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How to be a Winner: 10 Attitude-Adjusting Commitments to Make to Yourself

The Comfort of Mediocrity

Growing up, I struggled with low self-esteem. Sometimes I would get ‘A’s at school, but because of my poor self-image, I would often get ‘C’s and occasionally ‘F’s. I was bright and talented, but I was not confident enough to apply myself to my studies or to sports or to art. I was inconsistent – at everything.

I had a desire for success, but I wanted to do well without actually trying. I was mortified of daring to really study. What if I tried my best and then failed? Even worse, I was scared of putting in the effort, and actually succeeding. That would mean I would have to continue working hard to keep it up. Then the pressure would really be on. I remember being angry at my parents for not pushing me, but deep down I knew that it was my responsibility to live up to my own potential. It was only after leaving university that I decided to face my fears and begin working hard. It was only after adjusting my attitude that I began to succeed.

The comforting lie of mediocrity is that if we don’t bother to try, we won’t ever have to take responsibility for succeeding. Most people continue to fly beneath the radar and live below their potential because they’re terrified of deciding to be successful. Let’s face it, success is a scary thing.

Attitudes + Habits = Destiny

I read a lot. I soak up non-fiction, business books, books on self-development, classics and biographies. My reading is driven by a thirst for knowledge and for an appreciation of different perspectives. I am curious as to why is it that some people are happy, while others are not. Why is that some people succeed, and others don’t? After reading hundreds of books, and through my own experiences, I can conclude that the secret of success is a simple one.

Our attitudes, plus our habits shape our destiny. Our way of thinking shapes our prevailing attitude towards life. Our attitudes in turn direct our actions and our reactions. These daily practiced actions and reactions take on the predictable pattern that forms our habits. How we think, how we feel and what we do every day takes us step by step along the path that is our destiny.

It isn’t rocket science. The path you are on right now can be traced back to what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling and what you’re doing. If you feel like a victim, you will not act like a winner. If you think that you haven’t been given enough opportunities in life, you will not develop the habits that will help you to succeed.

If you want to achieve the happiness and success you desire, you must reset two things: your attitude, and your habits. In order to succeed, you must commit to adjusting the thoughts that go through your head every day. To be a winner, you must commit to reshaping your daily habits.

Here are ten commitments to make to yourself today to re-adjust your attitudes, re-shape your habits and re-set your destiny:

 

#1. I will succeed

Decide to challenge yourself to achieving the biggest, hairiest goal you can dream up for yourself. That dream exists in your heart because you know you have what it takes to do it. Don’t play it safe. Dare to make the new commitment to yourself: I will succeed.

#2. I accept full responsibility

When you make a decision to win, you must also accept responsibility for making it to your goal no matter what. Whether you’re from a challenging background, have no resources or have physical disabilities, you must make the commitment to yourself to accept full responsibility. Continue to say to yourself “I am responsible”. Repeat it over and over until it sinks in: “I accept full responsibility for my success”.

#3. I will decide on a strategy

Long-term success does not happen by accident. Figure out what needs to be done in order to achieve your goal. You don’t need to have the entire plan in mind; begin with a general idea. At each stage, you must know exactly what needs to be done next, otherwise you will choke. Commit to always pushing yourself to decide what comes next.

#4. I will do the work

This is the absolute hardest part. Planning and preparation can be fun and easy. Starting is hard. Doing is hard. Continuing to work after you’ve experienced failure is the hardest of all. But as every champion will tell you, there can be no success without first overcoming obstacles. You must do the work it takes to succeed. Commit to yourself: I will do the work.

#5. I will learn each day

In order to be a winner you must always be learning. Continuous growth and development are absolutely necessary to be a winner. Study your craft. Expand your mind. Read. Take the time to carefully analyze what’s working well, and what needs to be discarded. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Make the commitment to become better each day through learning.

#6. I will compete only with myself

There will always be people better looking than you, more talented than you, richer than you, smarter than you. Make the commitment to compete only with yourself. When you constantly challenge yourself to be better than you were the day before, you will come out on top. Commit: I will compete only with myself.

#7. I will make no excuses

Life constantly throws us curve balls. Hurricanes happen, banks fail, we get ill. Regardless of what fate throws your way, just keep going. Forget what’s happening around you and find inspiration in your added challenges. Refuse to ever make excuses.

#8. I will give 100%

In order to win, you must persist until you succeed. You must force yourself to give 100% of yourself every time. If you don’t, you just won’t make it. Go out determined to win every battle. There are so many stories of people who came so close. But that’s not you. You will make the commitment. You will always give 100%!

#9. I refuse to play small

Doing the work, learning every day and competing with yourself is not easy. The decision to succeed demands sacrifice and passion and dedication. Never pretend to yourself or anyone else that you aren’t going to win. The voice in your head that says you’ll never make it will always be greater than the external voices of discouragement. Once you become master of the voice in your own head, haters will not even exist for you. Poof! They will disappear. It’s not about being arrogant, just refuse to play small.

#10. I will never give up

Your journey will be a series of  ups and downs. There will be victories and there will be defeats. But, even when things look darkest, even after repeated failures, don’t ever give up. You’re on a path. You’ve chosen your destiny. You have made the commitment to succeed, and succeed you must.

 

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What’s Your Mindset?

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures. I divide the world into the learners and non-learners.” -Benjamin Barber

August 2012: at the company I worked with, it was the time of year when budgets were being set and financial projections established for the fiscal year ahead. My boss, the intrepid entrepreneur had, as usual, set stiff targets for the group. My EBITDA target was sent to me via email. The number jumped right out of my laptop screen, hit me with a blow that almost knocked me senseless and said “hey there, my name is “IMPOSSIBLE” and your name must be “LOSER”. It left me with a black eye, a swollen lip, and what felt like a permanently bruised ego.

After a panicked call to my Finance Manager, I nursed my wounds and got busy with the mountain of other important tasks. Of course, the number wasn’t going anywhere; the more I ignored it, the more disquieted I became. As I racked my brain about how this target could be accomplished, I managed to convince myself that the target was unrealistic. I began to accept that the initial slap in the face would only be the beginning of an abusive relationship between me and my new earnings target for the 2013 financial year.

After days of making myself miserable, I finally realized that it was a fear of failure and not the target itself that was getting the better of me. This evening, I updated my facebook status to reflect my change in attitude:

Trying to turn my “I can’t do that, don’t try to make me” attitude into an “I can do this, I just need to figure out how…” mindset. The human spirit is powerful; it knows it can do the impossible.

My friend Greg immediately responded. I have several awesome friends named Greg, but this one is the multi-talented champion kickboxer with the gorgeous girlfriend and a heart of gold. He sent a link to this blog post.

The words resonated with me. It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. The article is based on the work of Carol Dweck, PhD. It turns out that I’ve already read her excellent book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success‘ via Audible. I had to face the fact that my “mindset” about my own abilities was still a lot more fixed than I would have wanted to admit.

According to Dr. Dweck, there are two meanings to ability and we can choose which one we will adopt:

1. Fixed Ability

A fixed ability seeks to be proven as smart, accomplished or talented, and is overly concerned with being validated, and minimizing mistakes. There is a constant fear of failure, because to “fail” means to mess up your own fixed view of yourself. In the fixed mindset, trying really hard is a bad thing; too much effort proves you’re not smart or successful.

2. Changeable Ability

A changeable ability seeks to be developed through learning, and even through “failure”. Growth mindset people constantly seek to stretch themselves, always reaching for a new challenge. They fear not growing and not fulfilling their potential. In the growth mindset, not trying hard enough is the bad thing; effort is the proof that you will become smarter and more successful.

One of the things I admire most about my boss and several of the other entrepreneurs I have been blessed to work with is their overarching drive to keep going—obstacle, after obstacle after obstacle. Most entrepreneurs have a growth mindset; they thrive on challenges and sometimes achieve the impossible.

Here’s the key question: Is success for you about learning and overcoming limitations? Or is success about proving that you’re smart and validating your ability?

As infants, we exhibited an exuberant desire to overcome obstacles. As we learned to walk and talk, we were not self-conscious. We were fearless and ready to take on any challenge. But as we learned to evaluate ourselves, we gradually become more and more afraid of looking foolish, of saying the wrong thing, of failing. Most of us have developed a fixed mindset.

We can all begin to reverse that process and work to develop a growth mindset. We must change our definition of success from something to be protected or maintained, to the idea of success as a bumpy process of constantly becoming better than we were before.

And this why I changed my mindset, and decided not to give up. Yes, 15% VAT was slated to be introduced in St. Lucia on October 1st. Yes, the unemployment rate was estimated to be around 17%. Yes, I was running a small company in a competitive environment. But yes, I made a commitment to conquer myself and work my hardest to meet and exceed that EBITDA target by running the tightest, happiest, most innovative ship I could.