Have you ever wondered why some people are positive and optimistic while others are negative and see life as a long slow slog through enemy territory with bullets flying over their head? After studying leadership, mindsets and human performance for over twenty years I’ve concluded that there are nine reasons why people end up with a negative mindset. I will share the full list with with my newsletter distribution list over the coming weeks, but today I want to address the number one reason people have a negative mindset.
The #1 reason is: they don’t let go of the past.
If you and I chose to do so, we could sit down and develop a list of ten, fifteen or twenty-five things that have happened in our past that went “wrong.” The list could include not being admitted to our first choice of schools or flunking out of our first choice of schools. The list might include our parents getting a divorce, a death in our family or being overlooked for a promotion.
People who focus on the past and what’s not gone well, or how they’ve been hurt or taken advantage of, end up seeing the world through the prism of a negative mindset. They look at their past and believe it justifies or explains why they act like they do or why they can’t or don’t live up to their full potential. There is always a reason from the past that determines and explains their lot in life.
What you believe directly influences what you achieve.
People with a negative mindset believe their proverbial glass is half empty due to no fault of their own. They also believe your glass should be half empty also. If their glass is going to be half empty due to no fault of their own, then all glasses should be half empty. Actually, they believe your glass is not just half empty but it’s being drained and you simply don’t know it. The only thing that’s draining is spending time with them.
If you are in a leadership position at work, at home, in your community, at church or at school, this kind of mindset will dash any hopes you have of higher performance. You will feel as though you have your foot squarely on the accelerator hoping to drive 100 miles per hour, but another foot is firmly on the brake holding you back to an octogenarian 5 miles per hour.
What are you supposed to do?
- Focus on the future. Far too many people have 20/20 vision when it comes to the past and are vision impaired when it comes to the future. Clearly define your future without hyper-focusing on your past. I’ve had people repossess my families furniture at six years old, had business partners embezzle vast sums of money, and girlfriends be unfaithful. If my predominant thoughts were about these events as opposed to my desired future I’d be a basket case. Whenever you find yourself brooding on the past immediately shift your focus to the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that uplift you. The past is to be learned from, but not repeated over and over.
- Identify your negative mindset. Before you as a leader start eradicating negative mindsets in others my very first recommendation is to start with yourself. Are you a carrier for negativity? If you are, “heal thyself.” You can do that by reading my Twisted Thinking post and identify any twisted thinking traits you have. You’ll find it here.
- Don’t fly solo. Find a coach, mentor or therapist. You cannot change your mindset by yourself. If you do you will do it painfully slow and with way too much work. I have a coach and mentor and at times have sought out the expertise of a therapist. Every time I’ve used the expertise and wisdom of someone who has been there, done that and earned the t-shirt my performance as well as my enjoyment has jumped appreciably.
Which of these ideas has the most benefit for you?