Some of the biggest traps in self-development are mindset traps, usually because they’re invisible to us. We get ourselves into a mindset box but can’t see the walls.
What if the mindset box you’re in doesn’t contain any solutions to your biggest problems? What if those answers exist only outside the box?
A common symptom of this trap is when you think you’ve tried just about everything and still aren’t getting results in a particular area. This is often true of financial, career, relationship, and health challenges.
What you’ve really done is tried many solutions that are accessible within the same mindset box. None of them have worked for you because the mindset box itself is the problem.
For instance, one mindset box is the self-absorption box that I shared in yesterday’s post. When you’re in this box, you frame your problems self-referentially, as if the whole world revolves around you. While that can be an empowering frame for some types of problems, it’s especially weak for overcoming financial and relationship challenges. Consequently, you’ll often find self-absorbed people struggling with their finances and relationships. And they’re usually blind to how much the self-absorption mindset is limiting them.
Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who’s highly self-absorbed and has a hard time considering other people’s perspectives? Would you want to do business with such a person? When you look at this mindset box from the outside, its limitations become apparent, but when you’re inside the box, you probably won’t realize that the mindset itself is the problem.
This is a key point to understand. You’re in your own mindset box right now, and it’s limiting you. Moreover, you can’t even see how it’s limiting you. What you can see, however, is your frustrating lack of results in a particular area.
Consider some area of your life that stubbornly refuses to progress towards greater results, no matter how much you work on it. Now ask yourself this: How could your own mindset box be preventing you from making progress? Ask yourself what other mindsets people use to get results in this area. Consider how someone with a different mindset might approach this problem.
Most importantly, test different behaviors that conflict or disagree with your current mindset. Play with them by taking actions that you’d only take if you adopted an opposing mindset. You don’t have to agree with a mindset to test its behaviors. New behaviors can generate new results for you, even if you still vehemently disagree with the mindset behind that behavior.
Which behaviors have you rejected because they don’t agree with your current mindset box? Try some of those behaviors, and see where they lead. This is how you can start exploring beyond your mindset box.
A key limiting belief to overcome here is that you can only test actions and behaviors that align with your current mindset box. That isn’t true at all. You’re free to test behaviors that conflict with your mindset. Your ability to take action isn’t beholden to obey any particular mindset. Behaviors stem from thoughts, and mindsets stem from thoughts, and those thoughts needn’t agree with each other. Your brain is plenty big enough to hold space for opposing thoughts.
So be deliberately disagreeable with the mindset that’s generating behaviors that aren’t getting results for you. Be disobedient. Be willing to explore in direct violation of that mindset.
For instance, if you have a neediness or a self-absorption mindset, those mindsets are traps that will limit your results. What behaviors would be in conflict with such mindsets? How about volunteering? If you’re needy or self-absorbed, you’re not going to volunteer to help others. Only someone who has a mindset of kindness, generosity, or abundance will volunteer their time and energy to help others, right? So this behavior will clearly irritate your neediness or self-absorption mindset. Perfect! That’s exactly what to you ought to do then.
Your old mindset box will raise plenty of objections about why you can’t do a behavior that conflicts with it. Wonderful! Let it object because you have a much bigger counter-objection. Here’s your counter-objection:
Oh yeah… well you suck at getting results!
Let your old mindset chew on that for a while. No matter how much it whines at you, face it down with the hard truth it doesn’t want to hear: You’re not getting results, old mindset. You’ve repeatedly let us down.
This approach has turned my life around multiple times. I did the volunteering thing when I was broke and going bankrupt. My old mindset objected vehemently, but my attitude was that the old mindset never worked for me anyway, so what did I have to lose by trying something totally different? My finances turned around that same year, and I haven’t had any problems with scarcity since. That was 21 years ago. The old mindset could never solve that problem for me. But a simple new behavior solved it beautifully.
New behaviors will crack your old mindsets that didn’t work, eventually leading you to new mindsets that align with the new behavior. And now you’re outside of the old box, and your new mindset will generate still more behaviors, and some of those behaviors will help you get better results. Quite often you won’t figure out the new mindset though till you explore the behaviors that lead you to it.
So it’s not always true that your first behavioral exploration outside your old mindset will create breakthrough results, but by cracking the old mindset, you’ll gain access to even more behaviors. You’ll expand the possibility space by tearing down the old walls. This gives you a much better chance of finding and adopting behaviors that generate better results than your old mindset box ever could.
The benefits of exploring beyond my own mindset boxes have been profound. This is a key reason I do so many personal growth experiments that other people would find questionable. I like to explore behaviors that challenge and push the boundaries of my mindset box.
Some of these behavioral experiments include:
- Going to Disneyland for 30 days in a row
- Eating a low-fat raw diet for 30 days
- Going skydiving
- Going vegan
- Joining Toastmasters and doing speech contests
- Doing live events on the Vegas Strip
- Water fasting for 40 days
- Training for and running a marathon
- Traveling through Europe for several weeks without paying for a place to stay
- Doing lots of manifestation experiments
- Becoming a hugger
- Going to a cuddle party
- Learning to play guitar
- Moving to Las Vegas
- Learning card counting for blackjack
- Becoming an early riser
- Starting a computer games business fresh out of college
- Seeing 200+ independent theater productions (and assisting in some)
- Shifting from a fenced relationship to an open relationship
- Blogging every day for a year (my current one)
- Inviting and experiencing threesomes
- Joining the Church of Scientology and going to one of their centers for a few months
- Going on a 4000-mile road trip
- Converting to a smart home with cleaning robots, voice-controlled thermostats, and numerous smart devices from Apple, Amazon, and Google
- Traveling many times with a one-way ticket, not knowing when I’d return
- Joining an improv troupe for a few months
- Doing ayahuasca four nights in a row
Did all of these experiments fit neatly into my mindset at the time I tried them? Heck no!
You try walking into a Scientology center without your mind generating a slew of objections. You try showing up at Disneyland with the expectation that you’re going to spend a full month of your life there. You try pulling out your credit card to reserve a meeting room on the Vegas Strip for a 3-day workshop when you’ve never done one before. Of course your mind is going to object when you step outside its boundaries!
I revel in these kinds of experiments though because they keep destroying the walls of old mindset boxes that no longer serve me. Sometimes even a good mindset that generates pleasing results for a while can eventually feel limiting. Maybe you start feeling bored and listless. That’s a good time to mix things up by violating your current mindset with some objectionable behaviors.
One of my next mindset box violations that I want to attempt this year is to write a novel. I’ve never written a novel before, so of course my mind objects to that idea. I have written millions of words of published content, including my nonfiction book Personal Development for Smart People, but fiction feels like a different beast entirely.
So of course my current mindset objects to this idea. What if I write a novel and it absolutely sucks? What if everyone trashes it as the worst piece of crap they’ve ever read? What if it takes way longer than I expect? What if I can’t get the story to converge on a decent ending? Yada yada yada.
When I see objections like that, to me that’s a damned good reason to take action and try out the new behavior. If my old mindset objects so much, then its walls must be feeling vulnerable. Just making the attempt could lead me to some fresh mindset territory. Regardless of how the novel turns out, the path of exploring fiction will be an expansive one.
Probe the limitations of your current mindset. Look for behaviors that your current mindset says you can’t possibly do. Then explore those behaviors anyway. Smash the walls of your old mindset box, and you’ll surely discover more empowering mindsets and behaviors. And don’t stop. Keep smashing!
The key benefit here is that when you violate a limiting mindset, you gain access to new results. Do you want better results, or would you prefer to continue wallowing in freakish misery?
I don’t have to deal with being broke anymore because I smashed down the walls that caused me to get stuck there. I spent most of my 20s behind those walls, but my 30s and 40s were free of them. Have you smashed the walls of brokeness yet? If not, then your current mindset probably sucks and needs to be smashed. So find a behavior that violates that mindset, and go test it for a month or two.
I don’t have to deal with a lack of affection in my life anymore. I smashed those walls too. So I get to enjoy a super affectionate wife who hugs, kisses, and cuddles me every day. Have you smashed the walls of emotional neediness yet? What behavior would violate the old mindset that isn’t getting the job done? Yup, that one!
If I didn’t explore beyond the mindset boxes that limited me, I’d probably still be dealing with crappy, unwanted results in many areas of life. Now whenever I don’t like my results, I have a method for getting past the “I’ve tried everything and none of it works” nonsense.
The best part is that it’s actually fun to do this kind of smashing, once you get used to it. Sometimes it’s fun just to see other people’s reactions. Sometimes it’s exciting thinking about how different life will be for a while. I really enjoyed the 30 days at Disneyland, for instance. Somehow I never got bored, and that experience pushed me to think bigger. I realized that Walt Disney got that whole monstrosity going by stepping into behaviors that made other people think he was crazy. I don’t think I’d have started Conscious Growth Club if I hadn’t done that Disney experiment.
I challenge you to violate a mindset box that limits you. Commit yourself to a course of action that the old mindset box tells you is out of bounds. If the old mindset isn’t generating the results you want anyway, throw that back in its face when it objects. Don’t blame yourself for the lack of results. Blame your old mindset.
When you do this often enough, you’ll start to trust the process more. I know it’s scary the first few times, but that fear is just one more mindset box to blow up. So many awesome results in life can be found on the other side of fear… the other side of worry… the other side of playing small.