How the way you think can sabotage your success

Extreme thoughts shut out potential opportunities

"That job sounds great! But I'm not going to apply. I won't get it anyway."  

"I really want to move, but it's not the right time to sell or buy."  

"I am not going to sign up for a full year's gym membership. What if I don't like working out there?"  

"I want to start a business, but I don't want to make zero money."

"I'm going to stay in this job. It sucks, but I won't find this kind of flexibility anywhere else."

These statements represent a pattern of thinking and decision-making that keeps a lot of us complacent, and stuck ― not to mention unfulfilled and less successful than we want to be. They illustrate how our habits of thinking can sneakily suck the success right out from underneath us.  

While they may suggest an underlying thought process or analysis, taken alone these statements each represent a stark conclusion. They are declarations with a strong sense of finality. And all of them dismiss or shut out opportunity.

This black-and-white thinking is a devious mental habit. It shows up dressed as reason and sense, making us feel like we are being responsible and appropriate when we engage in it. For all the intent it might have to serve and protect us from doing stupid things or making decisions we might regret, it more often creates gaps.  

This thinking in extremes denies the possibility of a full range of outcomes that we couldn't possibly anticipate or control. We jump to the ends of the spectrum when we're uncomfortable with the uncertainties in between. And it works, keeping us safe and stable. But what we trade off in opportunity and potential can back us into a corner of purposelessness and stagnation.

Sure, seeking certainty in research, opinions, data, and reason can be helpful. But the endeavor to create success and fulfillment in new ways can be made or broken on a willingness to move forward with a small amount of "just enough" information. Waiting to do anything, to step into the unknown, until you have "all" of the data, or absolute certainty could keep you waiting forever.

To be clear, the point here is not to suggest that we forego information gathering, feedback, analysis and consideration. Instead, this is about recognizing that all of that right brain stuff must also be accompanied by wondering, questioning, and accepting the unknown. And that it is in that space between the extremes where we stand to discover the opportunity and possibility for our greatest success and fulfillment. 

Understand that not knowing all of the answers to how or when or why something could or could not work doesn't have to lead to an extreme 'in or out' decision. It could lead to curiosity and wonder about "what would happen if…?"

Understand too, that moving ahead and stepping into the open range of possibility is often the very action that will allow you to gain the additional information you seek. As it comes, you can refine your decisions, your options and even your ultimate desired outcome. 

Categories: Business Insights, Human Resources