In our Week 3 session, we’re talking about developing an improvement mindset. In exploring this topic we’ll delve into the realm of mindsets and thought patterns. These may seem like abstract concepts at first glance, however, as you’ll discover in this week’s workbook, these are all practical aspects that you can actively work on to transform your approach to self-improvement.
Rest assured, this isn’t an exercise in vague concepts and empty platitudes. We’re not just introducing ideas and telling you to adopt them without any guidance. Instead, we’ll explore three essential mindsets that will set you up for success in the rest of the course. These are: focusing on what you can control, embracing slow and steady progress, and becoming your own self-improvement detective.
Focusing on What You Can Control
In a world often brimming with frustration and a sense of helplessness, it’s easy to get caught up in things beyond our control. We’ve all had those moments where we’ve allowed external circumstances to dictate our emotions. Which can lead to feelings of frustration, helplessness, or even depression.
But let’s consider this: given the limited time and energy we have each day, how do we want to spend it? Do we want to expend our precious energy worrying about the weather? Or annoying social media posts, or other factors we have no say over? Or would we rather channel that energy into tasks, thoughts, and behaviours that we can influence or control?
While we may have some influence over aspects like our health, wealth, and relationships, these are also ultimately affected by factors beyond our control. Our genes may play a role in our health, our wealth depends on customers or employers valuing our skills, and the actions of others will undoubtedly impact our relationships.
When you break it down, we have 100% control over very little – our thoughts, judgments, and behaviours. So, as much as possible, let’s focus on those. Personally, I’ve found this concept to be an invaluable anchor when navigating my own self-improvement journey.
This doesn’t mean you should ignore other things or deny your emotions. Of course, you’ll still experience frustration, sadness, and investment in certain matters. But the aim is to reach a point where you can recognise when you’re worrying about things beyond your control, catch yourself, and redirect your focus to something you can affect. We want to move away from a reactive mindset (where things happen to us) and embrace a proactive one (where we can plan and control). By practising this consistently, we’ll naturally gravitate towards focusing our time and energy on things we can influence and do something about. Focusing on what you can control is the first step in developing an improvement mindset.
Slow and Steady Progress
On his website, habit expert James Clear explores the concept of slow and steady ‘continuous improvement’. He advocates for incremental progress, suggesting that improving by just 1% each day will eventually add up and is the best way to sustain improvement in the long term. While it may not be the most glamorous approach, it works.
The image above is taken from James Clear’s blog post on Marginal Gains – I’d really recommend it!
Clear argues that the typical goal-setting approach, where we set a goal and try to achieve it as quickly as possible, often leads to burnout, frustration, and failure. Perhaps you can relate to this if you think back to previous goals or resolutions you’ve made.
However, if we focus on continuously tweaking our habits and behaviours slightly towards our goals, we’ll not only see progress in a more balanced way, but it’s often easier to sustain those positive habits for longer.
I love this model because it’s forgiving and aligns well with our compass points. We’re developing an improvement mindset, not a perfect mindset. Since we’re only trying to improve by 1% each day and we have a clear understanding of our current direction, it’s much easier to pick ourselves up and continue pursuing our goals the next day if things don’t go exactly as planned.
We all have off days, but instead of facing the same crashing and burning cycle that traditional goal-setting or resolution-based approaches can lead to, we can view our improvement from a long-term perspective.
So, let’s aim for slow, sustained progress. We want to get 1% better because we’re not just aiming for short-term goals; we want to sustain these improvements and create healthy habits that will benefit us in the long run.
Being Your Own Self-Improvement Detective
When you try to improve yourself, it’s easy to blame yourself if things don’t go as planned, even if your plans are unrealistic. However, approaching your progress like a detective can help you focus on the system and find the right approach for you.
Imagine you set a goal to do 30 minutes of yoga each morning after you wake up. You go to bed happy, imagining your future-toned self.
The next morning, you wake up to darkness and a chilly room. Your bed is warm and inviting. You think, ‘Just five more minutes in bed won’t hurt’. Then you think, ‘You don’t have to start right away’. ‘Maybe just wait for the room to get a little warmer.’
You fall back asleep and wake up annoyed at yourself for not getting out of bed. Self-criticism starts to creep in. Maybe you’ll start tomorrow, or maybe you’re just not a yoga person; maybe you just don’t have the self-discipline.
This is a very common thought process and is one of the main reasons New Year’s resolutions often don’t work. People rely solely on self-discipline without making any other changes and expect different results. MuchelleB aptly points this out in her video on how discipline doesn’t work. Relying solely on self-discipline is unhelpful because when you fail, you blame yourself, get demotivated, and end up giving up.
However, if you take a detective’s approach, you can start to explore why things didn’t work. Then experiment with different techniques and tweaks to your approach. Maybe you move your alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Perhaps you sleep in your yoga clothes so you’re ready when you get up. You might even adopt Mel Robbins’ 5-second rule and pretend you’re a rocket, counting down from 5 before launching yourself out of bed!
The key is to try out different techniques – keep what works and ditch what doesn’t. And if something doesn’t work, it’s simply because you haven’t found the right system yet. Everyone’s system will be slightly different, and it may vary depending on the day, time, and energy levels – but it’s a puzzle that can be solved. So, put on your detective hat and challenge yourself to figure it out.
Conclusion – Developing an Improvement Mindset
These three mindsets – focusing on what you can control, embracing slow and steady progress, and becoming your own self-improvement detective – will serve as valuable tools on your personal growth journey. This week’s worksheet will help you assess your current thought patterns and reflect on these concepts further. We’ll continue to revisit and adopt these mindsets over the next three weeks of the course.
As always, remember to share your progress with the other participants in the comments section below. Did any of these concepts strike a chord with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Have a great week everyone, and I’ll see you next time.