What’s your default mindset?
For a long time, mine was “can’t.” I can’t do this. I can’t do that. I focused on the things I couldn’t do. I let people tell me what I couldn’t do or I disqualified myself from doing things because I think I fit the criteria to do it.
I’ve talked about that before and it’s the whole idea behind my list.
I’m don’t identify as an idealist or positive thinking self-help advocate, but I think there’s a huge value in reworking how we approach situations and a lot of that has to do with your default mindset.
In other words, if you think you’re not able to do something, you’re probably not going to try and do it. Conversely, if you think you can do something, you’ll probably figure out a way to do it.
For most of my life I told myself I wasn’t a “runner.” I avoided it for years even though I was an athlete. I played basketball for over 10 years, and when I joined track and field in college I threw javelin because I didn’t want to run. I told myself I couldn’t run, so I didn’t run.
Then a funny thing happened. I just decided to start running [insert obligatory Forrest Gump joke here]. I signed up for my first race ever. A monumental distance that was almost twice as long as I had ever run before. A 5k.
Up to that point in my life, I had never run more 2 miles. That was last November. I’m not a running fanatic by any means now. I still think running is hard and after a long run, I hurt for a while, but running isn’t impossible any more. I can run [and I'm running 13.1 miles next month!]
Same thing happened with swimming. Before this year, my entire swimming expertise consisted of wading in pools, floating on lazy rivers and body surfing in the ocean hoping not to drown. I could “swim” but I had never actually swam for distances before it. When I did my first triathlon, I was sure I was going to drown.
So what did I do? I just started swimming. Every day. I’m not Michael Phelps now, but I have swam almost a miles straight. The only thing that changed was me deciding to do it. When I decided to head down to the swimming pool and just start swimming. I stopped worrying about drowning and just started swimming.
For the longest time I said I couldn’t get an email series done because I couldn’t’ figure out the design for my signup box. It didn’t matter that I actually had the form code already ready and sitting there, and all I had to do was write the series. Nope, I had to wait wait and wait almost six months until I decided just to write the dang thing. What changed? I just decided to do it, and I did it. [You can sign up for the 1 week to impossible series here or on the sidebar >>>>]
If your default mindset is “can’t”, you’re stuck in park and you won’t go anywhere. When your default mentality changes to “can”, you’re able to actually start taking action and figure out how you’re going to be able to do it.
A bunch of Stanford psychologists agree. Your beliefs about what you can do affect what you actually do.
After a tiring task, those who believed or were led to believe that willpower is a limited resource performed worse on standard concentration tests than those who thought of willpower as something they had more control over.
One of the lead researchers said:
“If you think of willpower as something that’s biologically limited, you’re more likely to be tired when you perform a difficult task. But if you think of willpower as something that is not easily depleted, you can go on and on.”
They also had this gem that’s my favorite from the paper:
This is an example of a context where people’s theories are driving outcomes. Willpower isn’t driven by a biologically based process as much as we used to think. The belief in it is what influences your behavior.”
Read the study yourself and make your own conclusions, but I’ve seen that often, my beliefs affect my behavior. There’s a direct correlation between the times that I’ve intentionally set out to do something and the times I actually accomplished it.
I had a javelin coach one year that tried to rid me of the word can’t. Anytime I said the word can’t in our workout, I had to do 10 more push-ups. It’s not bad the first few times, but after a full workout 10 push-ups starts to seem pretty freaking hard. At first I would get really upset.
I just told you I can’t do it! How do you expect me to do MORE?
But my coach didn’t back down and after I stopped sputtering my excuses and realized it’s going to be easier to just do it rather than try and argue with him, I just did it. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun, but I did it.
Your default mindset is your mindset. If you think you can do it, you probably can. If you don’t think you can, you probably won’t.
If you’re scared of the impossible, you’ll keep spitting out excuses and telling yourself you can never do it but if you’re set on doing the impossible, no matter what, you probably will. In fact, the only thing that’s holding you back is how big you can dream. While others are spinning their wheels, your only limit is how big your imagination is.
For those of you that are stuck where you are right now, just think about this: