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  • Writer's pictureBrian Pappas

The Mindset for Success

By no means do I consider myself successful on a large scale. That being said, I can directly point to a time in my life where I completely overhauled my own mindset, and slowly became more successful, and more importantly, happy. I'd like to share an abbreviated version of that journey.

Without getting into the gritty details, around 6 years ago, I reached the lowest point of my life, and faced an ultimatum: either I would be miserable for the rest of my life, or I could change my entire view and approach on life. Thankfully, I chose the latter option, but not without years of struggle.

Two men having a conversation outside
"Have you ever tried just being happy?"

One of the largest mindset changes I made was developing accountability for every single one of my actions. It seems like such a simple concept, but you don't realize that you're constantly making excuses if you've spent years developing that habit. Particularly in areas where there is some justified frustration.

For those that don't know, I've had Crohn's Disease since I was 14. I've had multiple hospitalizations and a couple near-death experiences. Would probably not recommend it to anyone else. It's not a fun disease to have. That being said, I would constantly complain about feeling awful and being sick, while simultaneously eating fast food and having other poor eating habits multiple times per week. While it is an incurable disease, I was making it significantly worse everyday through my own actions, and I didn't want to recognize that. Was I justified in complaining that I developed Crohn's Disease? Probably. Was I making my life better by blaming it for most of my problems and then eating McDonald's? Hell no.

A very greasy hamburger with a fried egg and a pretzel bun
"I don't understand why my gastrointestinal disease keeps getting worse!"

Changing my mental thought process helped me physically. Acknowledging that every single thing I put into my body affects the disease was a critical step in approaching my life. I tried multiple diets and limited my fried food intake, until I stopped entirely. I stopped drinking pop everyday, and replaced it with copious amounts of water. I exercise 6-7 days a week. I've now eaten raw kale for breakfast almost every day for the past 5 years. My coworkers and friends make fun of me for it - and rightfully so. Who does that? But it is a nice encapsulation of how my own choices have affected my health. My health problems are now minimal, and I've never felt better.

My diet changes were just one example of me taking control of my own actions. I stopped making excuses at work. If I said something stupid, I wouldn't try to hide it, I would poke fun at myself for it. I stopped seeking out sympathy for my problems in life, because I didn't need it anymore.

"Gonna catch me a big ole' compliment!"

So I was able to start taking personal responsibility, but I still struggled with how I reacted to negative situations. I used to bemoan every single negative thing that happened *to* me, thinking to myself: "Here we go again! I'm so unlucky. Why do bad things only happen to me?" And then I would blame some other external factor, like Crohn's Disease, fate, or even God. I was stuck in an endless cycle of waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I didn't bother to recognize all of the wonderful things I had in my life, nor did I seek out solutions to these problems. To a certain extent, I didn't want to find solutions to my problems because then I would lose the shield of victimhood. It was no way to live life, but I didn't realize I was doing it in the moment.

But I realized that nothing ever happens *to* us; events transpire around us, and then we react to those events. Essentially, we are in control of how we react to every situation. That's not to say we shouldn't ever be angry or sad, just that our response to any given situation should be measured with the appropriate reaction. So while I can't control everything that happens around me, I can control how I react to those things.

Your mindset is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I thought life was terrible and bad things would always happen, that's what transpired. When I developed a more positive outlook, believing that I could make my own success and happiness, that's what happened. Stress will make every single disease in existence worse. But it's something that can also make you sick, even when your body is perfectly healthy. It's scary how powerful your mindset is, but that's why we should treat it so seriously. If we can make ourselves miserable, we can also make ourselves jubilant. Happiness and joy can't exist without sadness and anger. We'll always experience both positive and negative emotions on a consistent basis, but what matters is perspective. I didn't like myself very much before. I had little to no confidence in myself or what I was doing. And I just wasn't a very happy individual. But after making those changes I highlighted above, something funny happened: I actually started to like myself. I started to develop confidence in who I was, and what I did. I started having more fun. I started becoming less prone to anger and quicker to sympathy and love. Am I infallible now? Oh dear God no; quite the opposite in fact. But I'm in a much better place. I have the privilege of running the digital marketing for several prominent clients, I've achieved my dream of being a professional voice actor, and I'm just flat out enjoying life.

Pictured: Not me, but a stock image of a bunch of pirates

I'm cognizant of the fact that I just summarized 6 of the most significant years of my life into a few paragraphs, but I would like to provide a few additional takeaways from what I've learned:

Know what your self-worth is. It's crucial that you have confidence in yourself, and you recognize what your strengths are. But it's equally important to recognize what your weaknesses are, and work at improving them. Overestimating yourself may be more damaging than underestimating yourself. You should never say to yourself "I deserve this." But you can say "I earned this." or "I can earn that with my own actions". A simple change of words, but an entirely different mindset. I think "earned confidence" is the right term here. You should love yourself no matter what, and you should be confident in your own abilities, but never lose to motivation to better yourself.

Stop comparing yourself directly to others. Social media has exacerbated this problem, where we may spend hours each and everyday looking at the best versions of our friends and families' lives. We consciously and subconsciously wonder to ourselves: "Why am I not that good looking?" "How come I haven't gotten a promotion recently?" "I wish I was on the beach." And most of the time, we don't realize that everyone else is suffering from similar problems that we are, but you just don't see it on social media.

I've found comparing myself to others to be a fruitless venture. Most of the time it just left me bitter or feeling bad about myself. Don't compare your intelligence, your morality, or your success in life to anyone else. Simply listen to others to make yourself more well-rounded. It's up to you to determine your own success. Success is completely subjective; it means something different to everyone. Maybe it's how much money you make, maybe it's how many people you make laugh, maybe it's the amount of lives you've had a positive effect on. If you focus on achieving your own success rather than replicating someone else's, happiness is much more accessible.

Focus on the solution, not the problem. I've always had a bad habit of beating myself up after making a mistake. Accountability is typically a good thing, but not when it's done in an overtly negative fashion. If I'm focused on feeling bad about myself over a mistake I've made, how is that going to help the situation? Feeling terrible about screwing up isn't going to make it magically go away. The mistake is in the past. So instead of spending an excessive amount of time lamenting over what went wrong, I figured out what matters is to learn from the experience, focus on what needs to be done to improve the current situation, and make sure I take the necessary steps to make sure the same mistake is never made twice. As my boss always tells me, "Control what you can control."

Personal responsibility and self-accountability are key. I've already talked about this at length, but I can't emphasize this point enough. This was the first place I started, and I don't believe that I would be able to make any other positive changes without making this one.

I do find a certain level of irony in deriving more joy out of self-accountability. It seems counterintuitive, but the more personal responsibility you bare for your own actions, the happier you will eventually be. I think for a while, I unintentionally deluded myself into thinking that every single bad thing that happened to me was someone or something else's fault, and that made me perpetually angry. When I took a more logical approach of recognizing that while there are bad things in life, but can still still earn your own happiness, it just gave me a much more optimistic view on life. And it made me much more thankful for the positive factors in life, like my family, friends, and warm sake.

Life is unfair. I doubt anyone in the world would argue against that. But that doesn't mean we can't make the most of it, regardless of what cards we get dealt.

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