the belief that your most basic abilities may be developed through dedication and hard work, that creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. In hindsight, I wish I had replaced the word resilience with the word reserves. Too many people are shamed for not being resilient in the face of the continued pandemic and the ripple effect this has produced in every domain of life, causing great suffering for many and a steady state of low-grade trauma for everyone. It is completely understandable to not feel resilient right now. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to build your reserve of energy. That means giving attention in equal measure to building your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being as you do your professional work, whatever that may be from parenting to leading a team for an organization. If you and I have learned anything this past year, it is that you must attend to your self-care in order to attend to have reserves. Only from that attention are you able, when faced with a moment of crisis to not collapse into it, because you have no or little reserve.

You likely have read some or a lot about Professor Carol Dweck’s work describing a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. There are many more mindsets, in fact, yours is unique to you as well as your way of shifting your mindset. That said, her very important work revealed that you can learn through a dedication to a love of learning. In fact, pursuing the love of learning through curiosity and experimentation generates more responsiveness to situations as well as spontaneity, while holding on to your strengths without getting trapped in your habits and preferences. Your mindset shift toward the view out of the front windshield of your vehicle gives you access to many new kinds of avenues. That shift motivates new choices, enhances relationships, and increases determination, meaning your ability to persevere even when you are knocked off your game. That breakdown is temporary because you’ve built reserves to tap into that prevent you from defaulting into protection and status quo.

The velocity of change ahead of you is not slowing down. Shifting your mindset toward self- learning starts with awareness of what is happening and the possibilities that seeing and experiencing beyond your habits provides. As a leader, this shift in mindset has ever greater urgency because you are a role model. You are always generating a ripple effect through your emotions, presence, attitude, thinking, and beliefs. Choose those deliberately.

In closing, here are two questions for self-reflection to set you on the path to invite change and choose a shift in mindset that empowers your future.

Reflection questions:

- What is the shift in your mindset that helps you through and navigate beyond the many present challenges?

- What could you choose to be responsible for as a narrative helps your business and your people flourish?

Janet M. Harvey, MCC

Experienced with individuals at the Board of Directors, “C” Chair, Executive and Senior Management levels, Janet assists executives in adopting effective habits of perception and behavior to lead and accelerate corporate strategies. Typical engagements address executive development in the following areas: articulate and inspire through clarity of vision, enable respectful challenge, debate and catalyze synergy for strategic business choices, risk/reward critical thinking about investments and shareholder value, plan leader succession and architect sustainable cultural/strategic change.
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