By Charlie Foster
DOWN! UP! One. DOWN! UP! Two… the more repetitions you get, the stronger you get. In anything. Practice makes perfect and developing the mindset you want is no exception. Charlie, what?! How can you practice how you think? Reps, reps, and just when you think you are done with reps, MORE REPS! With a strong, growth mindset, almost every task becomes completable and those with a consistent strong mindset will perform much better in any task than those with a weak mindset.
What does a strong mindset look like?
In one word: unstoppable. Just like being physically strong, a strong mindset can overcome any obstacle. Some traits I have noticed that are consistently present in strong mindsets are positivity, perseverance, and willingness to learn or change.
A study done on an insurance company’s salespeople found that the 10% most optimistic salespeople sold 88% more than the 10% most pessimistic sales agents. To me, optimism is the most important factor in developing a strong mindset. I see so many people get discouraged or overwhelmed from failure, fear of failure, or lack of a clear vision. Discouragement is the enemy, or the weight on your back when doing a pushup. If someone is able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the work to get to the destination naturally becomes more enjoyable and easier to complete because the individual can picture the rewarding feeling and the energy to get there will naturally follow. Many athletic coaches tell athletes to visualize or manifest their goal of making the final shot, goal, hit, or pass because if somebody knows they can perform the task, then they are more likely to successfully complete the task.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” -Thomas Edison
A common theme many famous athletes, celebrities, high-achievers, billionaires, or common role models speak to the value of the daily grind and hard work. Those terms are synonymous to perseverance to me. The ability to give 100% everyday to a specific task without giving up is special and will be rewarded. The real challenge: persevering after failing. I have had many times where I feel like my hard work hasn’t paid off, but even if it doesn’t at the time it has helped me in another activity.
Willingness to change—
One of the best pieces of advice I have seen repeated throughout my internships at Cummins and MITRE is to not take criticism personally but see it as an opportunity to grow. The reason this advice leads to successful projects is because the way to get as close to perfect as possible is through constant improvement. Those who think they know it all or seek to show off their knowledge instead of seeing every moment as a learning opportunity are passing up on the opportunity to get even smarter. The idea goes back to the phrase “two heads are better than one”. The more people that one can learn from, the more knowledge they will have, and thus be able to make more informed decisions. On the contrary, if one goes strictly off their own thoughts, then they are limiting themselves to a library of knowledge surrounding them. People have the choice to utilize their army of intelligence by adapting their thoughts based on what experts say or their ego can get in the way.
How do you do a mental pushup?
Easy. Just grunt and make a face like you are working out and when you are done breathe a sigh of relief. Just kidding!! Mental pushups are a metaphorical term for building the strong mindset you want. Recognizing that mental pushups are possible, for me, is the hardest part of a mental pushup. Recognizing that it is possible to change a mindset and mold it how one desires will break a barrier many people with toxic mindsets have.
There is not one way on how to do a mental pushup or train your brain to think how you want involuntarily but I will share what works for me.
The most important part for me is repetition. I put positive motivating posters around my room, follow positive motivational accounts on social media, and surround myself with people I look up to or people who have traits that I aspire to have. The messages I see outline common themes like the importance of hard work, perseverance, and keeping my eyes on the prize. Normally, seeing the messages, repeating them back to myself, and internalizing the messages sparks a bit of adrenaline for me to get working on my current task.
Also in times where I feel weak, or I need some uplifting after a failure, difficult task, or draining task, I make sure I have a person/friend in my network I know I can count on to bring me up instead of sympathizing the entire time. I feel there is a healthy balance between sympathy and uplifting, and different people require a different amount of each, but having somebody who will sulk and get upset with me has never helped my situation.
The final key part of a mental pushup for me is not letting other people’s pessimism, complaining, and lack of focus get into my head. Many of my peers at school find excuses to their mistakes and are very verbal about their excuse to large groups so it is hard to block it out completely. The more difficult part is convincing myself that their excuse will not be an obstacle for me, but once I can convince myself of that then I normally start performing well. That being said, it still extremely important to listen and take care of friends. In the end, we’re all in this together and trying to support each other through college.
For me, the ultimate goal is to build a strong mindset with the characteristics described above, and a consistent conscious effort to build a strong growth mindset will eventually create one. I never want my thoughts going down, up, down up, instead I want to keep growing up, up, and up.
Charlie is currently in T&M Class XXVI and is a rising junior in Aerospace Engineering and is currently interning at MITRE as a Systems Engineering Intern.