By Telana Simpson
I have heard it said that the bushmen – the First People – had a very different consciousness to ours of today. They came from a different time in mankind’s evolution, and we can learn from knowing them. We can then take what we learn forward into our role today in evolving mankind to greater heights.
One of the understandings that the bushmen had and lived by, was that all things and all people were different, but equal.
This relates to a way we can motivate ourselves in that we need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We can rather focus on our own milestones, knowing that as we develop, we are making more of ourselves. And that is what helps us leave this world just a little bit better.
Our universal drive
I have yet, in all my years of coaching people, to come across someone who’s higher intentions are not somehow related to helping others and making our world a better place.
We all have an innate drive to contribute, and even though this might inspire us, we still have the day to day grind to deal with, alongside all the darkness that we so often feel overwhelmed by.
Many aspects of what we feel driven to be and do in the world, require that we develop certain skills or attributes that will allow us to make our dent in the universe. After all, often our purpose on this planet is also our greatest challenge, and our greatest teacher.
Today’s playing field
So to live purposefully, we might need to learn certain content; we are probably required to work with people and so need to improve our people skills; and we are encouraged to tap into our creativity to find the needed solutions for today’s problems.
We need to remove the leashes (often learnt in childhood and from our societal conditioning) that are holding us back from bringing all of ourselves to this very moment.
And all of this work – this learning and developing and unleashing of our potential – takes energy and dedication and drive. It requires motivation.
With the rise too in the industrial era, and in consumerism and technological advances, life has become in some ways easier, yet also more complex, and definitely more global. With social media we have even more eyes on us – and we get to watch voyeuristically more people too.
We have also been taught at school that in order to be anyone, even to just survive, we must get good grades, a top education, a degree, and then a high paying job. If we don’t, we won’t be a contribution to the world. And then we won’t amount to anything. The bottom line being: we won’t be good enough.
The Fixed Mindset
This is a part of what is known as the “fixed mindset” where we are always trying to be good. This mindset leads us to believe that the traits we need to be successful – like being smart – is a fixed trait that we have or we don’t have. We either are smart, or we are not. And so we feel we need to prove ourselves the whole time – show others that we have this trait, that we are smart… that we are good enough.
A major component of this fixed mindset is that it is driven by comparing ourselves to others. And this has a significantly negative effect on motivation. It’s quite disheartening to have to continually prove we are good.
If there is even a slight chance that we might fail and show that we are not actually good compared to someone else– then we’d rather not do something, not take that chance, not speak up. And perish the thought we did try and we made a mistake, it can lead us to just want to sit on the couch and never try again. “Why even bother – I’m not good at that, and so I’d rather not show anyone else that I lack.”
This even translates to us feeling jealous and resentful of others in areas where they are good at something, and of their successes. For this fixed mindset is embedded in a scarcity mentality, and so if someone else is good, it means we are not. “They have a bigger piece of the “smartness pie” which means I got less of that pie in the genetic lottery.”
The Growth Mindset
Luckily for us, there is an alternative mindset that is far more useful. This mindset is termed the Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck, who wrote “Mindset. The new psychology of success”.
This is where we own our fallibility because we believe that if someone has achieved something, then it is possible. We just need to learn the strategy to have that same success. It’s about understanding that skills and knowledge are learnt and gained (not given). We can develop ourselves if we just apply ourselves, and improve by persistently putting in the effort to grow.
Comparing to self
This mindset is driven by comparing ourselves not to others, but only to ourselves. We focus on where we were a day ago, a week ago, a month or even a year ago, and we count each step forward that we have taken. Our own track record is what is important – and motivating – to us.
If we do see others being successful, we see them as examples of what is possible. We gratefully take knowing them as opportunities to learn from their successful strategies. We can cheer them on and celebrate with them, and it inspires us to want to have the same experience for ourselves.
The growth mindset is known to bring more motivation into our lives, because instead of proving ourselves, we are improving ourselves, as Heidi Grant Halvorson says, who is also a researcher and author in this field.
We believe in a world of abundance, and that attributes like ‘being smart’, are very contextual and dependent on our effort to gain knowledge, rather than seeing them as a binary ‘either we have it or not’ attributes. We feel motivated to learn and grow.
Our goal becomes one focused on developing a skill or attribute, and not on demonstrating that we magically somehow already have that skill or attribute perfectly. We become open and driven to practice and study, and put in the 10 000 odd hours to reach our level of accomplishment that we desire.
Top Tip to motivate yourself and others
If you would like to bring more motivation into your life, I can suggest you start by looking at who you are comparing yourself with. And to stop comparing your own level of development with others. They have a different set of circumstances around where they are in their knowledge, skills and life to you, so it’s an unfair comparison actually.
If you just focus on your own growth, and count the steps you are making forward towards your own goals, you will find your motivation growing, helping you to develop and learn and take your own experience to that next level of success for you. You will also be amazed at how many wonderful mentors and examples of success there are around you to learn with, and from.
The same comes to when we want to motivate others and help them improve. If we point out how far they have come compared to their past performances, they can also start to reap the benefits of the growth mindset.
It’s far more encouraging to help someone see their next step in terms of their own development and acknowledge their effort and gains, rather than to tell them they need to be better than, comparing them to someone else.
Different, and equal.
Remember, we are different from others, and at the same time equal to them. If we each just focused on what brings us joy and meaning, we would be more motivated to developed ourselves in the skills we need to, to add our contribution to this world.
And each of our contributions are equal in importance, and yet also different in this world of variety. More of a focus on ourselves would motivate each of us to leave our unique and needed mark on the world.
Here’s to you growing your growth mindset!
About the Author:
Telana is a dynamic transformational Personal Coach who focuses on communicating and relating. She works with people who want to change their lives, specifically to improve their communication skills and relationships and their ability to express themselves verbally, creatively, emotionally and physically. She specialises in self esteem, controlling emotions, overcoming self consciousness and anxiety, handling conflict, fear of confrontation and developing relationships. She is the host of the online TV show “ Let’s Talk Communication”. You can contact her through www.innercoaching.co.za or Instagram, or tweet her @Telana .