“In all of my experience, I have never seen lasting solutions to problems, or lasting happiness and success, that came from the outside in.” – Stephen R. Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Are you a business leader struggling with too few opportunities for growth, a lack of interest in your ideas, or the sense that you don’t have enough time or resources? Are you in any way unhappy about the results, including your inner experience, that you are producing?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it might be time to investigate your mindset.
Mindset is the worldview through which we experience our reality. It consists of our core assumptions and beliefs. Mindset significantly impacts how we perceive things, which in turn contributes to our inner experience. And this is what drives our actions and results. It’s a cyclical process that looks something like this:
Outer Reality/Facts ► Interpretation/Mindset ► Perception of Outer Reality/Facts
► Inner Experience ► Actions ► Results
When our minds interpret an event as “good,” we experience pleasant emotions. Our bodies respond with a sense of expansion, relaxation and deeper breathing.
When our minds interpret an event as “bad” or threatening, we experience unpleasant emotions. Our bodies contract, our breathing becomes shallow, and our heart rate and blood pressure increase.
This cycle typically unfolds unconsciously and is instant and automatic. This is why it is so important to grow in Conscious Awareness—it is only after you’ve become conscious of something that you can make new choices with intention, leading to a different outcome.
The Victim-Player Dichotomy
One of the most important mindset dichotomies is related to freedom and responsibility. Fred Kofman, Former VP of Executive Development at LinkedIn and now advisor on leadership at Google, calls it the victim-player dichotomy. This is how he puts it in his book, Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values:
“The victim pays attention only to those factors he cannot influence. He sees himself as somebody who suffers the consequences of external circumstances. The victim keeps his self-esteem by claiming innocence. His explanations never include him, since he has nothing to do with the problem. He never acknowledges any contribution to the current situation.
When things go wrong, the victim seeks to place blame. He points his finger at other people’s mistakes. For him, problems always come from other people’s actions. Self-soothing explanations placate him. They allow him to maintain the illusion of blamelessness when confronted with the reality of failure.
“The player pays attention to those factors she can influence. She sees herself as somebody who can respond to external circumstances. She bases her self-esteem on doing her best. Her explanations focus on her, since she realizes that she is an important contributor to the problem. When things go wrong, the player seeks to understand what she can do to correct them. She chooses self-empowering explanations, explanations that put her in control.”
The price for freedom, and what I call Real Power, is responsibility or “response-ability.”
The deeper the victim mindset runs, the more it clouds each thought. For example, people often say with great conviction, “I just don’t have enough time.” They usually describe their inner experience as one of feeling overwhelmed, rushed and out of control combined with a mind that is habitually producing thoughts like, “If only I had more time.”
Despite their mindset and inner experience confirming this as truth, the fact is that everyone has the same amount of time. Many among us are simply creating an experience of “not enough time.” This inner experience drives particular behaviors and actions that produce specific results.
For example, we may rush everything we do (typically losing quality in the work and enjoyment of the process/task itself), forget, drop commitments and become preoccupied with our internal turmoil such that we lose awareness of, and objectivity about, what is happening around us. This leads to extra work and other problems, which in turn demand more time and energy. In short, we become less effective and our performance suffers.
Outer facts and our inner experience are so interconnected that most often we don’t even see that they are two distinctly different things. Our tendency is to confuse the facts of an event with our interpretation and inner experience of the same event.
I believe that it is this tendency that makes working with mindset one of the most underutilized and powerful avenues for unlocking human potential and achieving extraordinary results.
Now, think of a current problem or challenge you have in your own life.
How is your current mindset contributing to it?
Is it possible that the way you see the problem is a key part of the problem itself?
Could it even be THE problem?