Haven’t we all been there at some point in our lives? You have a presentation to make in front of your boss and team at 10 a.m. sharp, yet there you are—surfing social media at 8 pm the night before, dragging your feet to get started. As the dread slowly builds, you turn on yourself, offering both excuse and absolution:
Ugh…If only I had more willpower.
It happens all too often when we experience a perceived failure. That darn willpower (or lack thereof), it got me again. We convince ourselves, if we only had a little more talent and a stronger will, we’d be infinitely more successful.
But, what if we’re wrong? What if we’re giving too much power to the idea of willpower and what we can…or cannot…do without it?
Willpower is defined as “the ability to exert and maintain control over impulses”. We often mistakenly believe that success and achievement only come from a strong willpower—that it is the only way to get the edge on our competitors—when, in fact, those positive results are achieved through a well-rounded mindset, on being able to look reflectively on past mistakes, learn from them, and implement alternative strategies moving forward.
What willpower can do is provide the energy and motivation we need to do better, but willpower…and even talent…alone are not enough to achieve success without the final missing puzzle piece. You must also have a healthy mindset.
Though the idea of creating a healthy mindset may sound easy, this kind of personal development requires a level of intentional thought and honest self-reflection that can make some uncomfortable initially. However, as you move through the steps and assess your own soft skills, I think you’ll find you’ve given yourself a gift that will provide a substantial return on your emotional investment.
5 Tips for Cultivating a Well-Rounded Mindset
- Examine Past Response
Taking time to carefully examine previous behavior will help you make better decisions in the future. Doing so allows you to learn from mistakes, assess what caused failures or setbacks, and to identify what behaviors helped you succeed.
This level of examination requires honest reflection and can be uncomfortable when starting out. Practice by reflecting at the end of your day, being mindful of what was problematic and why the good moments went right. Reflecting on the past will help you modify your reactions to future setbacks and improve the way you respond.
- Visualize the Future, Stay Present
By proactively thinking about future scenarios, how they can go right or wrong, and how you will respond in each instance, is a wonderful way to problem solve in advance.
By visualizing future events, you give yourself the opportunity to make effective decisions and explore what potential consequences might be. You can couple this with past reflection, as knowing how things worked out in the past will allow you to implement what you’ve learned and apply it in future scenarios.
Nothing is certain when it comes to planning ahead but, by combining previous experience with well-reasoned assumptions about the future, you’re far more likely to make better decisions.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said…
By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.
- Understand the Reality Around You
It is important to take time to reflect upon the realities around you—including your own wellbeing, your relationships with others, and events occurring in your life. Often called insight, it is the ability to reflect on your true nature and how you interact with stimuli around you.
As you reflect on these relationships, you’ll find yourself opening up to new perspectives, expanding your imagination, and motivated in fresh and exciting ways that can be applied to both your personal and professional life.
- Assess Your Emotions
Instead of brushing off poor choices or failures as a consequence of lacking willpower, pause to ask yourself, “What is the emotion behind this decision?” “Are the assumptions I am making about the situation true for me?”
Chances are, if you’re honest, you’ll find something deeper than you think. Let’s return to the example from the top of the article—avoiding preparation for tomorrow’s presentation. Perhaps you are feeling resentful that you were selected to present. If so, that resentment stems from anger. Are you feeling anxious about presenting in front of the team? The root there lies in fear.
By taking a lack of willpower off the table and naming the true emotion behind our responses, we can empower ourselves to react from a place of honesty and better address how to solve problems. We also reach a higher level of empathy toward others when we understand our own emotions.
- Control Your (Emotional) Response
Ultimately, you alone are in charge of how you react to stimuli within your environment, and your response will depend on how well you have implemented the previous four steps. Taking an honest look at the decisions and consequences in your past, visualizing the opportunities of the future, and taking honest stock of the world around you and your current emotional state all work to create the microphone through which you communicate. Understanding that you have power and are in full control of your reactions and responses in any situation is incredibly empowering.
Letting go of the idea of willpower and embracing a healthy mindset will improve the quality of your relationship with yourself and others and allow you to find increased satisfaction in your professional and personal life. It’s all right there…tucked within that incredible, magnificent spirit you possess. What a gift!