How to Train Your Mind to Think Bigger
Do you know the number one reason why you’re not making the kind of money you want to make or living the kind of life you want to live?
That sounds harsh, but I mean it with no judgment. It was the same story with me… and with everyone who keeps spinning their wheels and getting nowhere.
We all have a tendency to cling to our limiting beliefs. It’s nature. Our limiting beliefs protect us. From “Don’t touch the fire or you’ll get burned” to “Don’t dream big or you’ll make an idiot of yourself,” that constant voice saying “don’t even bother” has one goal: to keep you safe.
That voice doesn’t care if you’re fulfilled or successful. It only cares that you’re not in pain.
And when pain avoidance is your default setting, you’re not going to think beyond your perceived limitations. You’re not going to challenge the status quo, step outside your comfort zone, or fulfill any of the other business cliches that actually do create real change in your life.
So how do you get past that mental barrier? How do you train your mind to believe in bigger, bolder possibilities?
You take it step by step.
1. Notice your own beliefs and ask where they come from.
Before you can challenge the stories in your head, you have to hear the stories in your head.
We’re all walking around with loads of beliefs we’ve never questioned. Every time something in life hurts you, your mind makes up a rule to help you avoid that pain in the future.
You got dumped by someone who made more money than you, so you decided that you should only date less successful people.
You took a big business risk and lost a lot of money, so you decided it’s better to stick with what’s always worked.
You think that employees cannot be trusted or you’ll always be terrible at sales or nobody will like you if you succeed all because your mind invented an over-simplified system of logic to keep you safe.
To make the barrier of your beliefs even tougher to surmount, you even have stories you inherited from your parents. I’m talking about emotional DNA.
If your parents thought you had to suffer to succeed or believed that wealth equals greed, guess what? Those same beliefs are probably living somewhere within you, too.
It’s time to start noticing.
This can be as simple as listening to yourself when you dismiss an idea. When your business partner floats the idea of developing a new app to communicate better with your customers and your first thought is, “We’re not that kind of company,” ask yourself where that idea comes from.
What makes you think you can’t be on the forefront of industry innovation? How are you defining the kind of company you are? Is any of this really true, or are they stories designed to keep you safe inside your comfort zone?
Becoming aware of your own limiting beliefs is challenging and takes time. So while you work on reframing your inner life, start making active adjustments to your outer life.
2. Make one small change.
If you want to get your mind to think beyond limitations, you have to show your mind that you can change. You can grow.
If you ask yourself why you think you can’t run a tech-forward business and the answer is, “Because you can’t even figure out how to log in to Twitter,” you’re going to have a tough time convincing your mind otherwise. Your mind is holding the evidence. Historically, technology has been hard for you.
On the other hand, if you can show your mind that change is possible, you start to feel a shift in your thinking.
The great news is that you don’t have to become a tech expert to get your mind to extend its assumptions about your limitations. You just have to show it that you can grow at all… that you can challenge yourself, think differently, and welcome the unfamiliar.
How do you do that?
You take it slow. You start with one insanely small change. Maybe you switch which hand you use to brush your teeth. Or you put your watch on before you put your wallet in your pocket instead of the other way around.
Make it something so tiny and unimportant that:
- You can easily succeed.
- You won’t disappoint yourself when you forget. You’ll just pick it back up the next day.
While you work on maintaining this one small thing, take a look at your support network.
3. Surround yourself with big dreamers.
It is so, so hard to think big when everyone around you is encouraging you to think small.
You might have friends who feel most comfortable playing the victim game… sitting around on the weekend complaining about all the reasons they can’t get ahead.
Or you have a family full of “realists” who think only the select, lucky few get to live the life they want.
Situations like these make it hard to think beyond your perceived limitations because it feels like your entire support network is at stake. What will happen if your “realist” family catches you thinking you can expand your business across the state? Will you still fit in with your “victim” friends if you prove that every challenge can be transformed into an opportunity?
This is why you need to actively build relationships with people who motivate you to think bigger. Do the brave thing and befriend people who seem more successful and more fulfilled than you are.
They’ll never question your bold ambitions. They won’t let you settle for less. And they’ll inspire you every day.
4. Celebrate your small change.
So it’s been a few weeks and your new change is sticking! You’ve developed a new habit of brushing your teeth with your left hand.
This is going to sound absurd, but do it anyway:
Celebrate the fact that you made a change.
You don’t have to throw a party (but I’m also not stopping you). It’s enough to acknowledge it to yourself. Journal about it. Give yourself a high five. Treat yourself to a good dinner.
Why do this?
Because we’re training your brain to recognize when change is happening. Most of our progress in life happens so gradually that we don’t notice it. And when we don’t notice it, the brain still clings to these old stories about how we are who we are and nothing will change that.
Make sure your mind registers the change. Then:
5. Make a new, slightly larger change.
Make it something that will make your life just 1% better. Still keep the stakes low and make it easy.
Maybe you drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Maybe you go to bed five minutes earlier.
Whatever it is, keep it simple and get started.
6. Observe your thoughts.
Notice where your thoughts are now.
What stories are you still telling yourself? In what situations do you still find yourself imposing limitations or veering toward the negative instead of investigating possibilities?
Are you noticing any change? Are you finding it any easier to entertain new ideas or get excited about unexpected opportunities?
It’s okay if the answer is still no. This kind of change takes time. Just pay attention to what’s going on inside your head.
And remember that what you focus on grows.
7. Celebrate your slightly larger change. Then change something a little more important.
Lather, rinse, repeat. On and on and on.
Personal growth is like compounding interest.
You start small, but then each change becomes a foundation for an exponentially bigger change. One day you’re just trying to switch which shoe you put on first in the morning. Three years later, you’re skydiving on vacation.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. When it comes to opening your mind to new possibilities, it does feel at first like nothing is changing. It’s a plodding, slow-going journey in the beginning.
But it does eventually get easier. It gets exciting.
You feel your mind expand, open, and let the light in.
So get going.
Further Resources on This Topic
Free Video Course: Cultivating a Growth Mindset on the Job