On the recent Action Catalyst podcast, I heard Ellen Petry Leanse profoundly say individuals are made up of 3 sets. Brainset, mindset, skillset. Her main points were this:
Our basic thinking is called the Brainset and it is about survival, keeping us safe and alive. The brain resists risk taking and new behaviors because the way you’ve always done the things we do up until now has worked to perfection. The proof is … We’re alive! Survival has been achieved.
Our more advance thinking is called Mindset and it is a form of intentional thinking that points us in the direction we really want to go. It is riskier and uncomfortable.
Preparing the brain is not enough. We have to practice (actually think differently) so that the brain actually begins to encode a new behavior and make it part, with time, of a new brainset.
Skillsets are then described as small things we do to enact the mindset.
Any skillset or practice that acts on the mindset will ultimately change things in our brainset.
An example is strength training for athletes. An athlete is just a person. Their default thinking (or brainset) is to do what is comfortable, safe, easy. So in strength training, it hurts to lift heavy weight or do a lot of reps. The brainset says “Dude, stop doing this. This hurts. This is hard. You’re killing me!” Difficulty and pain threaten safety. But you’ve been told and seen heard great athletes say you have to do hard things and lift heavy weight or do a bunch of uncomfortable reps to get stronger so you can improve in your sport. There is hard evidence that you must push through the discomfort and keep working hard.
Mindset then is the intentional thinking that says I’ve got to work harder. I’ve got to do more than I’m doing. This is going to be uncomfortable and I am willing to sacrifice comfort for growth and improvement. But that thinking will not get you over the proverbial hump without action. That is where skillsets come in.
A skillset is actually getting back under the bar to do that extra set despite the fact it hurts. That is what reinforces the mindset. You want to improve so you push yourself past safe and comfortable and when you are done with that last set, you realize you didn’t die. That last set didn’t kill you. You may be a little sore, but you are alive. YOU ACTUALLY DID IT! Every time you “actually do it” it reinforces that crazy intentional thought called mindset and day after day of reinforcing your mindset with skillsets, they start to change default behavior (brainset).
While this is a specific example, I have found that one of the most threatening things to our safety and comfort is not a 200lb bench press bar or skydiving or public speaking or a stock market crash or falling out of a safari bus while observing a hunting lion. It’s way closer, more real and ever present than any of those things. It is called the TRUTH.
When we find ourselves frustrated or disappointed or unsatisfied, more times than not, a truth is responsible for our situation. Without even noticing it though, our brainset goes into survival mode and says “it’s not your fault”, “you’re doing the best you can”, “you don’t have time” and/or “that’s just the way it is”. The brain is trying to protect you from pain and suffering by creating excuses and shifting the blame for the circumstance you’re in or the consequence you received. The brain may even tell you to complain about it aloud to others or feel sorry for yourself. These are all shields and safety nets that keep you safe and comfortable (but interestingly enough still keep you frustrated, disappointed and unsatisfied).
Deep down, we don’t really want to feel that way. We want more for our life and future, but we are stuck in our dismal comfort zone. The answer to our dilemma is the greatest threat to our safety … the truth.
The truth is we’ve been lazy. Or the truth is we haven’t been willing to invest the time it takes to improve. The truth is we wear a cross as decoration instead of a declaration. The truth is we’d rather be playing video games or watching YouTube. The truth is we drink too much. The truth is we care too much about what other people think. The truth is we are insecure. The truth is we are afraid to tell the truth!
The truth threatens our safety because the truth forces us to come face to face with the real reason for our frustration and disappointment. The truth exposes the safety masks of blame, excuses, and self pity we hide behind. But the truth also exposes the way out. It brings things into the light for us to deal with. The truth says if we really want what we say we want, it is going to require sacrifice, commitment, honesty, vulnerability, and change. And to the brainset, those words aren’t synonymous with safety. Most of the time those things describe work, struggle, & difficulty…. the uncomfort zone!
The truth is what acts as a catalyst to a new mindset; those intentional thoughts that point us in the direction we really want to go. The intentional thoughts that will begin to take us to the place deep down we really want to be. The intentional thoughts that take us beyond the frustration, disappointment, and dissatisfaction.
But in order for the truth to act as a catalyst, we must make the choice to accept it. Until will accept the truth, its mere existence isn’t going to change anything. I say this quote a lot … the truth isn’t diminished by the number of people who believe it. The truth is the truth. Only when we accept it can we then use it to fuel a new chapter of our lives. That new chapter starts with a new mindset. A mindset that says “Yes, that is the truth and that is not who I want to be. I want to be more, I want to be better, that’s who I am called to be!”
As we discussed at the beginning, these new thoughts need to be reinforced. Thinking those thoughts in a moment of self reflection will not change things. We must take action. We must start practicing new skillsets.
Quite frankly, this is where most people get stuck. They want to change but don’t know how. Don’t know what to do next. The answer is, you’ve got to have a plan. If you just say you are going to “do better”, I am sorry to say but there is an unscientific 95% chance that you won’t! You’ve got to have a plan. Here is how you develop a plan.
Find someone you trust to talk through your truth. Ask for advice from people that are where you want to be. Odds are, they’ve had their encounter with their own truth and can tell you what they’ve done. Don’t be afraid to approach someone. Most people really do want to help us.