If you’re familiar with the personal development space, you may have heard some form of the statement “get out of your own way” in your online dabbling. From not having control over your own thoughts, to being self-judgmental, to comparing your life to others’, to making decisions based in scarcity (not being/having enough), to obsessing over the expectations of others, there are countless habits that we run all the time that that end up blocking ourselves from living the life we would LOVE to live. In other words, we are GREAT at getting in our own way!
On the other hand, there are 1,000,001 ways to “get out of your own way,” so it can be overwhelming and a chore to remember them, just creating more stress by adding self-empowerment techniques to your already-long to-do list.
Hiring a coach can definitely be instrumental in helping you find the approaches that work best for YOU and the flow of your daily life, but you might not currently have access to a personal coach. If that’s you, I invite you to consider taking on a Student Mentality to help guide you. It’s simple, easy to remember, and is relevant to whatever area of life you’re looking to evolve.
The Four Attributes of the Student Mentality
1. Stay Humble to the Not-Knowing
One of the most common and detrimental ways we get in the way of our own potential and happiness is by assuming we already know everything, and that “success” is defined by a specific path.
By assuming that we know the 1 or 2 ways to land a job, to find a romantic partner, to find your purpose, to start a business, we are now confining ourselves to play in a very narrowly defined space, instead of allowing ourselves to play in the real world, which is a place of infinite possibility.
It crucial that we remind ourselves that there are a limitless number of ways to create the lives we desire to live, as it keeps the doors of our creative capacities wide open, and allows for ideas that serve our highest Self to drop in.
“Uncertainty is a sign of humility, and humility is just the ability or the willingness to learn.” — Charlie Sheen
Yup, I realize that quote is attributed to Charlie Sheen, a man who MIGHT NOT be the most shining example of someone having their life together (that being said, anyone is capable of change, and Mr. Sheen, I wish you all the best!), but the sentiment is spot-on and serves our discussion today.
I find myself returning to my mantra “Crazier things have happened!” when I’m going after my next personal or professional growth spurt, as it empowers me to explore possibilities, strategies, and ideas I may not have been courageous enough to entertain otherwise.
Remember, the examples of success you’ve personally had exposure to up to now, even if they are extremely common, are NOT the only ways to create what it is you’re after. Staying humble to the Truth (capital T) that there are an INFINITE number of ways that a successful life can look and can happen will serve you well.
2. Reshape Your Relationship with Failure
Another big sticking point is being scared of or deterred by “failure.” If we are afraid to “fail” or to make mistakes, we are less inclined to try in the first place. When we can accept that failure is in fact relative, and part of our personally evolutionary process, we can change our perspective from one of avoidance to one of expectation.
“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” — Coco Chanel
It’s quite common for people exploring personal development to beat themselves up for not sticking to a morning routine, or cultivating more gratitude and compassion, or knowing and living their core values, telling themselves they should “know better,” and write the day off as a failure.
When we allocate time and energy to berating ourselves, we are directing those precious resources away from our actual evolution. In fact, personal development is an ongoing progression, not an on/off switch.
The Student Mentality interprets “failure” not as a sign of ineptitude or inability, something to be avoided, but as a sign of continued growth and learning, and welcomes it.
3. Stay Curious!
Life is a series of experiments, and the examples we have of how other people live and how they create the results they have in their lives are simply examples of the way they’ve chosen to run those experiments.
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
— Albert Einstein
One of the most empowering questions we can come back to is asking “What if…?” Staying curious in the questions that begin with “what if…?” help us stay creative, putting our brains’ inherently immense capacity for innovation for our benefit, opening up possibilities for ourselves we would never have seen otherwise.
“What if I could find a way to get my work done and spend more time with my loved ones? What if Mondays were my favorite day of the week? What if this could be easier? What if my passion is the way I create financial abundance? What if there was something to be learned in this conflict?”
By cultivating a new habit of staying curious instead of closed, we are always seeking new ways of thinking, being, problem solving, innovating, and will continuously expand our awareness.
Honor “what if…?” questions as valid, important starting points for redesigning how you think and behave. Let your brain explore this creative space, this process can create massive results for living a life that you truly love.
4. Make It Relevant and Integrate It
Sometimes we are quick to judge information or tools as irrelevant or not applicable to our exact circumstances, so what frequently happens is: we hear it, we passively engage with it, and we toss it in the “Oh Yeah, I Heard About That” folder in the back of our mind, continuing on with our day.
By intentionally making an attempt to draw parallels and connections between the information or tools we are exposed to and the success or goals we are pursuing, we more fully absorb these resources, making them more accessible and useful.
For example, you may have read an article on meditation and its benefits for stress management. Perhaps you’re a high performer who frequently has a busy calendar and tells herself that she thrives on this high-speed pace. You figure you’re not more stressed than usual, so the practice of meditation is mentally deemed as not currently relevant and gets tossed into the “Oh Yeah, I Heard About That” folder. You continue on running the same habits and practices as before you encountered this article, and no growth has taken place.
Let’s explore an alternate route. If a moment had been taken to explore why meditation is beneficial for stress management and how it might be relevant to your own situation, you may have realized that as an ongoing practice, one of the reasons that meditation is beneficial for stress is that it quiets the mind and allows for clearer thinking. This additional knowledge may have empowered you to realize that having a quieter mind would be useful for all the important decisions you need to make throughout your day, thereby increasing your efficiency as a high performer. With this thought, you may make space for a few minutes of meditation each day to try it out, and you notice you feel more decisive and clear in your responsibilities, and you notice that your body is reacting positively to this new practice as well. Growth takes place here.
“I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” — Chinese Proverb
This does not mean to say that you should be scampering off to try out every new resource you come across, I strongly encourage you to engage discernment with what you allocate time and energy toward exploring. Many resources (tools, practices, habits) require a good amount of time for real benefits to be experienced, so if you come across something you would like to devote a real effort to implementing, give it its own place in your calendar for a few weeks, one resource at a time. You don’t want to be trying out 5 new tools at the same time because 1) you’re more likely to not follow through, and 2) you can easily end up cluttering your life with habit-tinkering instead of moving with laser focus toward your goals.
The Student Mentality is intended as a simple, straightforward set of guidelines from which you can progress in your efforts to get you out of your own way and live a self-empowered life. Give it a try! If it serves, great! If it doesn’t, you’ve always got that “Oh Yeah, I Heard About That” folder.