Mindset Makeover: Tame Your Fears, Change Your Self-Sabotaging Thoughts And Learn From Your Mistakes, Make Assertive And Mindful Choices by Steven Schuster
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Think critically. Improve your decision-making. Control your thoughts. Sort out irrational fears. Cluttered, neurotic thoughts invade our mind more often than we realize and we end up living our life in anxiety, triggered by thoughts that are unfounded and are easily avoidable.
Mindset Makeover will highlight the main cognitive mistakes we make and how to change them for peace of mind. Stop reacting based on your old mindset. Your mindset becomes so internalized that it makes decisions without you being aware of it. But do you have more bad habits than good? This book will help you discover how your mindset is working against you.
Aided by scientifically proven research and practices, Mindset Makeover will help improve your critical thinking skills and develop better judgment in battling self-sabotaging thoughts. Learn how to face and solve your problems in a constructive way.
Sometimes the most common things surrounding us are the hardest to notice. We spend our days killing our brain, wondering about the great questions of life. Living life at full speed, we are too preoccupied reaching some goal, some expectation. We don’t stop wondering about the platitudes of life. Although, doing it from time to time would improve the quality of our lives a lot.
Humans are thinking beings. This ability differentiates us from other species. We know that we think. Our cognitive habits develop more and more as we age. We learn from our parents. Later we attend school, university, we get a job, read lots of books, watch tons of movies, and connect with other people. Each of these activities involuntarily influences our way of thinking. Cognitive experiences shape our view of the world. Everything that we’ve personally experienced goes through our own filter and becomes legit. Real. More real than the things we didn’t experience. Even though what we believe might not be true all the time.
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandmother had very strict opinions about various aspects of life, and she was very vocal about them. She told me that people using face creams would end up with deep and numerous wrinkles at an early age. She also told me that I should never wear any kind of underwear but cotton ones because they are the only hygienic kind. She taught me to wash dishes, to set out clothes to dry in a particular way. I could go on and on.
Recently I noticed that the beliefs she instilled in me are still alive, and I am very defensive when someone contradicts them. I had a quarrel with my wife about what material underwear should be made of. I had a bad gut feeling when I bought my first anti-aging face cream, hearing my grandmother’s voice echoing that my skin will look like the backside of an elephant soon enough.
I started reading scientific articles about all the “unquestionable truths” my grandmother told me. As it turned out, most of them were either outdated or genuinely wrong. I felt somewhat offended by the evidence showing me that I was wrong about so many things. And especially hurt that some raw, heartless science material contradicted my late grandmother, who gave me her best knowledge.
It’s so much easier to believe what we hear from our loved ones. If you’re like me, you hardly ever question them. You don’t run to verify what your dad said about car engine malfunction. You don’t contradict what your mother says about marriage management. You have a cognitive bias toward those who touch your emotional mind.
When it comes to accepting what foreigners say, there are two kinds of people: those who are skeptics to their very roots and who double-check each individual piece of information they heard, making sure that the source was accurate, and there are those who believe everything they hear. People are more inclined to believe information espoused by an expert, a professor, or famous people than they are to believe a “nobody.”
Regardless of which group you belong in, you are positive your way of thinking is correct. This is just one out of many cognitive biases you have. You think a lot about the everyday information that needs processing, but you hardly ever think about how you think. And how to think. The moment you read this sentence your blood pressure probably rose a bit, and you said to yourself, “I know how to think. I have a college degree. I have a successful business. This is proof that I know how to think.”
This happens with all of us. We process a lot of information. We accept it or reject it. Either way, it shapes our way of thinking. But what is our thinking made of? Why is it that the same concept can have totally different meanings for two people? Where do individual templates of beliefs come from? Are they hard-wired, genetic, or do they get their shape by absorbing cultural and environmental impulses? Can we change our beliefs? How can we become aware of our blind certainty instead of locking ourselves into a cell of close-mindedness?
The aim of this book is to help you detect the errors and cognitive biases you live with. I’m not entitled to tell you how to think, but I can explore with you what “thinking better” really means, show you the bushes your brain leads you into, and share with you a little mental clarity. I don’t want to persuade you to change your thinking. I just want to help you achieve critical awareness about your certainties. Most of the things I accepted to be true without questioning turned out to be incorrect. I made lots of mistakes and had numerous quarrels and bad experiences until I got to this point.
This is the point where I admit I don’t know that much. And in fact, even the things I know might be wrong. To prove my statement, here is a fact I accept subconsciously and which constantly shapes my reality—the world as I see it (and it’s not only me; what I’m about to tell is true in your case, and in the case of seven billion other souls).
By default, individuals perceive that everything from the sun to other solar systems orbits around them. Everybody feels and thinks that they are the most important piece of flesh and bone ever. This belief makes sense considering that we live inside of our heads all the time and every experience we have from birth to death centers us as the main character. Everything we experience is about us.
We might think that we are free, wide-range thinkers, but in reality, the unawareness rooted in our self-centeredness gives us tunnel vision. I’m not saying you’re selfish. Or stupid. Or both. You’re neither. The problem I just illustrated is more common than Star Wars fans. I had this tunnel vision, and in many aspects of life, I’m sure I still do. Knowing this, I would be the last one casting a stone at anyone who just had an “aha” moment reading my past few lines. I’m here to help you to slowly alter or lift the cognitive cataracts covering your eyes. Leaving the hard-wired, self-centered worldview behind can make you be more accepting, more open to the world, less stressed, and genuinely well-adjusted to life.
Let me tell you another cognitive platitude: The more educated people are, the greater danger they face to fall prey to overthinking. Smart people can come up with smart excuses and abstract explanations. They get lost in the past or future instead of paying attention on what’s happening right now. And of course, they are convinced about their righteousness.
If you think, “I’m lucky that I’m not that smart,” or “I’m smart and I find this statement insulting,” you just fell into your own belief trap. You got caught up in the monologue inside your head that reflects your cognitive assurance. Stop reading for a moment. What are you thinking about? What chatter do you have inside your head? Whatever your mental gut reaction is, that’s a forming element of your tunnel vision.
When I say “how to think better,” I don’t really mean adopting a totally new thinking paradigm. I mean learning to track and control what you think. To be aware of what you choose to pay attention to and what kind of meaning you attach to it. Paying attention to too many things, being inconsistent about their interpretation (believing grandma and ignoring the random old lady across the street), and unaware of your cognitive patters will make your adult life very hectic.
This is what the real mental habit makeover means. How to switch your default, hard-wired, self-centered perception of the world into a more opened, less self-centered universal awareness. This universal awareness starts where you admit that you’re not really the center of the universe and you don’t know as much as you think you do. I promise, these bold affirmations will make sense by the time you finish reading the book.
For now, let’s just take a peek into the life of an average adult who knows that life isn’t composed by bold ideas, wild adventures, and spontaneous highs, but mostly by routines, boredom, and predictability.