Why are they Called Pillars?
I want to pay homage to the people who taught me much of what I understand about mindset. Almost ten years ago now, I began to learn about mindset from Brian Grasso and Carrie Campbell. Carrie had been a career counselor by profession and Brian was in the process of doing a PhD in Theology after leaving a career in human performance as a coach.
What they taught me changed my life and I am forever grateful for their mentorship. I was given permission by them to share this knowledge, as fundamentally their mission is to help as many people as possible live more fulfilling and satisfying lives.
The central tenant of their mindset process is the Four Pillars. Fundamentally the idea of pillars is that these are the foundational elements of establishing a quality mindset. If you do them on a regular basis, you will establish a self-reflective practice for the life you wish to create.
Nothing about these Pillars is a “have to do”, the idea is to figure out how the process works best for you and what circumstances work best for you so that you do the work of self-reflection.
The whole, however, is more powerful than the sum of its parts. A combination of purposeful skills that reinforce an empowering mindset is the key to your success.
Pillar 1 – Counting Your Wins
Counting your wins is probably the most powerful of the five pillars and likely the easiest to do. Counting your wins is a counter-punch to your inherent negative bias.
Counting your wins acknowledges the things that you are intentionally setting out to accomplish. In turn, this positive reinforcement creates momentum and supports further growth and accomplishment.
Imagine for a second, a bucket full of energy water. Our naturally negative bias tends to drain the water from the bucket. If left unchecked the bucket soon empties and you are left with no capacity to counter-point the negative dialogue almost certain to reveal itself.
Counting your wins is pouring positive proof into your energy bucket and saying, “I am accomplishing these things that matter to me”.
You are counter-punching negative language, which, by the way, we all have, every human being has this negative language loop. There’s a reason for it, our brains are wired to protect us.
Functionally our brains are always biasing to the negative to be protective. In order for us to counterpunch this bias, we need to create and recognize our positive language.
Counting your wins is a great way of doing this because it is positive-centric, it is acknowledging and connecting with the accomplishment of your intentions.
Part of the four A’s concept of creating change is the foundation of acceptance that everything you believe is just a story. Once you become aware of the stories you are telling yourself and whether they are serving or non-serving you need to become accountable to this knowledge.
Counting wins as a mechanism of accountability to the positive and supports adaptation and change.
The great power of this process is in the connection of our wins to things we are intentionally trying to accomplish. There is no right or wrong when counting wins.
Whatever you count is a positive acknowledgment of the things that you are making happen. And there’s going to be stuff that you didn’t plan to do or didn’t intend to do, that happens, and you might count those things as wins as well.
But, the key is how connected those wins are to the creation of the life you seek.
Let’s say for example that you want to be more connected to your partner, or a better colleague at work. Your intention becomes being more present in the conversation, listening more effectively, and doing your best to understand what the other person is saying.
A win is recognizing when you have been present in a conversation. I was present in my conversation with my partner today when they talked to me about X. I was present in a conversation with my business colleague. These are the types of wins that directly connect to something we are intentionally trying to change or improve.
The better and better you get at this strategy, the more and more connected your wins become to the true intentionality of what you are trying to make happen in your life.
Pillar 2 – Setting Your Intentions
Pillar one, counting your wins is all about reinforcing intentions. Pillar two is setting your intentions. Are you aware of the things that you want to accomplish in the long term? Do you have a vision of the life you wish to lead?
Setting intentions is about creating tangible outcomes that weave a fabric of this vision. Finding words or images to express how your life will look and feel. If you think of your five senses you want your intentions to connect to a long-term vision or feeling and invoke these sensations in the vision.
This is what we recommend, visualizing your life from a place of work/craft, health/wellbeing, spirit/soul, and connection/love allows you to define more distinct outcomes for each quadrant, and to design balance within your process.
Using these four quadrants to express the elements of your life is a great way to begin to bring more granularity to the process, but it isn’t the only way. Please feel free to take this concept and re-invent it so that it serves you and your process.
What do you want the work you do each day to look and feel like? Don’t be constrained by what it is now, but explore what it could be if you removed all the belts and braces your mind places on you.
Imagining the possibilities is Pillar Four and we’ll talk about it in a few paragraphs, but for now, it’s really about this concept of future visualization. Unconstrained positive what if? The idea of investigating your intentions as future visions can be a bit daunting if you have no grounding from which to push toward such aspiration.
So as you come back to your day-to-day and week-to-week, this is when these visions need to be more granular. They now become goals because they are realistic, measurable, and achievable.
They can be granularized into something that you want to accomplish on a week-to-week basis. That might be making a phone call to somebody you love once a week or getting a workout in, or it might be eating 4 servings of vegetables each day.
What are the things from a granular perspective that are necessary to achieve in order to create the image you’ve crafted in your mind? This is a what question, not a how question. How questions can be instigators of resistance, that sticky, gummy feeling that holds you back from moving forward. Save the how questions for a future conversation, right now, focus on the what.
What are the steps you see to moving towards your intentions? You don’t need to know them all, you just need to know the first one. Make it happen, and then keep moving.
Let’s say you want to look and feel better in your clothes by the end of the year. You want to feel proud when you look in the mirror. Forget about how much weight you need to lose, or how hard it’s going to be, simply focus on one thing you can do not that will begin to help create that vision.
Walking for 20 minutes a day might be your initial objective. But, what if you’ve never done that before, and even the idea of starting to do that is overwhelming? Then start by simply putting your walking shoes and socks at the foot of your bed each night to remind you that going for a walk in the morning is a priority.
If you just do that each day and count it as a win, soon enough you will be putting the shoes and socks on, counting that win, and then, eventually, walking out the front door and starting to actually walk. Before you know it, you are walking each day for 20 minutes.
You didn’t ask yourself how, you just simply did the what. What were those incremental steps, those empowering wins that you made happen every day?
When you are setting your intentions on a day-to-day basis, or a week-to-week basis, you want to be aware that the things you are writing down really have a connection to your vision for the future.
You might have your list of things to do for your GSD (get shit done!) stuff because everybody still has that to-do list; take the garbage out, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom. You still have to do those things.
But if this list of things to do is getting in the way of you doing the things you are intentionally working towards, that’s when you want to reflect on how much of your day is being directed towards intentional change and growth, and how much is just GSDing?
I’ll cover a strategy for evaluating your day in a future post on time/energy auditing, but for now, just become a little more aware of how you are using your time and what you are doing with it. Our goal over time is to do things we have set out to try to make happen to create the life we want to live.
These to-do items are things that we may be able to delete or delegate to somebody else. Nothing you write down in your journal from your intentions perspective should be a GSD item.
Depending on the cycle of your year your intention list might be very short because you’ve got a lot going on in a particular area of your life. But by still having one or two simple connection points to your overreaching vision, you can maintain momentum.
Pillar 3 – Learning Your Language
Learning your language is about recognizing your narrative, the stories that keep circulating in your mind and hold you back from creating the life you wish to live, or accomplishing the things that matter.
Recognizing the circular conversations you are having, the noise that consistently returns or is always returning. Also recognizing the precipitators of this language. Is it a person that you’re running into? Is it a work situation that you’re in? Is it a group of people or a specific set of circumstances? What drives the noise?
Journaling is about recognizing and connecting the dots. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, so journaling not only helps you become more aware, but also has you acknowledge the narrative, and learn what drives this noise in your head.
Pillar 4 – Imagine the Possibilities
Imagining the possibilities is the pillar that many people find relatively challenging, simply because we’re used to using our imagination to really consider the negative all the time.
Tony Blauer, a world-renowned self-defense and tactical intervention expert coined an acronym using the word FEAR; False Expectations Appearing Real. We have these false expectations, these fear loops floating around in our brains, using our imagination to think about all the terrible stuff that might happen. Instead of using our imagination to visualize all the wonderful stuff.
In the spring of 2001, I was in the middle of a pretty nasty divorce. lost all my money to my ex-wife had to sell my house while trying to complete a renovation during the sale. I totaled my car, and then got fired by the GM of the New York Rangers all in a period of three months!
Now, that sounds pretty crappy, right?
It was not a wonderful time. But the opportunity in that moment exposed itself.
I had a job offer from the Montreal Canadiens and could go back home where I had history and friends during a difficult time. I reconnected with a good friend who later became my wife and business partner. We had an amazing daughter named Gretchen, and we built a thriving brick-and-mortar and online education business.
On one side of the scale, deep difficulties, on the other side, incredible opportunities and outcomes.
So imagining the possibilities is an intentional time to blue sky and think about what might be possible, even in negative moments.
Imagining the possibilities set the table for the creation of your intentions. What would be the ideal outcome of the future, what is possible, not how do you get there, but what would the ideal look like if you could snap your fingers today and imagine it?
This becomes the beacon for where you wish to go, and from that beacon, you will create your intentional steps toward that imagined outcome.
How do you start?
Here are a few things you can begin doing tomorrow that will help ignite this process:
1 – Start to journal daily, if even for a few minutes.
2 – Write in that journal the narratives that keep coming to the surface in your internal conversations
3 – Remark upon the precipitators of those narratives, what happened, what state are you in at the time (tired, hungry, frustrated)
4 – Set one intentional thing you want to make happen each day that makes you smile
5 – Count the wins!
Starting is just the beginning of an amazing journey toward the life you seek.