Archive Monthly Archives: September 2017

Overcome Fear and Escape the Comfort Zone Cage

What opportunity did you recently pass up that left you with nagging regret ?  Maybe should have spoken up in that meeting?  Did you avoid international travel, because you could not speak the language?  What are all the ways your comfort zone cage is limiting your personal growth?  We're all afraid of something, but some of us move past it and others do not.  Those of us breaking free have a growth mindset which empowers us to quickly overcome fear.  Those with a fixed mindset believe they cannot change and minimize their risk by not trying.  If having a growth mindset is something you want, then you're in luck!  Recent science around neuroplasticity proves the brain will adapt and change with practice.  It takes time, but it's easy!  It's just a matter of intentional practice.  Keep reading to learn about the growth mindset, neuroplasticity and how to start developing it today!

What Is This Power You Speak Of?

Carol Dweck published her earliest work on mindsets in 1988.  She identified two specific mindsets that relate to how we perceive ourselves and abilities.  The fixed mindset believes we are what we are.  Our strengths and abilities are what we're born with and there's little we can do to change that.  The growth mindset believes it can continually gain new strengths and abilities by learning and practicing new skills.  Fixed mindsets create performance goals that avoid failure from overextending beyond their abilities.  This behavior, or inability to overcome fear, stunts the personal growth of anyone with a fixed mindset.  A growth mindset creates learning goals that lead to challenges, and the unknown, in search of new knowledge and experience.  

The growth mindset views failure as part of the process.  Someone with a growth mindset will be quick to come out of their comfort zone, because it's easier to overcome fear when it's not high to start with.  This is the true advantage of the growth mindset and how to accelerate your personal growth.  The rate at which we learn and grow is directly proportional to the time spent outside of our comfort zone.  A fixed mindset will naturally spend less time in discomfort, so the consequence is slower development.  Slower development leads to less opportunity over time.  If you don't like the sound of this, then continue reading about neuroplasticity and how to begin developing your growth mindset now!

I Can Do What with My Brain?!

It was previously believed that the functions of the brain were compartmentalized and fixed.  This meant that the loss of a function was permanent.  The discovery of neuroplasticity came from the efforts of Michael Marzenich trying to prove this was the case in the 1970's.  He found that functions lost from brain damage could be relearned in the remaining healthy areas.  This occurs in part by how the brain functions and the rest from our own efforts.  How can we leverage neuroplasticity?  Neural connections are made stronger or weaker based on what we choose to do every day.  We're able to rewire our brains as we focus intently on what we want, create new thoughts and practice new behaviors.

The same thought and story from a fixed mindset can be changed to that of a growth mindset.  If you believe you can't change, then start telling yourself a new story where you can.  Start practicing the change you want to make.  Do this for an extended period of time (try three months) and the old belief and feeling will start to fade.  This practice will put you outside of your comfort zone, but that's where the magic happens.  Slowly you'll overcome fear by replacing it with experience.  The experience you gain during this process will solidify the new belief and just like that you're creating a growth mindset!  Next I'll talk about five simple practices to make this a reality.

Where Do I Start?!

Our personal growth is greatly accelerated by having a growth mindset, but we have to work for it.  Using these practices will feel uncomfortable, but that's what this is all about! There are many practices you can do to help create the mindset, but here are 5 of my favorites:

  1. Embrace Imperfection - We can't improve what we avoid.
  2. Use "Yet" - Say I'm not there yet, but I continue to improve.
  3. Embrace the process of failure while learning - Experience comes from trying and learning what works versus what does not.
  4. Spend more time with others that have a growth mindset - You're the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.
  5. Celebrate Growth - Go out for dinner, buy some shoes, go golfing, etc.

These are just a handful of actions you can take to create a growth mindset and catapult your personal growth.  Here's a list of 25 more you may find useful.

Wrapping It All Up...

The mindset we carry around with us plays a big part in our level of achievement throughout our lives.  Put yourself at an advantage by shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset now!  If you already have a growth mindset, then take some to time to reflect on ways to expand it.

The science behind neuroplasticity proves we can rewire our brain with intention and practice.  Nothing is forever, so if you're serious about making the change and taking action, then it's just a matter of time.  Start telling yourself new stories about the truths you want to have versus the ones currently embedded there.  Begin taking action with the five practices I mentioned here and your brain will make the shift.

There is certainty in our comfort zone cage, but growth and change do not exist there.  It's much easier to overcome fear when it's greatly reduced from the onset.  Do not fuel your fear with a fixed mindset, but rather make it go away by shifting to a growth mindset.  Your personal growth and opportunity will increase exponentially.  Use the practices mentioned here to start your journey today!

Reduce Distraction and Manage Long Term Goals with Lists

A To do list is for daily tasks, but what about those ever important long term goals?  It would be a distraction to look at all of it every day.  Over the weekend I had a conversation about this exact topic, so I felt it was worth writing about.  My clients, colleagues, and friends know I'm a GTD practitioner.  It reminds me of how my father managed his day using some old DOS software.  He captured everything he needed to do and set a day to be reminded.  Every day he would print off his list and get to work on it.  New items were captured on the paper and keyed into the program daily.  He specified the day to be reminded and then forgot about it.  This is where the magic happens! This post will go into more detail on how to make this work for you.

Use the Right Tools for the Job

As I mentioned before, the magic comes from setting a reminder for the action.  This is critical to filtering out distraction and noise on a daily basis, but not losing sight of the long term goals.  In my post about how to find more time in the day, I stress the importance of reviewing lists regularly.  How do we review lists associated with projects that may not end for five years?  You need two reliable tools for this.  One to to store information such as articles or notes for reference.  The other to capture actions to take with the ability to show you the right actions on the right days.  This can be papers and folders, digital, or both.  The key is that you always have access to what you need when you need it.  I personally use Evernote for notes and Things (Consider Omnifocus as an alternate) for actions.

Retro image of various tools and when not to use them based on their condition

Do you have the right tools?

How do we review lists associated with projects that may not end for five years?

Categorize your Goals by Time

Once you select your tools, you'll want to capture your projects with the associated actions and notes.  We'll say a project is anything that's two or more actions and will finish within a year.  If the goal spans outside of a year, then create a lists of 1-2 year, 3-5 year, and lifetime goals.  Take time to associate the long term goals with any active projects that relate to them.  This will differ based on the tools you're using, but it's still important to do.  Capture any notes and reference material related to your projects in your other tool.  Make sure you create the appropriate associations there as well.  With everything primed and ready to go, it's time to schedule tasks!

Create a Schedule to Review the Lists

Scheduling your various reviews will help quiet the mind and remove distraction.  Scheduling tasks will differ depending on your tools, but it's critical to being effective.  First you want to schedule a daily review to stare at your calendar and daily to do list.  This is best implemented as recurring event on your calendar.  Next schedule a weekly review on your calendar and to do list.  I usually block off at least 1.5-3 hours to do this.  You'll review actions associated with your projects, areas of focus (family, work, finances, etc.), and scan your calendar a few weeks out.  

Image of a calendar with the 17th highlighted

Schedule your reviews

Scheduling your various reviews will help quiet the mind and remove distraction.

Next schedule a quarterly review action of your 1-2 year goals.  You'll end up looking at these more frequently, but this is a good review interval.  Next schedule a bi-annual action to review your 3-5 year goals.  Again, you'll end up seeing these more frequently, but these times will be more deliberate.  You'll want to take more time reviewing progress and adding more projects (within a year) to help move the goal along.  I usually take three hours of time to do this, but I'm an INTJ who enjoys thinking and analyzing a lot.  Make sure you give yourself enough time to reflect and plan.

A Quick Recap

Let's review how to reduce distraction and use lists for long term goals.  You need tools to support capturing and scheduling of tasks and notes.  The tools should support your ability to associate your tasks and notes with areas of focus in your life as well as the projects and goals they're associated with.  You then divide your projects and goals into less than a year, 1-2 years, and 3-5 year lists.  From here you'll have scheduled tasks to review your lists at the appropriate frequency.  This will change your daily to do list into a mixture of actions that lend themselves to short-term and long term goals.  You will have more lists to review, but only when the time is right.  This will keep your mind clear and focused and remove the distraction caused by the nagging feeling that the important things are slipping.