Why fixing your mindset is so important to making progress in your life

Photo by Grafner/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Grafner/iStock / Getty Images

Let’s paint a picture. A picture inspired by the brilliant Dan Benjamin over at the Quit! podcast of 5by5. It’s something which he likes to call The Corporate Stooge and goes like this. You wake up early in the morning, skip breakfast, and… no wait. He says it so much more eloquently than I do:

You wake up in the morning, maybe you have coffee at home. You get in your car and commute, minimum 30 minutes in traffic. You’re probably wearing slacks, maybe jeans if you’re lucky. Probably a polo style shirt, a button-up maybe. You go into work; you listen to this podcast on your way in to work. You get into work and maybe there’s one other person in your industry, in your field, in your area, that you can talk to like a human being. But you’re completely misunderstood by everyone else. You’re just that server guy.

You spend your time there at the office, you’re not really sure why you’re there; you’re almost ready to unravel at any given moment. You have to work relatively long hours and it’s thankless. You’re constantly in a state of confusion and fear because you don’t know what’s going on in that company: you’re just glad to have that job. And you go back and forth to work every day and it’s the same thing over and over again like Groundhog Day.

And you say, “what am I doing? Is this what my life was? Is this what I went to college for? Is this why I busted my ass in high school and kinda coasted through college and picked the easy IT degree?
— Dan Benjamin (Quit! Podcast)

So you might not be working an IT job and your job hopefully is not as soulless and thankless as described here, but you get the message. You have a job that you may not necessarily hate, but absolutely do not want to spend the rest of your career doing. Worse yet, you think that this is basically the best that you can settle for because it’s consistent with what you learned throughout your life. You go to school, get a degree, get a job at a decent company, retire sometime past 60, and everybody is satisfied. But is this really it though? Is this the best it’s gonna be? Now remember this picture; keep it vividly etched in your brain as you (hopefully) continue reading.

Now let’s paint another picture, this time inspired by the kind folks over at Career Shifters. It’s one that you probably already know and will sound painfully cliché but sometimes you just gotta get through the cringy stuff to hit the jackpot. So please, bear with me.

Two fish are swimming along in a fishbowl. After a while, they pass by an older fish swimming the other way. The old fish nods at them and says: “Mornin’ lads. How’s the water?” The two young fish swim on but stop after a little while. One of them looks at the other and says “What the heck is water?

What do these two pictures have in common? In both scenarios, you’re stuck. In the fishbowl, you’re stuck (in a fishbowl, duh) the same water, the same job, the same monotonous lifestyle. As a stooge, you’re stuck in your going-through-the-motions routine where you think there really should be more to life than this, but who the heck are you to throw a tantrum about it, right? You’re just following what you’ve learned from your parents, family, and social circle about how life unfolds as you grow older. But dammit, you know you’re losing your mind. You know that this cannot be all there this to your career or, overall, your adult life. But you put up with the situation because you have no idea what on earth else you could do.

Both of these scenarios have extremely important messages behind them that I really want to hit home with you if they haven’t already. So, in my extremely uncertified and uncensored manner, I’ll try to break it down into a more digestible form so that I can get to the point of it all: your mindset.


What you see

You’re losing your mind because you feel like you should be doing something else with your life. You come home after your corporate stooge job, check your Facebook feed, and see that some hyper-talented mate of yours that speaks 50 languages, is a professional surfer, and goes skydiving with Bradley Cooper on the weekends, is moving on to his next great job in sunny Buenos Aires. Great, another overachiever that’s better than me and further in life than I am. Well, as a wise man on Reddit once said, you can’t win at life if you’re losing your mind.

You can’t win at life if you’re losing your mind.

These words describe the first key issue of a person’s mindset: why on earth are you comparing your life to that of others? No really, why? We terribly flawed Saiyans (read: humans) unfortunately use outcomes to confirm our beliefs. What does that mean, you ask? It means that if you constantly believe that people/friends have better lives than you for whatever reason, then any time you see someone doing cool stuff in his/her life you’ll use that to confirm why you’re miserable, not worth it, or less than others. Your alter-ego tells you “See, I told you so!” but you ignore all the other instances where you are actually doing better than others are.

Second of all, stop thinking you’re so fucking unworthy. Stop thinking that other people are so much better than you. But they really are better than me, look at all the things they’ve done in their lives? It doesn’t matter if they are or are not better than you, it matters that you believe that they’re better than you. If you believe that then, once again, that madman in your head will use every instance to say “see, I told you so!” but filter out all their deficiencies. You can’t win at life if you’re losing your mind.

Once you change your mindset to realizing that every single frikkin person in the world is struggling in life just as much as you are, but simply with different problems, you’ve made a huge step in the right direction.


What you don’t see

That damn fishbowl. On other days, you’re in your own little fishbowl because you might think “well, work sucks for everyone, that’s life. As long as it pays my bills and I can come home decently sane at the end of the day.” On these days you’re not losing your mind because you’re just going through the motions. You’re in autopilot. You’re swimming along in the water without bothering yourself about where you’re going or how long you’ve been swimming. You can’t be losing your shit every day; sometimes you just want to push all those existential thoughts to one side so that you can have some mental silence.


Well, work sucks for everyone, that’s life.


This is tough stuff, it really is. Maybe you go through this stuff before ever even getting a job. So what the heck do you do? First thing’s first: you gotta learn to ask yourself the difficult, uncomfortable questions. What am I doing this for? Is it so that I can have enough money and/or time to truly enjoy a passionate hobby of mine outside of work? That’s totally fine, by the way. Did I take this degree/job for myself or to appease others? How do I feel when I’m doing this? Did I choose this career path because it was the only path I knew? How did I even choose it?


I’m starting to question all of it Francis. What are we doing this for?


I understand that sometimes you just don’t have to energy to do this, but you just have to dare to do this and muster the emotional will for it. If you don’t do that, you’ll never realize that you’re swimming in the same damn bowl all your life. Seeing things differently is the first step to moving forward.

Well, at this point I’ve probably already lost all my readers, so I should probably stop rambling. If you liked this post, share it with a friend on whichever platform you desire – email, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, MyTweetSpaceBook, whatever. I would really love to know what you liked or didn’t like so that I can improve my work, so please leave a comment and/or send me an e-mail. I’m serious, I would absolutely love to hear from you no matter what you have to say.

See you, Space Cowboy