How To Upgrade Your Mindset
John Assaraf is a successful serial entrepreneur with 5 multi-million dollar companies to his name. He is also a New York Times bestselling author, a behavioral & mindset expert. He’s also been interviewed by Larry King, Ellen and Anderson Cooper. In this interview, he talks about:
6 Obstacles to Success
How to Achieve Your Goals
As you have probably already realized, setting goals is the easy part. Taking the necessary action and consistently following through is the part that most people struggle with. This brings up a common issue for most people when it comes to change. We think we need to know more, but knowledge is rarely the problem. We've got enough "know how" already.
The real problem is that most people are unable to consistently adhere to the behaviors that can lead to success. Often times, people end up getting the same results they are used to. Even worse, instead of acknowledging that we fell back into old habits, we become victims and tell ourselves, "I didn't try hard enough," or ,"It wasn't my fault," leading us to repeat the vicious cycle over and over again. We are creatures of habit, so I have been here too.
What you need to consider to tip the scale in your favor has to do with the subconscious mind. Everything you do has to pass through the subconscious mind to make sure that you do not experience cognitive dissonance. Consequently, the subconscious mind is an important player when making decisions. However, if your conscious and subconscious minds are not aligned, your subconscious mind will tend to take the cake. For example, you may have the ambition to transform your life to achieve the goals of your dreams, but your innerself will say "No thanks, I'd rather stay comfortable."
The 6 Obstacles to Success
What is it exactly that is holding you back in your subconscious mind? Turns out, there are six main obstacles to success: fear, excess stress, limiting beliefs, negative mindset, lack of emotional control, and disempowering habits. Here is a brief overview of each.
Obstacle 1: Fear
From an evolutionary perspective, the brain is primarily hardwired to keep you safe and alive. A sensitive structure known as the amygdala is constantly active evaluating every perception as a friend or foe.
This system operates below your conscious awareness, and for many this system signals the alarm every time is perceives a threat, real or imaginary, external or internal. Even if you are to consciously consider that the odds of a threat aren't in the favor of danger, say being attacked by a shark, your brain is likely to jump to conclusions towards the most improbable threats.
Whenever the alarm is signaled, and it is frequently, the subconscious mind will do what it takes to bring you back to the zone of comfort. Whether you perceive a real or imaginary snake, a spectrum of stress neurotransmitters flood your brain and body in an effort to keep you safe.
These real or imaginary perceptions can destroy your optimism and desire to take action or make improvements. For example, you may continue to work a dead-end job rather than search for a job of your dreams. Or you may look the other direction when an captivating person enters your space for fear of being rejected rather than being emotionally available. Or if you do begin to make progress toward achieving your goals, it's likely you will sabotage yourself with chronic, impulsive, automatic triggered fears. Researchers, such as Dr. Srini Pillay, have discovered that there are more than twenty-five types of fears that can throw you off from achieving your goals, if not completely stop you. By learning to recognize these obstacles when they arise, you can learn to turn your fears into fuel.
Obstacle 2: Excess Stress
Anytime you feel worried, anxious, scared, or depleted, a stress response in the form of a cascade of neurochemicals is sent out from your brain to your body, leading to host of debilitating effects. Stress can diminish your ability to learn new skills; disable your motivation; provoke restlessness therefore interfering with sleep; and cloud your brain's executive functioning.
Moreover, stress can inhibit your creativity, leaving you less able to see new opportunities, create novel ideas, and to access your innate brilliance. (This is where meditation comes in - stress less to accomplish more.) But like most things, it's not all or nothing, and there exists a balance. A healthy amount of stress is necessary to keep you aroused, excited, and motivated.
Obstacle 3: Limiting Beliefs
Beliefs are the lenses that you view the world and your experiences through, therefore they filter and color everything you think, say, and do. Beliefs are simply reinforced neural patterns that are based on memories, personal experiences, and old paradigms.
What you believe to be to true in your life determines your self-image and sense of self-worth. If your external reality doesn't match your internal map of your sense of self-worth, a disconnect between your subconscious and conscious mind manifests, also known as cognitive dissonance, which often leads to unconscious self-sabotage to bring you back into alignment.
Limiting beliefs can create habitual patterns, often interfering with your ability to see yourself, your community, and the world in novel, creative and empowering ways. Until you change your limiting beliefs, you will keep repeating the destructive patterns that hold you back.
Obstacle 4: Negative Mindset
We have all experienced negative or pessimistic attitudes. This is a safety mechanism of the brain to be aware of danger before jumping into action. From an evolutionary perspective, being skeptical, indecisive, and negative can be a valuable trait because it can help prevent impetuously indulging in risky behaviors. This safety mechanism reminds you to take extra caution when spending money or talking to the special someone you barely know.
Conversely, if you begin to ruminate on all the possible negative potentialities, fear and anxiety can take control, transforming you from the optimist that is the natural state of healthy brain functioning into an entrenched "Negative Nancy" generating excess stress, further disrupting your brain's executive functioning. Once again, balance is key.
Obstacle 5: Lack of Emotional Control
Emotions are neither good or bad, positive or negative, regardless of whether they feel pleasant or unpleasant - they are merely signals that are triggered at the subconscious level. Nearly all organisms, from single-celled paramecium to Homo sapiens move away from pain and toward pleasure. The key is to be aware of our feelings without judgement and to learn how to manage them better.
Obstacle 6: Disempowering Habits
You are the product of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Humans are creatures of habits, and our autopilot patterns define who we are. By definition habits are tendencies that are easy to repeat and challenging to change.
From an evolutionary perspective, the brain creates habits to conserve energy. It is easier to automatically carry our familiar tasks without thinking about them than it is to reinvent the wheel. But habits can be empowering, such as moving your body five times a week, or reading forty-five minutes each day, or saving 10 percent of paycheck for savings.
On the other hand, disempowering habits - many of which were planted in your childhood - are largely destructive and sabotaging. The wrong habits can stop you from creating new solutions to life's problems. Instead, they can create cognitive bias blinding you from truth.
Aligning Your Two Minds
Your subconscious mind is a powerful and permanent part of you. Therefore, if you want to recruit the power of your subconscious mind to help you reach your goals, it's best to learn to live with it and align it with what you truly want by transforming these potential obstacles into opportunities for growth.
Your fears can become fuel for change instead of holding you back.
Your stress can become a powerful tool for building your resilience and creativity instead of burning you out.
Your beliefs can become powerful stories and anchors that inspire you instead of keeping you stuck in a rut.
Your mindset can become a lens for seeing possibility and opportunity all around you instead of making you miserable and cynical.
Your emotions can become significant signals relaying your subconscious status instead of uncontrollable reactions.
Your habits can become rituals that bring you closer to your goals instead of automatic disempowering cycles.
These six obstacles are concealed both above and below our conscious awareness. Until we learn to increase our mindfulness and observe with evaluating, we may achieve some of our goals, but not our highest potential.
Assaraf, J. (2018). Innercise. Cardiff, CA: Waterside Press.
Academically speaking, happiness is really a meaningless term because you can't really measure happiness. However, you can measure life satisfaction. You can ask people on a scale of one to ten, thinking of their life as a whole, how would they place their happiness. If you get enough people you can start to aggregate out subjectivity and approach objectivity. People only remember about two percent of their life, so asking them to think of their life of a whole is not much data. But people can pretty much remember the last 24 hours. So, if you ask them to recall the last 24 hours how much they smiled, laughed, felt stress, etc., you can get a pretty good idea of their daily emotions or their experienced happiness.
And then there's a question about purpose: "Do you use your strength to do what you do best every day?" And then if you ask a number of other questions about demographics, about age, gender, ethnicity, what your values are, what you do with your day, and you use this clever little statistical trick called a regression analysis, you can start to find out what correlates with happiness.
For the purposes of the book, Blue Zones of Happiness, in a National Geographic article Dan Buettner asked these huge databases to tell him where in the world life satisfaction is highest, daily emotions are highest, and purpose is highest. So, you can learn some things from data, but often to really understand it you have to go there.
It turns out the area with the highest life's of satisfaction is Asia. The happiest place, very counter-intuitively, is the island nation of Singapore. 27 miles long, 247 shopping malls, but it has one of the highest GDPs in the world. GDP is important for us at a certain point and one of the highest life expectancies in the world. In the 1960s it was basically a fishing village.
But what you have here are five million people very ethnically diverse, Indians, Malay and Han Chinese that live in near perfect harmony. And the reason they do is because it was very planned. Lee Kuan Yew the Prime Minister there made sure that almost everybody in the entire country owns their own house. And in these high-rise housing communities, every building reflects the ethnic diversity of the entire country. So, you have no ghettos for the Malay, or no ghettos for the Indian, or gated communities for the Chinese. The kids go to school together, it's very safe and secure. Very tough laws there. If you're a man and you commit a violent crime, there's a chance that you'll be beaten, they it call caning. If you're caught with more than a half an ounce of opioids you get the death penalty.
The other side of that coin is they don't have an opioid crisis there so nobody is dying of overdoses or the crimes that come out of it, and your children or a woman can walk any place in Singapore day or night and not have to worry about being accosted.
And actually you know there's sort of an inverse relationship between freedom and security. Actually, security is more highly correlated with life satisfaction than freedom is.
The Power of Belief
Belief. It is the same element or factor which causes people to be cured through mental healing; enables others to climb the ladder of success and gets phenomenal results for all who accept it. Why belief is a miracle worker is something that cannot be satisfactorily explained, but have no doubt about it there's genuine magic in believing.
Thought attracts that upon which it is directed. Our fearful thoughts are just as creative or just as magnetic and attracting troubles to us as are the constructive and positive ones and attracting positive results.
While thoughts do create and exercise control far beyond any limits yet known to man, they create only according to their pitch, intensity, emotional quality, depth of feeling, or vibratory plane. In other words, comparable to the wavelength and wattage of a radio station, thoughts have a creative or controlling force in the exact ratio of their constancy, intensity, and power. While many explanations have been offered, no one knows whether the thought is a form of electrical energy or something else yet to be defined.
Sigmund Freud, the famous Austrian psychoanalyst, brought the world's attention to the hypothesis that there was a powerful force within us; an unenumerated part of the mind separate from the conscious mind constantly at work molding our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Others have called this division of our mental existence the soul. Some call it the super-ego, the inner power, the super consciousness, the unconscious, the subconscious, and various other names. It isn't an organ or so-called physical matter such as we know the brain to be. The ancients often referred to it as the spirit. Paracelsus called it will. Some have referred to it as conscience, the creator, or that small voice. Others called it intelligence and have asserted that it is a part of the supreme intelligence to which we are all linked.
No matter what its named, it is recognized as the essence of life and the limits of its powers are unknown. It never sleeps. It comes to our support in times of great trouble. It warns us of impending danger. Often it aids us in what seems impossible. It guides us in many ways and when properly employed performs so-called miracles.
Perhaps the most effective method of bringing the subconscious into practical action is through the process of making mental pictures using the imagination - perfecting an image of the thing or situation as you would have it exist in physical for. This is usually referred to as visualization. However, before this visualization can work you must really believe your vision can happen.
Want To Be Happy? Be Grateful
The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you're going, and above all, being grateful.
Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." On the other hand, if all you are doing is examining, it's fair to say that you are not truly living your life purpose.
Have you determined your life purpose? What are you passionate about? Many people spend their entire lives searching for an answer for this question, but it doesn't have to take a lifetime. We are all on this journey together to find more meaning in our life, and many often struggle along this path. You can begin to intentionally live your life in a matter of 5 minutes by honestly answering 5 simple questions:
When you honestly answer all of these questions, and put it all together, you can begin to understand your life purpose. Despite the catchy headline, it is best to give this some time, it's your life purpose - start with 5 minutes, then progress to a couple hours per week.
Remember that we are each unique - we each have a unique way of seeing the world. If you are still struggling to find your purpose, start with what brings you joy in life. Ask yourself what you would love to do to provide service to others, because service is what matters most.
The Mindset of high achievers
The principle reasons for failure are: Lack of confidence and too much effort. When you know how your mind functions you gain a measure of confidence. Whenever your subconscious mind accepts an idea it immediately begins to execute it. It uses all its mighty resources to that end and mobilizes all the mental laws of your deeper mind. This law is true for beneficial or harmful ideas. Consequently, if you use it negatively, it brings trouble, failure, and confusion. When you use it constructively, it brings guidance, freedom, and peace of mind.
The right answer is inevitable when your thoughts are positive, constructive, and loving. From this it is perfectly obvious that the only thing that you have to do in order to overcome failure is to get your subconscious to accept your idea or request by feeling its reality now, and the law of your mind (mentalism) will do the rest. Turn over your request with faith and confidence, and your subconscious will take over and answer for you.
You will always fail to get results by trying to use mental coercion - your subconscious mind does not respond to coercion, it responds to your conscious mind acceptance.
Your failure to get results ma also arise from such statements as, "Things are getting worse", "I will never get an answer", "I see no way out", "It is hopeless", "I don't know what to do", "I'm all mixed up." When you use such limiting statements and beliefs, you get no response or cooperation from your subconscious mind. Like a solider marking time, you neither go forward or backward; in other words, you don't get anywhere.
If you get into a taxi and give a half dozen different directions to the driver in five minutes, he would become hopelessly confused and probably would refuse to take you anywhere. It is the same when working with your subconscious mind. There must be a clear cut idea in your mind. You must arrive at the definite decision that there is a way out, a solution to any vexing problem. Only the infinite intelligence within your subconscious mind knows the answer. When you come to that clear cut conclusion in your conscious mind, your mind is then made up, and according to your belief is it done unto you.
Do what the 99% are not doing. It's up to you. This is the mindset of high achievers.
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