Beating Discouragement: 2 Keys to a Mindset That Lets You Succeed

Mar 17, 2021 / By Matt Anderson

When it comes to enacting change, most people get discouraged and give up if they don’t get immediate results—which are hard to come by! If you can be rid of that disappointment, the way to success is cleared…

In the referral groups I’ve been a part of for the past 20 years, the definition of success always seemed “obvious”: closed business from a referral. While this sounds fair enough for a group tasked with bringing in business, there was one problem: 85% of people would give up before they saw success.

It may be no stretch to say you have made the same mistake with something else you wanted to improve for the better: your health, a relationship, your finances, your confidence, your tennis game or getting more organized.

It’s one of the big challenges with goals. Our morale can be deflated as soon as the pleasing, upward trajectory hits an off day. The key is reframe the way we think about this path we are on toward any given goal. Here are two ways to do just that.

1. Have the mind of a half marathoner

If you want to succeed much more at anything, adopt a new mindset along the lines of “I am training for a half marathon.”

If you had to step outside now and run 13.1 miles, how far could you run? The vast majority of us could not go very far. We would need to practice a lot and work up to it. Probably for months. Many of us would have to make sizeable changes to our nutrition intake and sleep.

Whatever area of your life you most want to improve right now, you want to redefine success so that you are encouraged to persevere—that you stay in the race long enough to “get there” rather than drop out at mile four like most people do. (And remember, they drop because they don’t know better, not because they are inherently weak, flawed or lacking in self-discipline.)

The half-marathon concept can help you manage your expectations better. One of our biggest problems is we expect noticeable results fast when we make a change—partly because we are trying something new—and then we get dejected too easily.

Whether it’s little things like taking vitamins to bigger things like trying not to get triggered by irritating things a loved one does, our ability to persist until we do see lasting positive outcomes is often our biggest challenge. We do not develop consistency.

This has been the biggest mistake I’ve seen advisors make when it comes to referrals. For years I would tell advisors “It’s a skill.” And I hope everyone would deduce therefore that it would take time before they saw results. The only definition of success was “closed business”—and you know that can take time. Most advisors would get discouraged and drop out of the race.

Even with an area that seems simple to understand (getting endorsed by someone always sounds quite straightforward), it often has a grey area. And there are many ways we can get in our own way that we are not even aware of.

At the risk of stating the obvious, if my “half-marathon” example doesn’t resonate, pick something else that would require you to practice for at least several months: perhaps a musical instrument, a foreign language or a fine cooking skill.

Nor does any of this have to take months. Getting closed business from referrals can happen quickly at times, but it can’t be predicted with exact certainty. What matters is that you are not attached emotionally to everything happening on a potentially unrealistic schedule and giving up when it doesn’t happen according to plan.

The new mindset gives you room to do the work at your pace: “my race, my pace.”

The other key is keeping the mindset “I’m aiming for a half marathon” top of mind. Deliberately repeat that to yourself. It is not a one-and-done. Write on your bathroom mirror if you have to. Because clearly, we’d already be accomplishing far more if this were a hard-wired belief.

2. Feel successful as often as possible along the way

This may sound silly at first. You might be thinking: “I haven’t run my first half marathon yet. I’ve done nothing to celebrate!”

Well, yes you do—if you acknowledge a smaller goal. You actually want to make it really easy to feel good about every small step all along the way to your big goal. Stanford professor BJ Fogg has spent 20 years researching this. His studies found that our brains love dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter that helps us feel pleasure.

“I change best when I feel good, not when I feel bad” is the mantra from Fogg’s research. Success breeds success. Think about it: when you feel good, you are much more open to trying newer and harder things. When you feel rotten, what do you usually do? Make things happen? Create new innovative ways to succeed? Make 20 prospecting calls? No.

No. It’s far more likely you slump on the couch, watch television, and consume the least healthy things in your house! Or, if you continue to work, you resent every task you do and project nothing but negative, frustrated energy, which is really bad for business! You want the mojo of feeling good.

Create many small, easy wins that you can celebrate. If you can get to the point where most of your day is a series of small wins, your momentum will get ever better—and the results you really want will start showing up. Just don’t get too married to exactly when that must happen because, as we discussed above, it can hurt your morale.

The secret sauce in Fogg’s thinking is celebrating all the tiny new wins immediately to get that dopamine hit. This makes your brain want more of the good things that you have just done. Things that in the past you often had to force yourself through the limited resource of willpower or motivation. I admit celebrating doesn’t come naturally for most people (including me), so you will need to work on this. Just don’t ignore it because otherwise your new habits may never stick.

If you can develop the mindset of “this is a half marathon” by keeping it top of mind and find a lot of tiny wins to celebrate daily along the way, you will stay in the race long enough to reap the rewards you seek and avoid the mistakes most of us have made to this point in our lives!

And this is just the start! Once you apply this to one important area like generating much more word-of-mouth business, you can apply it to anything that previously seemed beyond you.