This week one of my clients referred to herself as "such a terrible procrastinator". Her tone was filled with doubt about the likelihood that she would achieve her next-level goals. This is a woman who stays up all night to research and prepare a bid and who wrote her website content in a day. The implication behind her words surprised me, she didn't trust that she would move the needle on her targeted goals. I knew better.
The habit of labeling a negative behavior is a destructive, limiting practice. To say that you are lazy, a procrastinator, have self-diagnosed ADD, or anything that implies limitation is to believe that is who you are. A label defines us in a fixed way, creating a belief that we are incapable of change. Labeling yourself will induce stress and often leads to hopelessness, confusion, frustration, and so much more.
The fixed mindset.
I find that entrepreneurs who are not satisfied with the state of their life and business make negative claims about themselves, and they simply aren't true. Such claims offer a convenient excuse (at a subconscious level) to place the burden of failure on something that you cannot change. This fixed mindset doesn't allow for other possibilities, it inhibits your ability to see the truth about yourself and the situation that you're in. A fixed mindset, as it relates to self-labeling, says that you are who you are and that it's not going to change.
The flexible mindset.
A flexible mindset, often referred to as a growth mindset, allows for healthy curiosity and exists without strict limitations on what is possible. If you view yourself as someone who has a poor memory for names, well then that's who you are. If you instead see yourself as someone who has to work a little harder or depend on a helpful technique to remember peoples' names, the issue will no longer exist. When you remove the labels and realize that these are only beliefs, you can liberate yourself from damaging restrictions and adopt a more flexible mindset.
What happens when you adjust your mindset.
I have yet another client who, one year ago, viewed himself as a "glorified VA". (No diss to you talented and capable virtual assistants out there!) As such, he charged 50-dollars-per-hour for his services. Today, he rightfully sees himself a niched expert with unique abilities, experience, and talents. He no longer thinks in terms of hourly wages. Using a project-based model has allowed him to grow his revenues from an average of three-thousand-dollars a month to about 12 thousand, and we're not done yet.
This is only one example of what can happen when you learn to think differently. Give yourself credit for the skills and talents you possess, rather than be crippled by how you've labeled yourself.
How is it possible to change from a fixed to flexible mindset?
The amount of work it takes to become more flexible in your thoughts and beliefs depends on how fixed your thinking is. I've helped people with the most negative beliefs about themselves and/or others to grow their mindset. This results in varying levels of increased happiness and success, from small but effective change to exceptional, life-changing outcomes. The question is not, is it possible, but rather, are you ready? If you are, begin here:
Avoid the use of negative "I am" statements.
The client who claimed she is a procrastinator clearly is not. She puts things off when she's overwhelmed, fearful, or confused. There is a difference. Using "I am" definitively negates any ability to change your behavior. Instead try, "At this time, I tend to,".
Know that you are not flawed.
Avoid seeing your behavioral choices as irreversible flaws. When you behave in such a way that displeases you, don't take it on as though you have no choice. I hear entrepreneurs label themselves as lazy, dumb, too introverted to succeed, and other such nonsensical claims. There is a reason for such behavior and when you get to the root of it you will open the door to change.
Explore your choices.
Self-labeling blocks you from seeing your choices. When a challenge or setback occurs, you may tend to fall victim to it instead of finding the opportunity connected to it. A fixed mindset will leave you suffering the consequences, whereas a flexible mindset leads to exploring your choices. When one of your clients expresses dissatisfaction and moves on, for instance, you have the opportunity to improve, or you can choose to blame the client and fill yourself with fear and resentment. Such circumstances hold immeasurable opportunity when you have a flexible mindset.
Change your self-talk.
When I suggest to others that they change their language, some brush it off as just semantics. Words hold power; they create your reality. The subjective nature of this manufactured reality easily leads to failure. Fortunately, you can choose to use language and positive self-talk to reshape your perceptions, therefore inviting more desirable circumstances into your life.
"I'm lame, I can't figure things like this out," try, "I may not know how to do that right now, but I can learn or find someone to help get it done."
"I am such a failure," try, "Sure, I've failed but most successful people do. I'll learn from my experiences, just like they do."
Having a fixed mindset is not only a self-imposed limitation, it affects how you view others and the world around you. If you believe that society as a whole is generally selfish or evil, that is exactly what you will see and experience, because it's the only thing you allow your brain to recognize. This outlook on life is not something you are born with, it develops over time as a result of what we view as negative life-experiences. You do have the power to change, you might just need a little help.