[Translated from a contribution by Karen Kakou]
How Do You Shift from a Restricted Mindset to Thinking Excellence for Greater Success?
In this briefing, I share a few tactics from my personal experience of exiting the realm of mediocrity to a mindset of excellence that leads me toward success. I also discuss some observations and principles that have been helpful in acquiring knowledge and acting on it.
1. Being aware that greater opportunity is available to you and you are permitted to own it.
In my last year of high school, I remember being invited to "Laureat", a government merit event where the political leaders were rewarding the students who earned the highest grades during a sort of award reception. I received my award in "facultative subjects", subjects like music and secondary languages. I was never aware of such program. But when receiving my award, I just felt that, if only I knew, I would have studied with a specific mission and who knows what the results might have been? Maybe I would have gotten an award each year in some other relevant subjects! Or maybe not... I was a Queen of Overthinking. I used to think too much to the point of getting overwhelmed by the little things because I also wanted things to be so perfect. I quickly learned that no one will know what I have in mind, what I can offer if I do not present it at all, because no one can read my mind or see through me for my potential. Others can only observe my actions and my results, so I need to get out and do it, then refine it as I go with the input I get.
2. Once aware of your chance, it takes discipline to seize it.
Many have ideas, know the direction to get to where they dream of being, but very few act on it. It is not easy. It takes discipline. The best way to get it done is to get started with it. I love to tell myself these two things, I have them written everywhere in my house: "Do it!" and "Do it anyways". "Do it!" forces me out of bed, go to the gym, get things started especially when I hate the idea of doing it. "Do it anyways" gets me to get things started and follow up until completion, even when I am in doubt.
So, for me, the number one thing that contributed to my success in reaching the best version of myself has definitely been discipline. That is, doing the right thing at the right time, remaining consistent and persistent through it, paying attention to detail, planning and doing anything that keeps you in an orderly, preparative state of mind to recognize the opportunities that will lead you to success. I came from a rough background in which the best future people could have dreamed for me was the hope I someday find a good husband who will treat me right. But the little girl I was already had bigger dreams, bigger ideas for her future than the usual expectations. I wanted to be successful, I wanted my work to have an impact on society, I wanted to feel fulfilled and feel like I leveraged every bit of my potential. But I had to figure out how to get there for myself as I did not have a model to look up to, someone to guide me, nor the financial means to facilitate the process. Discipline has been the key attribute that took me from an impoverished environment and mindset, where the best future that was laid out for me was to potentially become just a good wife and to be grateful to have enough to eat, to now be self-fulfilled. Today with discipline, I was able to leverage my intellectual talent and have the career I knew I could, I was also able to improve my perspective on life heading toward being the person I know I can be, and have it all which I set my mind to in a way that is balanced.
One main discipline skill for me has been planning. I would write out my objectives, what I felt I needed to get accomplished that would lead me to success someday, and then break it down to the day-to-day tasks to do. Living on a schedule, pushed me to get into action because I wanted to check the boxes, it brought clarity into what opportunity is available to me, and helped me seek for more. If it wasn’t for the discipline of planning, I would not have been able to go to school, earn good grades, while working many jobs to sustain, and staying alert to what was happening around me to advance my career, given all the work restrictions applied to a foreign student in the USA. I planned for everything, today planning has become like a part of me and it helped me multitask/swich-task and be prepared, which led me to the management role I currently hold.
Two tools I use to remain organized and disciplined are a planner and Microsoft OneNote:
- I use the Franklin Covey planner but I would recommend you use any planner that works for you. It’s important to write down what you would like to achieve, then break it down to smaller objectives and plan your daily activities accordingly. Writing down your objectives is the best way to measure your productivity level, improve and possibly address anything that may be holding you back.
- Then I use OneNote to stay more organized, to classify and retain everything that is important to me. And we are talking about the list of books I am writing, my career planning, my economic budget, my recipes etc. I see it as a very big planner that has unlimited pages, you can write down and plan whatever you would like. As an example, I inserted below a screenshot of my OneNote Files to give you an overview of what could be done with that tool but you should explore it for yourself, it is pretty awesome.
3. Continuous Improvement: getting in Kaizen Mode
Getting things done is not a one-off task. You have to keep doing things and doing them better; thus you need to continually improve.
Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement. In business, Kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and processes. To me, the Kaizen process applies in every aspect of life. When you can define what you want, put your plans into action and are disciplined through the process, you can analyze your progress and keep on learning new and better ways to achieve your objectives. Adopting this mentality will give you a greater sense of control on what happens to you.
My biggest tools to continually improve has been reading, listening to podcasts and audio books while driving, interacting with individuals who seek growth as well and keep on educating myself. For instance, soon after finishing my Industrial Engineering degree, I started a data analysis course online. But another big aspect of continuous improvement is that your only competition is the measure of your own capacity. When you are focused on getting better and being the greatest you can be, you do not have the time to compare yourself to others if not only but to learn from their ways. In continuous improvement, the focus is your growth and your attention should be on the process that will eventually lead to result. This eliminates unnecessary pressure that could stop you from getting into action. I remember feeling at times pressured by the external ‘noises’ to settle for less and not try to achieve as much ambition as I intended to because they seemed unrealistic. When I wanted to be an Engineer, they advised to be grateful if I can get an assistant job somewhere which can enable me to pay for my bills. When I wanted to pursue a higher education abroad, they laughed. But because I was fixated on my growth and not the immediate result, I kept on pushing through which allowed for my increased in knowledge which resulted in increase in opportunities.
4. The Road to Success may be a lonely road. Get ready to cope.
You may hear a lot about the inventors and geniuses that were very depressive individuals, and you may wonder why when they seem to have figured out everything there is to know. That is because continually focusing solely on yours books, your invention, your computer could isolate yourself from the rest of the world. It's also worth keeping in mind that few people act on their ideas, work on growth and achieve self-actualization. Therefore the crowd whom a committed person could relate to and connect with is generally quite limited. That state of seclusion can be hard on the mind. In order to succeed while maintaining a healthy balance, it helps to join or interact with (groups of) like-minded individuals, and to assist them occasionally with your skills or knowledge. While in school, I was involved in a lot of professional organizations and clubs, I became the president of some of them, which helped me build good networks. Later, these networks opened opportunities such as being a commencement speaker at the university, becoming a recruitment partner with a school, being the face of many campaigns and publications, etc. Networking doesn't have to be a waste of time or a distraction.
I hope this note comes as a reinforcement towards the path you envision for yourself.