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Cultivating A Positive Mindset

Mindset refers to the general attitudes of people and the way they think about things. It is what informs whatever decisions they make (or don’t make). It controls what they say and do. Their mindset is also the lens they use when evaluating the issues and events happening around them.

Mindset affects the way a person looks at things and issues. Let me share an experience as an illustration.

I once had a conversation with a colleague about salaries and working conditions. He bewailed the fact that a truck driver in his country earns more than what he is earning in a year as an expat teacher. After listening to his litany, I told him to pause for a while and dig deeper into his comparison and consider other factors like the number of required work hours and the physical demands for the job. When computing the number of hours, I reminded him that we as teachers are not actually working during winter and summer breaks but we get paid in full by the university as stipulated in our contracts. That’s a total of four months when we practically do almost nothing related to work but get paid. On the other hand, that truck driver needs to grind it out winter, spring, summer, and fall to earn every single penny he is earning.

He realized at the end that his pay per hour is actually higher than the truck driver and his working conditions are much better.

A positive mindset allows a person to have a broad perspective enabling them to see the bigger picture. That’s what my colleague failed to see – the bigger picture. Big-picture thinking is one of the components of what Dr. John Maxwell referred  to as “good thinking.” Dr. Maxwell explained that successful people reached the pinnacle of success because they cultivated “big-picture thinking.” We can choose to do the same.

Factors related to family, school, and environment are considered determinants of the kind of mindset that people possess. How such elements affect them as they grow older could be gleaned from the way they behave, think, and talk.

Mindset could be affected by the culture people have grown into and it could either be positive or negative. Studies done on mindset have established a strong correlation between mindset and achievement and happiness. Needless to say that people with a positive mindset are more successful and live a stress-free life. They have either a flourishing business or a rewarding career (or both) and their personal lives are amazing.

A positive mindset can be cultivated if anyone wants to. But it’s easier said than done. It would take a very strong commitment and determination for it to happen. It will entail hard work. The rewards people with a positive mindset are reaping are not being handed to them in a silver platter. Those are the fruits of the seeds of hard work they have sown.

Dr. Carol S. Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, made a comprehensive study of mindset. Dr. Dweck coined the words “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset.” She explained that “In a fixed mindset students [people] believe that their abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. In a growth mindset, students [people] understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence.”

We need to make a choice between having a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset.”

Learning is a lifelong process. We should never stop acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitude, and values we need.

We never cease to be students. But which kind of student are we – the one with a fixed mindset or with a growth mindset?”


As explained by Dr. Dweck, because people with a “fixed mindset” believe that intelligence and other human traits are static,  they avoid challenges, give up easily, and see the exertion of extra efforts as fruitless and futile. Conversely, people with a “growth mindset” are convinced that human intelligence and other traits can be developed which would lead them to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and see effort as the path to mastery. People with a “fixed mindset” ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others while those with a “growth mindset” learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.


It’s time to evaluate which of the two mindsets you possess. Whether you change it or not is a decision only you can make.

I have been trying to cultivate a positive mindset. It is an ongoing process and I am happy with the results. How I wish I have started doing this when I was younger.

My journey to changing my mindset for the better was  not easy. It made me completely overhaul my way of thinking that was programmed by the environment I have grown into and the kind of education and experiences I had. It is equivalent to getting out of my comfort zone because I have to change the habits and routines that I got accustomed to. But it’s worth a try.

Beyond Positive Thinking

the-right-mindset

Some people would say that “life sucks.”

Really!?

I adhere to the dictum that “Life is what we make it.” I believe then that when people say that “life sucks” it’s because that’s the way they made it to be. The kind of life we live is defined by the mind-set we have. It is one’s way of thinking that would make life suck.  It is the negative attitude towards life that make people fail in their undertakings – it is what  makes them unhappy and dissatisfied. It’s in the midst of all their failures, sadness and dissatisfaction that  they say “life sucks.”

People are seemingly not sold on the idea that their  way of thinking affects the way  they live life and would determine whether or not they succeed. It is hard for them to accept that it is their innate responsibility to examine their way of thinking and ensure that it doesn’t stand in their way to happiness and success. This is something  I learned so late in life. How I wish I had learned so when I was  younger.

I have heard a lot of things about positive thinking before  but it was only around 2009 that I started digging deeper into the idea and it took a few more years before I really became serious about it.

I realized that there is more to positive thinking than veering away from negative thoughts and shedding off negative attitudes.

It all began when I watched a film entitled “The Secret.” I saw the DVD of the movie by accident. The store owner mixed it with regular movies. When I bought it, I had no idea what it was. There was no synopsis, not even a brief note explaining anything about it. That was it… everything was what the title suggests – SECRET.

I thought it was either a mystery-thriller or a sci-fi movie. When I played, it I found out that it was some kind of a “self-help” film. It was technically a documentary.  I have to admit that at first I  considered the ideas presented as preposterous. Things  I was seeing and hearing from the beginning of the film were like lifted straight from the pages of  a science fiction book… but at the same they also tickled my curiosity.

So, I continued watching and tried to be open-minded and thought of the information in the film as tips for personality development. I have always considered anything that advocates positive change as worth my time and worth trying.  I watched it a few more times after that  and even shared the ideas I learned to my students whenever I would see a connection to the contents of the topic we’re discussing.

Then I decided to do an internet  search for one of the speakers in the documentary who impressed me the most – Bob Proctor. That internet search led me to his (Bob Proctor’s) motivational videos on YouTube and to links to information and videos of other motivational speakers such as Wayne Dyer, Les Brown, Jim Rohn, Joe Dispenza, Brendon Burchard, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Simon Sinek, Tom Bilyeu, John Maxwell and Mel Robbins.

I watched the videos of the said speakers and searched for electronic copies of the books they have written. At first, it was like once a week that I would play their videos on YoutTube  until such time that I started doing it everyday – in the morning and at night. It became part of my daily routine.

I found out later that Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, and Earl Shoaff came ahead of the motivational speakers previously mentioned. My constant browsing of the internet intended to quench what has seemingly become an insatiable thirst for ideas for personality development  led me  to the works of  one of the “pioneering figures of modern inspirational thoughts” – James Allen. His most famous book – “As A Man Thinketh” – set straight everything I learned about positive thinking.

Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book “Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind” provided enough science into the positive thinking paradigm that wiped out whatever doubts I had about it. I love the way Dr. Wayne Dyer incorporated Asian philosophies into that paradigm and the infusion of practical wisdom and humor to it by Jim Rohn and Les Brown.

Then John C. Maxwell made me think the way I think. His book “Thinking For A Change” reminded me of the value of effective and creative thinking. His suggestions on how to be more focused and creative in the way people should think are very practical but tremendously effective.

I didn’t take  everything I read and heard from motivational speakers hook, line, and sinker. I always had my filters and my critical lens ready when I listened to talks and read books. I analyzed their ideas carefully and (without judging and doubting) tried to see which ones work for me and which writers and speakers make sense.

The one thing those motivational speakers succeeded in doing was to change my mind-set. They taught me how to look at things using a positive perspective. They had confirmed what I believed all along that whatever we become is the sum total of all the decisions we make… that a person is in-charge of his own destiny. It is a personal belief I started forming after reading W.E. Henley’s “Invictus” way back in college.

The process of my personal transformation was rather slow and I got to observe things in my life changing for the better only in 2013.

When positive thinking succeeded in changing my perspectives on life, things in my life improved,  particularly in the areas of relationships, health, work, and  finances.

One day I just woke up and  realized that things are the way that they are. People are who they are. They talk, behave and think the way they want, whether I like it or not.  I can not change them. I can not change the  system of the government, the policies in my workplace, the attitude of my co-workers, the character of my friends and loved ones. The only things I could  change are those that I could control directly  – my words, actions, and my thoughts.  It is my perspective that must change. I need to have paradigm shift as Bob Proctor would put it.

I did exactly that. I changed my perspective and it is continuously evolving.  I’m not saying that everything in my life now is perfect. One thing I could say though is I am happy with who I am, what I have, and where I am. Perhaps the life I live now  is what Brendon Burchard would describe at the end of his videos as – “a charged life.”

I fully embraced self-sufficiency and personal accountability.

People wrongly think that positive thinking is just that – thinking. It’s merely the springboard. Great things happen to people when they start changing their mindset – from negative to positive. What would make positive thinking weave its magic is the corresponding positive actions you undertake.

Positive thinking without positive action doesn’t work. Brian Tracy added one more to the equation – “One must have an organized plan of action.” He added that action without planning is the cause of every failure, underachievement, frustration, time wastage, anxiety, and stress.

So, it’s not just a person needing to think positively and that’s it. Action and planning are needed.

All motivation gurus advocate the setting of goals. They strongly suggest that people should have their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals… on top of their long-term goals.  They also identified two qualities that a person must have in order for positive thinking to work – self-discipline and self-sufficiency.

For me, self-discipline is the most difficult obstacle to hurdle.  Old habits die hard. It’s true, but somehow I am succeeding in slaying the bad ones – albeit slowly.

I know it’s not easy to change one’s perspectives on anything especially if such perspectives are already deeply anchored in the person. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Right? Allow me to be literal on that idiomatic expression and let me add this –  “… but people are not dogs.”

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