Mindset Magic is when you direct your inner powers to whatever it is you want to change and you finish that journey.
Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.”
As we go through life, we all try to understand where we fit into our tribe, our herd, our pack, our crowd, our club, our team, our organisation and / or our company. We have an insatiable thirst to understand and establish our status, our exclusivity and where we fit in. We as human beings are motivated by status and exclusivity, just like any pack animal.
It was in 1981 when I was first introduced to the work of Abraham Maslow. At that time, I was a young HR professional, fascinated by what made people tick. I found insight through Maslow’s theory of Human Motivation (1943). Maslow identified five levels of motivation: Survival, Safety, Social, Esteem, and Fulfilment. According to Maslow, status fits within the esteem motivation, and his theories very much matched what I observed of the social interactions in my place of employment – a manufacturing site based in India. Status was everything, and in every workplace since, I’ve noticed something similar – no matter where we are in business or on the economic ladder, we all strive to achieve status.
So, how is that we seek to improve our status? This is where success comes in – this is what we use to signal our status to the world. But we all want to do our best and be successful and yet so many of us fail to achieve our targets. Why is it that some people are more successful than others? Why do some people succeed where others crash and burn? Why do some people thrive with risk when others become paralysed? Why do some people hesitate when others strike? Why is it that some people are filled with apprehensions while others are so certain?
“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”
Let me focus on one aspect of success – the question of our thinking. Is this what could make the difference? Previously, I’ve discussed the structure of our brain, and how part of our brain, the neocortex, developed long after the other parts. The neocortex is responsible for our reasoning, as opposed to our reptile and limbic brain systems, which look after our bodily functions such as breathing, and our memories and emotion. (You can find that blog here)
It’s our neocortex that’s responsible for our critical thinking, with the goal to establish a disciplined ‘executive’ level to our thoughts. It’s a powerful inner voice of reason, to monitor, assess, and reconstitute, in a more rational direction, our thinking, feelings, and actions. Basically, instead of the fast, automatic reactions of our reptile and limbic brains, the neocortex allows us to take context, experience and advice into account before we act.
So, is this where the most successful people have the edge – do they use their neocortex to think differently? Before we can get into this however, we need to know what we mean by success. In my analysis, many people’s definition of success is the avoidance of failure. However, what people who are really successful tell me is that their definition of success is their response to failure. They actually argue that you have to fail to be truly successful. In other words, there’s no such thing as success without failure.
Is this where the difference between people starts? Is it possible that they think differently about the concept of success, and what it means to them? Is this enough to really make a difference? After 30 years of experience I would say, yes. From everything I’ve seen, from people in every walk of life, the primary determinant of success isn’t talent or experience – it’s mindset as manifested through passion, attitude, commitment, resilience and the process of finishing.
I’ve had the opportunity over the last 30 years of working with very high performing populations, and I have been lucky to learn so much from them. Consider the professional athletes who have reached heights of success that seem abnormal; the Roger Federers or the Usain Bolts of the world. They’ve mastered their craft, but their mindsets also set them apart from their peers. What do they do differently to reach peak performance? Many of them are not trying to win someone’s approval or show that they’re good enough. They’re just playing their sport, doing their jobs for the sheer joy of it. These people have a huge competitive advantage.
We know that human beings are at their best when we’re in ‘the zone’ – when we’re not concerned about ourselves. We know that it’s the mental game that counts, whether it’s sports or business. In these situations, the mind is controlling the body – the neocortex is leading the reptile and limbic brains by the way it visualises success and drives commitment.
The world's best athletes hold little resemblance to others, even those in their own fields. Sure, they compete in the same sport and go through the same motions. But what enables them to operate at exceptional levels goes beyond just exceptional physical ability. The best athletes in the world don't just do things better, they do things differently, particularly those things that occur between their ears.
I remember several years ago asking the top batsman in the world, what was going through his head when he was at the stumps and he said “nothing”. I hear many in sports psychology saying, “Well, the person who’s the better performer, they think differently”. The reality is not that they think differently, it’s that they don’t think. It’s the absence of thought in the moment.
When stepping up to bat, to take a penalty, to make a presentation to the board, the best performers in any field have already seen the result. They have watched the video in their head of what will happen next. They’ve visualised their own version of success so many times, that they just replay that video.
It’s important to note that in the moment, it’s not the total absence of cognition – it’s the absence of emotion or uncertainty. That really is the advantage. Nick Saban, the famous coach of LSU and Alabama — perhaps the most dominant dynasty in the history of US college football — says don’t think, just follow the process and the process is about finishing. I’d add my own context to this – for top performers, all of the thinking has been done before the game even starts. The top performers have visualised the end game. They know how it’s going to go. They have prepared for finishing, while most of us prepare for starting.
But what about the rest of us? Those of us who aren’t top athletes, or already top performers in our fields? We can still prepare to finish – finish games, finish workouts, finish reps, finish preparations, finish the smallest task on our to-do lists and finish it well.
When it comes to our actions, disorder and distraction are death of our dreams. Our unordered mind loses track of what’s in front of it — what matters — and gets distracted from the process of finishing. Envisioning ourselves finishing the process, achieving our aims and preparing and replaying that mental video stabilises us and keeps our actions in sync. This is what gets us ‘in the zone’.
We need to be in the zone. We need to allow ourselves to be free. From my work and experience with athletes and leaders across the world, this is what led to the creation of The Winning Mindset© programme.
Getting a Winning Mindset requires work, practice and a fierce dedication to your vision. When I coach, I put top performers through a 100-day plan where we measure them against five key behaviours (5KB© - I talk in detail about these here ). Over 100 days we embed this thinking, these behaviours into a new way of processing and living, that leads to and enables success.
The Winning Mindset© will change you. Right now, you’re thinking. I won’t guess what you’re thinking about, but you’re thinking. Most of us are thinking all day long. The problem is that we’re thinking in a random, disordered, frivolous way. That’s what our mind does until we teach it to think differently and to focus on the process!
This is a long blog post, and while you’ve got this far, you might not have 100 days before the end of your coffee break, so here are a few tips from The Winning Mindset programme. Perhaps you can try them out today?
Listen to advice, opinions, and to your gut. But make sure it’s your neocortex and your critical thinking that’s responsible for your final decision.
It’s often said that if it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you. This doesn’t mean you can operate on autopilot for things you’ve done 100s of times before, however. Keep running that video in your mind and keep refining the process. Success isn’t an end point!
Winners do not hesitate; winners are certain. True success comes from all the preparation beforehand. Pulling the trigger is your final step.
Winners believe in themselves, their abilities and their talents. They are comfortable in their own skin and embrace their strengths and weaknesses. The best way to get comfortable is to use your process, and re-run your mental success video until it’s second nature for you to succeed.
The Mindset of a Winner© is an intensive coaching programme brought to you by one of the world's leading names in performance, Dr Maurice Duffy. From elite football, cricket and rugby to global businesses and international politics, Maurice’s expertise is behind some of the world's most successful leaders and teams.