Here are a couple of the most important lessons I’ve learned from going through hard times and coming out stronger on the other side: Your mindset matters so that you don’t miss key moments, and investing in consistent practices can make a difference in your day-to-day life and in your long-term future.
What is going on inside your head is perhaps the most important thing you can work on — especially in hard times.
Mindset is crucial because there are a near-infinite number of things that can capture our attention. If our mind is not clear, we will be reactive and focus on what is loudest and most recent — rather than proactive and focusing on what’s essential and valuable. (Read Josh Waitzkin’s excellent book The Art of Learning for a unique take on this concept.)
Another reason mindset is so important is that depending on your business or avocation, most real value comes down to a few key moments for which we need to be ready and fully present.
As a writer, it’s the moment you figure out what you’re really trying to say.
As a sales person, it’s often a single interaction — even one or two words — that builds essential rapport with a potential customer.
For leaders of organizations, it’s the small ways you treat people in your presence that build trust and engagement.
For entrepreneurs, it’s the moments of insight into the real value of what you sell and how to communicate that insight.
The list goes on — but the key insight is that all moments are not equal in your day or week, and if you are not clear-headed, you’ll probably blow these opportunities. Worse yet, you may not even notice them at all because you’re checking likes on Facebook.
Here are the ways I — a former highly distracted and somewhat depressive person — have had the most impact on my mindset:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Morning Journaling Practice (that’s how this piece started)
Eating well (avoiding too much sugar or alcohol especially)
Surrounding myself with people who are kind and have their shit together (kindness is far more important than togetherness) and consciously limiting the amount of time I spend (digitally or IRL) with those who aren’t kind
PRACTICES ARE INVESTMENTS
Understanding the awesome power of compounding interest is a key to building financial wealth. The idea is that the interest you earn on an initial investment, no matter how small, is reinvested and earns interest itself (and so on). Compounding interest means that very small regular investments that you don’t withdraw will add up to large gains when compounded over time. (Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich is a great primer on this idea.)
The same is true of practices — they also compound.
It takes very little meditation to have deep impacts on our mindset, but it must be done regularly. Ten minutes a day for 10 days will have a much bigger impact than 100 minutes all at once — it’s easier too.
Similarly, exercising your body, especially as you age, is far more impactful when done as a regular habit — consistency over intensity. I’ve been doing pilates one hour weekly for almost two years, and my relationship to pain and my body is completely transformed (thanks Caitlin!). And that practice has led to increasing regularity in other kinds of exercise like weight training. This consistency is due to both the healing of my back pain and creating a habit out of movement. One practice leads to another, and my exercise habit builds on itself.
There are other ways to reap the benefits of compounding practice. In business, being consistent, even in the face of initial market indifference, can help you build an audience.
In interpersonal interactions, focusing on the health of the relationships around you — which means making sure each interaction you have is as healthy and kind as possible — can be transformative. For me, learning to be vigilant about not indulging in anger with loved ones (even, or especially, when “justified”) and also learning to prioritize their happiness in a healthy way have been most important.
The right habits will help create a foundation of healthy relationships around you — these especially pay deep dividends over time. (James Clear’s Atomic Habits is a great place to start if you want to build new habits).
These two things — Mindset and Practices — have made the most difference in my life as I’ve moved from employee to entrepreneur, and dilettante to professional. While the journey can be challenging, each moment I thought about quitting or retreating or despairing, I came back to my practices and my mindset — and each time I made it through.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna advises Arjuna: “We have a right to our labor, but not to the fruits of our labor,” which I take to mean that our focus should be on the practice itself, not the results of that practice. That said, I also know that the practices I’ve outlined above can bear some sweet fruit.
As I’ve built good practices and focused on my mindset, I’ve seen good things happen. It’s a never-ending journey, especially in a chaotic, uncertain world, but investing in good practices and a clear mindset have served me well as a bulwark against the turmoil.
May we all find a good mindset. Thanks for reading.