95% of the thoughts you have had today are the same thoughts you had yesterday.
How many of those thoughts are actually true?
Just because a thought enters your mind doesn’t make it true. Yet, we tend to believe our own thoughts because they are inside of us. Many, if not most, of the thoughts that you have should quickly be discarded.
Believing in something is not a passive act. It takes consent. It takes buying-into. You must choose not to believe in the negative and limiting thoughts that enter your mind.
Here’s the challenge — In order to pursue big goals and achieve things you’ve never done, you must embrace uncertainty. The uncertainty of your goals and aspirations creates an easy target for your subconscious to send negative, limiting, and fear-based signals.
So, if you want to pursue big goals, expect an onslaught of negative thoughts. Here’s specifically what will happen:
Your mind will try to keep you in your past
Some of the most difficult negative thoughts will relate to your past. If you’ve been relatively successful in the past, your mind will always make you believe that you’re not as good as you used to be. Your mind will try to convince you that you’ve lost your touch. That you’ve gone off the rails. That you’ve taken a wrong turn and need to go back.
Don’t believe these lies.
You can’t go back. And you shouldn’t go back. You’re actually far better than you used to be. You’re more evolved and have more capability and insight to offer. But the uncertainty of the enormous goals you’re pursuing is exposing your subconscious emotional blocks.
Your subconscious mind is playing a hindsight bias game with you. It’s easy looking back and saying to yourself, “I must have known what I was doing. Because everything seemed to work out.”
You didn’t know what you were doing. Your memories about those experiences have changed based on your current circumstances. In the moment, when you were pursuing your previous goals, the future was just as uncertain as the future you’re pursuing now.
You weren’t better then. You just kept going. You fought the resistance. You choose to remain committed to something. According to Strategic Coach founder, Dan Sullivan, commitment is not doing something because you know the plan. Rather, commitment is not knowing the plan and having the courage to deal with uncertainty.
Takeaway #1: Don’t believe your limiting thoughts
The first step of silencing your mind is to not believe the negative and limiting thoughts that will relentlessly plague you if you’re growing and learning. See these thoughts for what they are — your subconscious wants certainty and predictability.
In order to actually grow and learn, you must experience what neuroscientists call, “Prediction Errors.” A prediction error is when you step out of your current sphere of experience and encounter feedback. Consider the child who touches the hot stove — prediction error. Such experiences imprint a deeply emotional memory into the subconscious mind and physical body.
If you’re not experiencing prediction errors, you’re not actually learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. If you’re seeking a life of growth and expansion, then you will undoubtedly experience many prediction errors, which are painful in the moment but essential to permanently upgrading behavior and elevating mood.
Takeaway #2: Embrace the unknown
Researchers have found that children generally have a higher tolerance for ambiguity than grownups do. They’re more willing to accept murky conditions — situations where the likelihood of winning or losing is unknown.
Having a high tolerance for ambiguity is required for learning and growth, because all learning and growth begins with ambiguity and uncertainty. You must work through this. You must become comfortable on the opposite side of your fear.
One of the reasons children are more comfortable with uncertainty is because they have less of a past to cling onto. Dan Sullivan has explained that the reason 5 year old children seem to have boundless energy is because for them, it’s ALL FUTURE.
Everything is in front of them; nothing is behind them. They are excitedly MOVING FORWARD. The more life experience you gain, the more likely you are to buy-into that experience, which will shift your focus from the excitement of learning and the future to the stability and certainty of the past.
In the book, It’s Now How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, Paul Arden said:
“Knowledge comes from the past, so it’s safe. It is also out of date. It’s the opposite of originality. Experience is built from solutions to old situations and problems. This is lazy. Experience is the opposite of being creative. If you can prove you’re right you’re set in concrete. You cannot move with the times or with other people. Your mind is closed. You are not open to new ideas.”
Learn from your past. But never, ever, get stuck there. No matter how great it’s been. Never allow prior success to become an excuse for developing a fixed-mindset.
What you focus on expands
Your mind is like a stage, and thoughts are the actors. You get to choose which actor you will put the light of your attention on. The thoughts you give attention to begin to steal the show. What you focus on expands.
Psychologists have a term for focus — they call it selective attention, and it is your super power. Selective attention involves more than simply ignoring distracting or goal-conflicting stimuli. In order to remain focused on the goal at hand, you need a sufficient “load” of goal-oriented stimuli to keep yourself engaged.
Takeaway #3: Offense is your best defense
Put simply, you need to continually be approaching your goals and fueling the fire of your focus. You can’t just play defense when it comes to your mind. Intense offense is your best defense.
The more successful you become, the more pressure you will experience
“Pressure can burst a pipe, or pressure can make a diamond.” — Robert Horry
Success is often an antecedent to failure. One of the primary reasons success is hard to maintain is that the internal and, most importantly, external pressure continues to go up.
When you’ve succeeded in the past, people will expect you to continue doing what you’ve done. However, what got you here won’t get you there. If you’re committed to growth, you’ll need to continually disrupt yourself and your own past. Therefore, you’ll need to continue evolving and experiencing prediction errors. You’ll need to continue failing.
Another reason the pressure will mount is that people will want you to fail. Your continual search for the next level exposes others to the fact that they haven’t pushed their own boundaries for a long time. They’ve stopped learning and have developed a fixed-mindset. Don’t listen to these people.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to become
In a recent interview, learning expert Josh Waitzkin explained that it doesn’t matter all that much where a person currently is in their development. What actually matters is the slope of their growth curve.
How steep is your current growth curve?
Are your plateau’d?
Has your growth curve leveled-off?
Are your constantly pushing your own boundaries?
It’s not about where you currently are. It’s about where you’re going. If you have a steep growth curve, then you will fail often. Waitzkin calls this investing in failure. You invest in failure by pursuing new frontiers that are beyond your current experience and capability. You’re willing to keep learning, embrace the humility of loss, and face your suppressed emotions and subconscious mind head-on.
Takeaway #4: Evaluate your current growth curve
“Good timber does not grow with ease: The stronger wind, the stronger trees; The further sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.” — Douglas Malloch
How steep is the growth curve you’re on?
This growth curve will be different in the multiple domains of your life. You want to be seeking steep curves in all domains of your life. That’s how you can predict if someone is going to go far. If they are taking on bigger and bigger challenges in the various areas of their life.
Extreme growth in one area of your life can transfer to growth in other areas. For example, when I became a foster parent of three kids, having never been a parent before in my life, I put myself on steep growth curve in one area of my life which directly transferred to other areas of my life — such as my writing career.
What are the key areas of your life?
How steep are the individual growth curves you’re on in each of those key areas?
If you’re lagging in one key area of your life, that will negatively transfer to the other key areas. You must maintain a growth mindset in all areas of your life, or the insidious fixed-mindset will set in.
Conclusion: Always make your future bigger than your past
“Always make your future bigger than your past.” — Dan Sullivan
Don’t believe the thoughts your subconscious mind will send you as you’re exposed to the uncertainty of a bigger and better future.
What you focus on expands. Simply trying to avoid negative thoughts is not enough. You must load-up on goal-directed stimuli, which includes information, behaviors, environments, responsibilities, projects, creations, etc. Offense toward your goals is your best defense.
Steepen your growth curve. It’s not about where you are, but where you’re going. You may not be as successful or smart as other people out there. But are you currently failing more than they are? Are you pushing your boundaries more than they are?
A huge component of growth in internal. Therefore, you shouldn’t judge someone based purely on what is external. The most powerful and important growth is always internal. Therefore, someone may appear to be going backwards in their progression, when in reality, they are going to the next level within, which will shortly be manifest without.
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This post first appeared on Medium.