Some time ago, I told you my story of becoming a better player in League of Legends. There was some kind of flaw in my skills and I decided to change that. So I started watching some YouTube videos about becoming a better LoL player.

But the key to mastering that game was not in studying all sorts of fancy game mechanics or memorizing the items to buy for each hero. It was in adopting a mindset of always blaming yourself instead of your team for the mistakes you all make. That helped me skyrocket my overall gameplay and after a while, I was able to climb the ranked ladder of the game and I moved from the weakest division to being among the top 5% of the players in my server.

This achievement was quite improbable at first. So since then I had been wondering – how could adopting such a philosophy make me a better player in the game? Why didn’t all the mechanics I had watched help me, but instead it was this simple thought of always blaming yourself that released the handle of my potential?

Today, I won’t be focusing on this case study of becoming a better player. But you can read my previous article on the topic here.

Instead, I will take a step to present the standard template for achieving your goals which we seem to neglect.

Think, Do, Have

These are the three steps we go through for achieving a meaningful goal. First, we start with the mindset – the “Think” phase. Then, we start the hard work – The “Do” phase. And finally, we enjoy the fruits of our endeavor – the “Have” phase.

It’s simple isn’t it? This is the template for accomplishing goals small and big. From losing a few pounds, to becoming a great programmer. And yet, there is something we do wrong that stagnates our progress.

When we watch a video of a famous, highly successful guy on YouTube, he would normally advise us to  get things done. Start doing it. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Here is a short video of one of my favorite motivation gurus.

And I don’t hold any bad feelings about any of them. I think their advise is valuable. But there is a thing most of them miss. That is the development of the right mindset – the “Think” phase.

While I was playing LoL, I also focused on the “Do” phase. I was looking for ready solutions to follow. Choosing the right items and champions. But only when I developed the right mindset did I start seeing things I wasn’t able to see before. It was as if I was blind for my own mistakes before adopting that philosophy.

It is like that old tale of how you can feed a man for a day if you give them fish, but you can feed him for a lifetime if you teach him how to capture it himself.

Sure, by following some predefined steps you might achieve short term results – you might get to feed yourself for a day. But if you adopt the right mindset, you won’t have to rely on someone constantly pushing you to act, because now you have what it takes to be self sufficient. You have fed yourself for a lifetime.

A Case Study

Let me tell you the story of how I was trying to lose weight when I was in school. I was a bit overweight and I didn’t like it at all. I wanted to change and make my childhood dream come true – to have those sexy hash-table abs.

So I decided that I would immediately start taking action. I started some very popular diet called the 90 day diet. I won’t get into the details of how I was supposed to perform it, but I will say that it promised great results. So I got into that and at start, it was going well. I had actually lost 4 kilos!

But after 2 weeks of doing it, I got really sick as it seemed to be super unhealthy for me. Afterwards, I just got back to my normal way of eating unhealthy food and a lot of sweets and regained my old kilos again. It was just really hard to force myself into changing my habits.

So why did it fail? Some might argue that I didn’t commit enough to the diet and lacked the willpower to go on. Others might suggest that I shouldn’t have been so strict on it. And they might be right, but there is a deeper root cause for my failure.

I hadn’t developed the right mindset. I wasn’t interested in how to eat correctly at all. The subject of how carbs, proteins and fats work was alien to me. I just wanted to do what I had to do and get my abs. If I had gone through all the diet, sooner or later, I would have got back to my old way of life.

So the correct first step for me was to develop the mindset of the healthy-living person. Learn how diets work and with that knowledge I wouldn’t need anyone telling me what to do exactly as I would have the necessary knowledge to make it right myself.

Other important applications

Apart from this endeavor, I have encountered numerous instances of this mindset bottleneck.

While I was studying programming, we constantly had challenges to face such as difficult homework and exams consisting of topics we hadn’t studied. There were many instances of people complaining how unfair that was. How they hadn’t covered that material and that is why they failed.

But the reason they failed is not because someone gave them a task which was too hard. It was because they didn’t go the extra mile of studying more than expected. Of learning more than what was covered in the course.

And their failure is not that they didn’t take the exam, but that they blamed others for their own mistakes. That is the most secure way to becoming a programmer lacking independence and the habit of self-development. And as we know, in the world of software, you quickly become obsolete if you don’t constantly develop yourself.

Another one of my favorite misunderstandings is how to become a rich person. Most people see that rich people ride fancy cars and live in big mansions. So they take a huge mortgage, buy the most expensive house and spend a huge amount of cash for buying a sweet ride, thinking that they are rich.  They focus on doing what the rich do.

But there is a much different mindset that the rich people have in common. And that starts from understanding the difference between an asset and a liability.

Being susceptible to change

I once attended the seminar of a very famous scientist working on something related to artificial intelligence. Naturally, the question of whether AI will replace human labor arose.

His answer was that those who will withstand the test of time are neither the strongest, nor the most intelligent ones. It is those who are most susceptible to change that will endure.

I think this applies to the problem of developing the right mindset as well. All of us have past experience and childhood traumas that bias our view of life. Since we are hugely dependent in this phase of our life, we don’t have much input in the initial development of our mindset.

But once we become mature, then what mindset we acquire depends on our decisions.

Understand, what has helped us grow and develop in the past can be the root cause of our stagnation in the future. Only by keeping an open mind and embrace change can we effectively tackle the ever-changing environment.

I believe that this can be achieved by constantly exposing yourself to new ideas. For that reason, I suggest adopting a habit of reading different kinds of blogs and books. Listen to podcasts or find any other kind of habit that makes you think. Don’t let all those hard coded beliefs your friends and family grew in you as you were little put a spoke in your wheels.

Making the “Do” Part right

Adopting the right mindset is the basis for reaching your meaningful goal. That would make you effective. But another important part of the puzzle is being efficient. That is related to the second phase of the process.

Once we start doing the hard work, it would be beneficial if we adopt some kind of discipline that would help us stay on track.

One of my favorite sayings about this topic is: Water breaks stone not with power, but with consistency.

I have written about this subject in my article The Productive Developer. There, I have described some powerful tools and techniques that will help you be consistent and efficient.

Apart from that, I will also share with you a simpler technique for adopting a habit called the Seinfeld Strategy.

Normally, when we want to start coding every day, for example, we focus on results such as creating a big project or finishing a huge homework. What this strategy advocates is to not focus on the end result, but focus on the process and trust in it. So, instead of focusing on completing the task, focus on not breaking the chain of coding every day.

That way, you will avoid that feeling of fear of overcoming this huge task by focusing on a simpler task of merely not breaking the chain every day. With that approach, you will eventually reach your goal as a “side effect” of the strategy.

There is a very cool app you can use for this purpose, it is called HabitBull. There, you input your goals for each day and it starts tracking your progress.

This technique can be quite useful if you have a problem with being consistent in some effort.

I have used it when I studied Calculus from Khanacademy some time ago. My goal was to not break the chain of completing 3 exercises a day and due to that, I was able to quickly pass through the topic and complete the whole subject in two or three months.

Conclusion

We constantly strive to develop new habits – looking better, becoming smarter, earning more. But there is a challenge, which could stagnate further progress if left untackled. That is the development of the right mindset. The reason for this being a hard obstacle is our hardwired resistance to change.

So, start exposing yourself to new ideas today and adopt the skill to change. That will let free your raging bull of self-development.

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