What difference does mindset make, anyway?

I did it again: I signed up for a ‘free indie author summit’, so I guess I’m on a bunch more authors’ mailing lists, and I have a bunch more videos to watch and take notes on.

This all seems great until you realize it’s just another form of procrastination. But let’s dutifully try to extract some value. The first three videos, by Joanna Penn, Adam Cross, and Jennifer Blanchard, are about “mindset”.

I’ve already been convinced mindset is important. The last few years of paying attention to people I admire, authors and entrepreneurs, makes a pretty compelling case. Among other things I’ve adopted the idea of doing daily affirmations: you get up in the morning, and you look in the mirror, and you tell yourself about the person you want to be.

I’ll admit it: I’m doing this every morning. I have a repeating reminder in my phone. I look in the mirror and I say out loud, “I am a successful author,” and then I describe what that looks like for me.

Does it help? Remains to be seen. The idea is, you put yourself in a mental state where you start to do the things that will make the visualization a reality.

I know, it sounds like airy-fairy nonsense to me, too.

Let’s put it this way, though: If you look in the mirror every day, literally or not, and tell yourself, “I’m a failure, I’ll never finish a whole novel, I’m no good at this, I’ll never be as good as whoever,” do you reckon your chances of success will,

a) improve,

b) plummet, or

c) stay the same?

I know you want to say it’ll have no effect whatsoever because we love to cling to the fantasy that we’re beings of pure reason, and surely nothing as stupid and unscientific as talking to ourselves could make any difference in our behaviour.

But you know what? There seems to be science that suggests it does, and it doesn’t take much introspection to realize your self-talk can really mess up your mood. So why wouldn’t that work in reverse?

And if there’s a chance this will yield an advantage and the only downside is I feel a little silly I don’t need to read twenty peer-reviewed articles to give it a shot.

I did get a good piece of clarifying advice from Jennifer’s video, though. She talked about shaping the mindset practice, that thing you do every day, to the place you are in your journey. Because ultimately the point of mindset is to guide your actions—if you don’t take action, your mindset is totally irrelevant. So if you’re just starting out, like I am, to build the habit of writing, structure your language around that. I’ve been saying things to myself like, “I’m a successfull author, I write books and have an audience of people that can’t wait to read them. I work on what I want, when I want, how I want, I live the lifestyle I want…” well, that’s a nice visualization of my desired identity, but it’s taking a long view.

Instead, Jennifer suggests something like this, based on the actions I need to perform:

“I really enjoy writing”

“It’s easy to sit down every day and write my words”

“I have a habit of writing every day”

“I’m excited to make a little more progress on the story I’m telling”

I like this because I like positive feedback loops. People think of the phrase “positive feedback loop” like the “positive” means “good”, but it doesn’t; it means “increasing in magnitude”, and we must focus on that. You set up your mindset to do certain things, then you do them and find out the mindset is slightly more aligned with reality (hey, I DID enjoy writing my words and making a little more progress), which strengthens your mindset, which makes it a little easier to live the things you’re telling yourself are true…

Repeat a thousand times and call me in a year.

I’m going to give this a shot in the coming days and weeks and see if my consistency improves. If you try it, let me know how that goes for you, too.

Published by

D.J. Jacobson

Becoming a novelist, and documenting the journey.