Why are some people are more successful than others? Why do some achieve most of their goals and others not? In addition to pure talent, which differs in each of us, the other key to having the life we want and achieving our goals is the winning mindset.
What is the winning mindset – and what is not?
“Winners in life constantly think in terms of ‘I can’, ‘I want’ and ‘I am’. Losers, on the other hand, focus their thoughts on what they should have done or what they didn’t do,” according to Denis Waitley. Although speaking in terms of “winners” and “losers” is a bit reductionist, it is still true that some people are satisfied with their lives and others are deeply miserable.
The winning mindset arises from a thought pattern focused on proactivity and a positive, confident attitude toward life. People with a winning mindset see opportunities where others only see obstacles and have the self-confidence to go for what they want.
The winning mentality is to get what we want, whether it is to become an executive of a multinational recognized by all or to cultivate a small organic garden in a small town. The winning mentality does not refer to social recognition but to the level of satisfaction that we achieve in our lives, a satisfaction that comes from having achieved the objectives that we have set for ourselves, whatever they may be.
The winning mindset is not measured in terms of quantity but in meaning. It’s not about how far we’ve come by societal standards but how far we’ve come by our standards. It is not a label that society gives us but an attitude towards life. What we earn is not status or recognition but satisfaction and personal growth. It is not about proving anything to others but to ourselves. The “prize” does not come from society, but from personal satisfaction.
The characteristics of people with a positive and winning mindset
People who have a positive and winning mindset share a series of traits and characteristics that help them to be successful:
• They know how to appreciate the positive in the negative, looking for opportunities where others only perceive obstacles
• They take problems as challenges to test themselves, instead of falling apart
• They are not afraid of failure, they continually step out of their comfort zone and learn from their mistakes
• They are persevering and have the ability to stay motivated along the way, so as not to fall apart
• They develop a proactive attitude towards problems, preferring to focus on finding solutions rather than complaining about the damage
• They fully trust their abilities and are aware of their potential, developing a positive self-image of themselves
• They put passion in what they do, develop genuine interests, and fully immerse themselves in achieving their goals
3 practical actions to develop a winning mindset
1. Overcome the negativity bias
We all have a negativity bias. This bias helps us survive by making our brain fixate on negative experiences more than positive ones. However, if we get caught up in the negativity bias we are likely to develop a losing mindset, becoming people who are afraid to take risks and explore new possibilities.
Therefore, the first step in developing a winning mindset is to overcome that negative bias. As a general rule, it takes five positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. Therefore, if we realize that we are looking at the world through a pessimistic lens, we need to pivot our thinking by developing a more optimistic perspective.
We can ask ourselves: What opportunities am I not seeing? What positive aspects does this situation contain? What personal strengths will help me overcome this obstacle? What can I do to turn the situation around in my favor? Is it an opportunity to start over or see things differently?
2. Set meaningful goals and objectives
The winning mindset is a focused mind. We cannot achieve great things if we do not know what we want in life and we limit ourselves to being like leaves moved by the wind. People with a winner mentality know what they want and go for it with all their strength, energy and resources.
In this sense, psychologists from the University of Maryland carried out a very interesting experiment in which they assigned three objectives with different degrees of complexity to three groups of students. A fourth group was simply asked to “do what they can.”
Then each participant had to list 4, 7 or 12 uses for everyday objects in one minute. Interestingly, the more difficult the target, the more the performance improved. The difficulty of the objectives does not make us give up, but they motivate us to try much more. In fact, the fourth group who were simply told to do what they could, performed worse.
These psychologists concluded that “When people try to do what they can, they just don’t do their best. This type of ‘objective’ lacks an external referent and is therefore idiosyncratically defined. This allows a wide range of acceptable levels of performance, something that does not happen when a goal is specified”.
So if we want to develop a winning mindset and see results, we’d better set ambitious goals for ourselves. However, we must also ensure that those goals are meaningful as this will ensure that we stay motivated until they are realized. It is also important that they be strategic goals, achievable and limited in time, since this way we avoid getting caught up in objectives that we cannot achieve, wasting our time and resources.
3. Get out of your comfort zone and do what makes you uncomfortable
Maintaining a winning mindset is meaningless if not accompanied by action. And that inevitably leads us to get out of the comfort zone and sometimes even enter the panic zone. To achieve great things that really change our lives we often have to face our greatest fears.
This means that we must be willing to face situations that are uncomfortable. When we enter that unfamiliar terrain we begin to test our strength, we gain experience and become more resilient people. Our comfort zone will not only be wider, but we will also develop greater confidence in our abilities to deal with problems and difficulties.
When we do what we fear or make us uncomfortable, it will lose its emotional hold on us. We will realize that they were just potholes in the road. Therefore, it is important that at least once a day we face those little things that make us uncomfortable and we avoid. The winning mentality is reinforced by overcoming what scares us, to stop being afraid of failure.
Mento, A. (1992) Relationship of Goal Level to Valence and Instrumentality. Journal of Applied Psychology; 77(4): 395-405.