The emphasis on mental skills training is infiltrating every endeavor. It’s considered the tipping point for success at work and fulfillment in life. It is becoming the premiere antidote to relieving stress and the next great performance hack. It is the new answer to all of our problems.
But is it really?
There are many factors affecting your success and progress at any one time. The challenge is knowing which factor is having the biggest impact and where to focus your attention to earn the biggest gains.
Why am I losing tennis matches? Is it the technique of my groundstrokes, the quality of my racket, the strength of the competition or something else? I don't want to invest in an expensive racket when my form has more to do with my errors. Why can't I ride blue-level mountain bike trails with confidence and speed? Do I not choose the proper lines, the right gear, or something else? Maybe my bike just isn't made for a technical trail and I shouldn't beat myself up too much over it. Why isn’t my team winning more games? Why aren’t they learning more quickly? Why can’t I climb the ladder in my profession? If we don't know how to identify the true problem, we'll waste time, money and energy in the wrong direction. So how do we know?
There are four main factors affecting your success at any time.
The resources at your disposal. The quality of your racket or bike. The amount of scholarship money. The talent of your team. Your size, strength, quickness, or agility.
The learnable skills to maximize your tools. The form on your groundstroke or the ability to use the brakes properly and lean into the turns. The soft leadership and relational skills to get the most out of your team. The tactics and strategies of the game. The biomechanics necessary to maximize your physical tools.
The degree of the challenge. Sometimes you're just out of your league and the degree of the challenge is too great for your tools and skills. An obstacle too great can be demoralizing. An obstacle too easy can be boring or deforming. The optimal ratio will stretch you to the edge of your abilities.
Your approach to the challenge and how you frame the narrative that is unfolding.
Mindset is the focal point of the new wave of self-improvement. Not because it’s the only thing that matters, but because it’s the first thing that matters. It is the factor that impacts your ability to improve the others. With a faulty mindset you won’t be able to accurately assess the other three. You will blame your poor results on external variables or interpret them as an indictment on your shortcomings as a person. You won’t have the objectivity to evaluate your tools, the awareness to recognize a gap in skills, or the humility to accept that the challenge is too great for your current resources and abilities.
So, how do you recognize if you’re operating with an inferior mindset?
This is Part 1 of a six-part series that explores five clues to pay attention to that reveal a faulty mindset. Before you make drastic changes to your tools or shaming criticisms of your skills, check your mindset against these five indicators. It can be the one shift that makes the biggest impact.