Let’s say you want to become more productive.

You Google “productivity tips”, and 46 million links appear. Click on a couple, and you notice most of them are lists of information, usually bullet-points like “use an organizer”, “keep your desk clean”, or “don’t take ‘Facebook breaks’ while you’re working!”.

So you try to use an organizer, keep your desk clean, and decide not to look at Facebook once every 2.8 minutes.

Do you know what happens next? It’s what happens to most people. You slowly forget…forget that you wanted to be more productive, and that you made these little promises to yourself about using an organizer.

And you’re back to where you started, except this time, you probably think you “can’t” become more productive.

Isn’t that what usually happens?

Why is that what usually happens?

People fail at change because of the way they try to change.

People simply misunderstand their actual problem. In the example above, it looks like the problem is that you just don’t “know” how to be productive.

Don’t know how to be productive? You didn’t know that using an organizer or actually cleaning your desk would increase productivity?

Of course you knew these things. And if you look up “productivity tips” on Google, you realize most of the pages are just that: telling you things you already knew.

If reading productivity tips was really the way to become productive, we’d all be pros at it about 4 articles into the 46 million on Google. But we’re not.

The actual problem is more sophisticated: you know how to be productive, but you don’t know how to make yourself do it.

But the answer to that is actually pretty easy:

The first step to changing what you do is to change the way you think. You do what you think. Your mindset inspires your actions!

In the past, you never tried to change the way you think: you tried to keep your old habits and ideas (laziness), and insert incompatible actions (trying to be productive)on top. Of course that’s not going to work.

But if you first thought, “wait a second, why is it that I have so much trouble using an organizer?”, you realize things like: “I get this emotional feeling that tells me it’s ‘too much trouble” or “it’s not any fun!”.

If you thought “organization is too important to pass up”, or “no matter what, I will be productive”, wouldn’t you naturally do the things needed to be productive?

So clearly, the right way to focus on change is to focus on your mindset before you focus on your specific action.

So how do you change your mindset?

The short answer: “The Top 3 Mindset Traits Required to Succeed at Anything” + mindset traits needed for your specific field + PRACTICE.

The Top 3 Mindset Traits Required to Succeed at Anything:

I picked these because they have been pervasive through all of the ventures I have been successful at:

  1. Disinterested perspective. Not feeling like you “have” to be right about something, and being willing to jettison closely-held assumptions. You find it fun to be wrong because you learned something new.
  2. Valuing success over comfortable failure.
  3. Persistence; prioritizing long-term gain over short-term pain.

How you decide “these things are more valuable than thinking I’m right all of the time or laziness” is a personal decision. For me, I am inspired to write, start businesses, host a radio show, etc., because I want to spend my time only doing interesting things that I want to do, rather than have things forced upon me. Maybe for you, it’s the same; maybe it’s wanting to make more money so you can provide a better life for your family.

Mindset traits needed for your specific field.

For example: If my goal was to give a great speech, I could identify 3 specific mindsets necessary for giving a speech. I really think you could give a great speech (with practice) thinking about only these three things. Notice how they are different from “tips” that try to direct your actions:

  1. Say only words that are value-added.
  2. Think of speeches I’ve watched that were exceptional, and attempt to emulate them.
  3. When my audience leaves, what are the 3 main points I want them to remember?

That would answer these questions that most people would try to use “tips” to solve:

1. Q: How long should my speech be?

a. A: Think about speeches you’ve watched by other great orators who have spoken on your topic. How long do they talk? What points do they emphasize?

2. Q: What should I talk about?

a. A: What are the three most important points you could make? What do I really want my audience to know when I get down from the podium?

3. Q: Should I include this example in my speech?

a. Does it add value to your speech? In other words, is your speech notably better because you included it?

PRACTICE = allow your mindset to become habit and overcome discomfort.

When I ran cross country in high school, I couldn’t run more than a mile at first. A couple months later, I could run 6 miles without stopping.

My original habit and mindset was to be lethargic and not exercise. Then, I changed my mindset to value persistence and athleticism. By practicing running, I not only got better at running, I also made it easy to develop and engrain my pro-running mindset.

Isn’t that really the same for everything? For anything you would want to do?

Conclusion

Success is a result of mindset, which naturally leads to the proper actions. Doing it the other way around leads to the all-too-common conclusion of failure, usually due to resignation (just giving up).

Luckily, our minds are one of the easiest things to change.

Photo by pnoeric

R.C. Thornton

R.C. Thornton is a startup founder and avid writer. He writes about startups at Decoding Startups, where he teaches readers how to go from excuses to launch. Check out the site to get awesome free startup content, and to see the companies he’s working on!