How to Shift Your Mindset and Conquer Your World
Photo by Britt Gaiser — Unsplash
“ It’s not that I’m so smart, I just stay with problems longer “ Albert Einstein
My problem? What should I do with my life.
2020 was the year that my mindset changed. To get there though, was three years in the making. Let me take you back there.
I’d graduated University and had started work but I found myself hit with this problem. What do I want to do with my life. When I was at Uni I never really thought about it because I was always focused on doing the next thing and working towards getting my degree. I knew what I was focused on so I didn’t look left or right. When I started work I had the opportunity to look in all directions and well, quite frankly, it was scary.
I thought for the first time, shit, I can do anything. I could quit right now and go travel the world and no-one would care. I was overwhelmed by freedom. I know, what a first-world problem, poor me. After thinking about this for a while, it soon turned into me, thinking about what I ‘ should’ be doing at this age. How many people should I be managing, what reputation should I have, what business should I have started. Rather than be excited and curious I soon became worried and frustrated. My morning commutes turned into a series of google searches.
“What should I be doing at twenty two”
“What job would I be best at”
“How do I know if I’m happy”
“How to become happy in work”
The shift from ‘could’ too ‘should’ was having a huge impact on my thoughts.
I had become that person, the one that was pissed off that I wasn’t moving forward but I didn’t want to build a routine that would help me get there. Habits and any sort of structure were firmly off the table. I was just circling in a pit of questions and confusion.
This sounds quite dark actually, I mean it was quite bad but I was fine.
I began to get frustrated that I couldn’t stick at things. It was by this point I had already tried to create six different businesses, had five different jobs, wasn’t exercising and couldn’t commit to my choice of dinner. Don’t get me wrong, life was fine. I just couldn’t stick at anything.
I found it excruciatingly annoying. It would get to the point every month where I’d get down on myself for not achieving things. I’d say to myself “well you started that but never finished it, yet again”. I would try and work on my businesses outside of work but it would never stick. I’d try for a few weeks and then forget all about it. It was obvious that it just wasn’t important.
I would spend so much time analysing why I couldn’t achieve the things I wanted to. Why I was twenty-three and not achieving my life dreams.
I felt that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough but the truth was none of that.
I know, it’s ridiculous but when you are in the moment it feels all consuming and as if nothing matters. Writing this now, I vividly remember going over and over why I wasn’t achieving what I wanted to, it was pretty brutal. For three years I’d been thinking this way and it got a little too tiring.
And then I stopped thinking. I literally got bored of the same conversation with myself. Starting to think I was going slightly mad. So I decided to just stop the whole self-development, need to improve every five seconds thing and just not think.
Then somewhere in there, between not thinking and overthinking, I stumbled across Matt D’avella’s thirty day challenges. If you’re not familiar with Matt he’s a wonderful film maker. He’s the exceptional talent behind the Netflix documentary ‘Minimalism’ and now a full time YouTuber. He’d set about understanding habits this time last year and what that meant for him was that he’d given himself a set of twelve challenges for the year. A different challenge to do for thirty days. Thirty, simple days. He wanted to use it as a bit of an experiment for habit formation and to understand the effects of certain habits on his life.
I was interested. From cold showers in the morning, no coffee, no sugar, meditation, deep breathing, journalling and waking up at 5am. It was all on the table. I was most interested in the idea of committing for a small amount of time and understanding what would happen.
I’d always thought of habits as an all or nothing concept. If you didn’t commit for the rest of your life then what was the point in committing at all. But what I learnt quite quickly is that, that approach is totally overwhelming. It’s a hard sell to commit to something for a long period of time because it’s quite a scary concept. I don’t know who I’m going to be when I’m thirty, do I really want to commit to waking up at 5am every day until I get there? Not really.
But this approach made me realise we don’t have to and that we can use an arbitrary amount of time to hack the way we make habits.
I began to learn that figuring out who you are and what makes you happy is the journey bit. It sounds so cliche but it’s true. Once you shift your mindset to discovery rather than defence. i.e. “I’m figuring out what I want to do” rather then “I don’t know who I am, what I am and where I’m going” life feels a little less daunting. So the prospect of trying things then becomes part of the progress to get to where you want. For ages I wasn’t trying because I was worried I would fail but now I see it the complete opposite way round. I’ll try and if I fail that’s cool because it means I’m further in getting to where I want to be.
By trying stuff I’m closer to figuring stuff out and that’s the joy of it. Learning. By not trying I’m doing the opposite and that was the shift I needed.
Discovery not defence.
Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on April 23, 2020.