The Truth about Mindset and Why it Matters
What if I told you that mindset may not be what you think it is?
Social media – love it or hate it, you probably spend more time scrolling through your newsfeed than you would care to admit. You might see photos of your nieces and nephews getting up to mischief or friends on their holidays. However, if you’ve even tiptoed into the online business world, I’m willing to bet that every scroll reveals multiple posts that touch on mindset and you’re pretty sure you can answer the question “what is mindset?”.
Mindset and coaching have exploded online over recent years. In 2016 the ICF conducted a study. They estimated that the North American coaching industry was worth $955 million and in Western Europe it amounted to $898 million. Mindset occupies an exciting place within this because whether it’s business, life, spiritual or leadership coaching, mindset is likely to make an appearance.
While there are no estimates on how many mindset coaches are now operating worldwide, a quick search on Google Trends shows that searches for “mindset” and “mindset coach” have increased in popularity year on year. There’s no doubt that interest in mindset and coaching is growing.
However, when you search “what is mindset” the results are less than impressive. All the top results focus on Caroline Dweck’s theory of growth and fixed mindset. While Dweck’s research is essential and has transformed attitudes in the education sector, it is only a small aspect of what mindset encompasses. Furthermore, it reveals something of a trend in which mindset is being misunderstood.
What happened to Mindset?
This misunderstanding of mindset is most likely the result of the rapidly growing online business world.
The online marketing machines insist on niches and singular messages, and while there is no argument that this focus in your marketing can produce more leads and sales, it has meant that mindset is often incorrectly communicated as something singular. That has meant that when you ask someone, “what is mindset?”, they’ll usually respond with a comment such as, “It’s about limiting beliefs,” or, “It’s journaling and positive thinking”. These simplistic views are a result of the singular message marketing on social media, but the lack of regulation in the industry has further compounded the issue.
As an unregulated industry, there are no barriers to entry which can make it an attractive proposition. The thought of helping others overcome their problems is the dream for many people – it gives them a sense of purpose. Encouraged by the singular focus found in much of the marketing, it’s not hard to see why someone might read a few personal development books on positive thinking, draw on personal experience and feel ready to become a mindset coach and live their dream of helping others overcome all their problems.
Indeed, this has led to an influx of people into the industry – and these people are needed. However, it has created an additional complication. To stand out and grow their business, coaches differentiate their message, identify their “one thing” and create a unique micro-niche – it makes good business sense. However, the side effect of this is that the depth and breadth of mindset work are further lost.
Mindset’s Muddled Messages
In the end, people get simplified messages about mindset, such as:
“If your relationships keep failing, you have a limiting belief that needs removing with hypnotherapy.”
“If you’re not making enough money, you’re giving the universe the wrong messages and need to use the law of attraction”.
Unwittingly, in their eagerness to help others, the mindset coaching industry has given inaccurate messages to consumers. Take the above examples – not all relationship issues are caused by limiting beliefs, hypnotherapy may not prove useful depending on the circumstances, and not all money issues are improved by the law of attraction.
If we take the book and film, The Secret, as an example, we can get a real sense of the impact marketing has had on the industry. Based on the idea of the law of attraction, it put out a singular message of “think it and receive it”. Many now believe that this will solve all their problems. They’re unaware of other elements at play such as inspired action or the mindset filters they have.
There are, of course, many coaches who have sought professional training in a single modality to ensure they are qualified to do the work. However, there’s a worrying new trend of creating a new modality which is in truth, a mish-mash of existing therapies repackaged with smart marketing. Training in this modality is then sold without full training in mindset, or how and when this treatment is appropriate. These coaches have signed up in good faith, believing that this training will ensure they are competent and capable of supporting their clients fully. In truth, some modalities have the potential to trigger serious trauma issues leaving clients vulnerable and the coach unprepared – that’s not fair on either.
As you can see, the watering down of mindset is not only inconvenient and misleading but also potentially dangerous. We need to be clear about mindset.
Mindset is NOT just “positive thinking”.
Mindset is NOT just “limiting beliefs”.
Mindset work is NOT just “journaling” or “affirmations”.
NLP, hypnotherapy or any other single modality will NOT solve all mindset issues.
These things don’t even come close to encompassing what mindset is.
I’m NOT saying that these things aren’t useful – people can have limiting beliefs. Positive thinking, journaling, and affirmations are all useful tools for changing the internal script. Hypnotherapy and NLP are valuable modalities. These all belong under the umbrella of mindset – they just don’t define it.
The problem with a singular approach to mindset
The biggest problem with not recognising everything that mindset includes is that it doesn’t serve clients well.
Abraham Maslow once said:
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, it’s tempting to treat every problem as a nail.”
In other words, if you have a limited approach to mindset, you will be tempted to believe that this will solve all the problems. It also means that the diagnostic stage is missed out, and the real cause of an issue not identified.
Humans are complex beings, especially our minds. It’s not possible to have one tool or single treatment that will solve every mindset issue. Currently, there seems to be a particular focus on the idea of limiting beliefs. Yet, this only accounts for a small percentage of reasons why someone might not be achieving their goals.
For example, let’s imagine that a business owner is really struggling to get sales and make money in their business. They spot a coach online who talks about how money blocks are stopping business owners from earning the money they should in their business and how they can help them overcome these blocks. The business owner hires this coach as they’re keen to increase their income, and the coach works on removing the limiting beliefs the business owner holds around money.
The coach is eager to support their client to achieve their full potential. However, because their money block training didn’t include a thorough understanding of mindset, the coach hasn’t explored what might be causing the problem and continues working on money blocks.
However, this business owner’s problem was not a money block but a lack of information on how to market their business. The coach could pour their heart and soul into helping this client for an entire year and feel devastated that their client didn’t move any further towards their goal when really, it’s not their fault that their training let them down.
With a fuller understanding of mindset, this coach would have recognised that the problem was, in fact, a lack of information and with the right training, they would have helped the business owner to get what he needed to succeed.
Ultimately, a mindset coach needs a comprehensive understanding of mindset to make effective decisions about what is best for their clients.
So what exactly does mindset encompass?
What is Mindset?
Mindset is about the process our minds go through when responding to an experience or situation. We experience it, process it through a range of filters and have some form of physiological and emotional response before choosing how we react to it.
These filters that we process everything through are varied and include things such as:
- Behavioural preferences
- Representational systems
Behavioural preferences, for example, may favour inaction rather than action or introversion over extroversion or we may have habitual ways of doing things. Then there are all the strategies we have for almost everything we do in life from getting up in the morning to forming relationships. As you can see, there is a lot more at play than “limiting beliefs”.
When filtering information, your brain is continually trying to pattern match so that it can make sense of the world around you. If it can find a pattern between what is happening now and what it has experienced in the past, it has a better chance of keeping you safe. For example, if you have memories of someone cheating in a relationship, your brain might lookout for similar patterns in your relationship.
The trouble is, your brain will also delete, distort or generalise some information so that it can find a better pattern match. Before you know it, your stomach hurts, chest tightens, and you feel devastated because you’re convinced your partner is cheating on you. You choose to confront them and have an almighty row, when in fact, they really were just working late.
Mindset covers everything that happens during that process.
Why mindset matters
It’s important to note that this process also means that everyone experiences things differently. While a whole group of people may be present during an event, they will each have a different interpretation of what has happened. They will process it through their own filters and add their own assumptions or meaning to it, regardless of whether that meaning was present or not. You may have experienced this when talking about a memory you have. Someone else present at the time recalls it quite differently to you.
This ability to experience the same situation in different ways is a common cause of problems in relationships. In the loved-up honeymoon period, you may find yourself picking up your partner’s empty coffee mug and thinking about how you love to look after him. However, later in the relationship, you may find yourself feeling furious that he leaves it for you to clear up and start thinking of him as lazy and inconsiderate. Note that the situation hasn’t changed, but your brain now has a different interpretation.
Your brain’s pattern-matching abilities can be put to your advantage with mindset work too. While your brain “deletes, distorts or generalises” information that’s not useful, it will pay attention to the matches that it finds. If something has been brought into your focus, the group of neuron pathways in your brain stem is known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS) will bring into your awareness and recognition anything that matches with this recent focus.
For example, you may learn a new word and then start to notice it multiple times a day. Alternatively, you decide that you won’t eat chocolate for a month and suddenly start seeing adverts for it are at every turn.
The beauty of this is that when you’re focused on what you want for the future, the RAS will bring anything related to it, to your attention. This means that you start spotting opportunities that your brain may have previously “deleted” from your awareness. You may now begin to be recognising some of the science behind the law of attraction.
As you can see, when we consider the entire process that is happening within mindset, it is at the heart of everything we do and the results that we get. There’s just no way anyone can reduce mindset down to a single element, and it needs understanding in its entirety to be able to get the most effective results.
Successful mindset coaching
When you grasp the depths and breadth of mindset, your approach changes. Rather than focusing on a single modality or tool and looking for a nail to hammer, you become a master craftsman who explores the issue, discovers the truth than then selects the right tool for the job.
For example, in my Mindset Coach Academy, participants are taught to establish their client’s model of the world and what is really holding them back before choosing the tool and modality that will be most effective in changing the client’s internal script. The training equips them with a whole range of tools and options including psychometric profiling tools, results based coaching, NLP, EFT, hypnosis and timeline therapy. Only after mastering all of these can they become certified mindset coaches.
This ensures that their clients not only receive mindset coaching but that it produces high-quality results that last for the long term.
The same is true for those on their own mindset journey without a coach. Learning a singular aspect of mindset such as the law of attraction, journaling or positive reframing, risks them not addressing the issues that are present, which is why my Mindset Success School teaches a variety. Pouring their heart out into a journal every day won’t help if they need to reframe thoughts. Examining their beliefs is unhelpful when the obstacle is a behavioural preference.
When we move away from a narrow focus on what mindset is, we unravel the power that this work can offer. We need to stop reducing it down to “one thing” and instead, embrace the breadth of knowledge – your mind deserves it.