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Life Design is significantly a mental game. Get your game on by exploring and strengthening these nine mindsets.

In an earlier article, I defined Life Design as a multidisciplinary approach to consciously create a fulfilling life aligned with your core values and life purpose.

A mindset refers to a set of beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions that shape an individual’s perception and understanding of themselves, others, and the world around them. Mindset influences how someone thinks, feels, and behaves in different situations.

Carol S. Dweck popularized the mindset concept, and introduced the Growth Mindset, in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, published in 2006.    

More recent books about mindset include Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, by Daniel J. Siegal (2009), Mind Your Mindset, by Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt Miller (2023), and The Greatness Mindset: Unlock the Power of Your Mind and Live Your Best Life Today, by Lewis Howes (2023).

Having the right mindset is a critical success factor for effective life design. For example, if someone has a closed mind and is risk averse, they will not be able to engage with the exploration and experimentation in life design.

The following mindsets are beneficial in life design.

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is a belief that our abilities can be improved with effort. A growth mindset can help someone embrace continuous change and improvement, take risks, set ambitious goals, persevere through setbacks, be open to feedback, and be resilient—all key factors in living a life by design.

Learn more about growth versus fixed mindset and key takeaways from Dweck’s book from positivepsychology.com.

Leon Ho in The Full Life Framework: The Essential Guide to Create a Rich and Meaningful Life and Stop Surrendering to Your Circumstances defines a ‘Progress Mindset’ that mimics Dweck’s ‘Growth Mindset.’

The thoughts of someone with a progress mindset will look something like this:

  • I’m always seeking new experiences.
  • I focus on solutions, not problems.
  • I have an open-mind and positive outlook.
  • I never want to stop learning.
  • The best years of my life are still to come!

Abundance Mindset

Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People wrote that the Abundance Mentality [I.E., Mindset] “flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, recognition, profits, of decision-making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.”

Contrast this to the Scarcity Mentality/Mindset.

See this Success.com article for six tips to develop and model an abundance mindset.

Service Mindset

Emily Esfahani Smith in The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness discusses the importance of adopting a service mindset to find meaning in life. Excerpts:

Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant’s research offers a clue about how people working in any sector can find purpose at work—by adopting a service mindset.

Even the most tedious tasks can be made purposeful when they benefit the people you love. Parents perhaps know the value of a service mindset better than anyone.

It was the mindset, for instance, adopted by the janitor John F. Kennedy ran into at NASA in 1962. When the president asked him what he was doing, the janitor apparently responded saying that he was “helping put a man on the moon.”

Ken Coleman in From Paycheck to Purpose: The Clear Path to Doing Work You Love, says that “Looking for ways to help another person feels very different than asking for a handout or a huge favor. When you have a mindset of service, you connect and communicate far more powerfully.”

Full Life Mindset

Leon Ho in The Full Life Framework stresses the importance of working with all aspects of life in life design. Ho suggests six “full life aspects:” Physical Health, Family and Relationships, Wealth and Money, Work and Career, Spiritual, and Mental Strength. These categories are similar to the eleven areas I defined in my What is Life Design? article.

Design Thinking Mindset

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life prescribe five Design Thinking-informed mindsets for the life design journey:

  1. Be Curious.
  2. Try Stuff.
  3. Reframe Problems. Reframing makes sure that you are working on the right problem. Life design involves key reframes that allow you to step back, examine your biases, and open new solution spaces. You will be reframing dysfunctional beliefs that prevent you from finding the life you want.
  4. Know It’s a Process.
  5. Ask for Help. The best designers know that great design requires radical collaboration. It takes a team.

Burnett and Evans in their more recent Designing Your New Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness—and a New Freedom—at Work, add a sixth mindset, Storytelling. “When you adopt the tell your story mindset, you are always looking for opportunities to reflect on your conversations and experiences, and looking for new ways to engage the world with your story. And once you start speaking up, a funny thing happens—the world will start talking back and telling its story, in the form of new friendships, job opportunities, and creative ways to achieve your goals.”

Julia Lang from Tulane University’s Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking covers some of the same ground, and more, in her Ten Frameworks for Life Design:

  1. Radically accept where you are in the journey.
  2. Forget finding your passion; Seek to understand yourself.
  3. Define what matters to you.
  4. Brainstorm many possible pathways.
  5. Build a network through empathizing and learning from others.
  6. Design your story + your personal brand.
  7. Try it out. Test your ideas and assumptions in the real world.
  8. Be flexible. Adapt your plan based on what you learn.
  9. Focus on who you are evolving into, not one static future career.
  10. Believe your life is worth designing.

One Life to Lead Mindsets

Russell Benaroya in One Life to Lead: Business Success Through Better Life Design emphasizes experimentation and a growth mindset (already covered above). In his chapter on mindset, Benaroya also adds the following:

    • The belief that you are in control of your life design. [I.E., agency and intentionality.]

    • Deeply exploring why do you want what you want. “We get so caught up in the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ of our want that we decide to not even to ask ourselves ‘why’…Life design becomes a lot easier when we are intentionally pursuing what we want, underscored by knowing why.”

    • Be lucky. With an echo to the Abundance Mindset, “Being lucky is a core feature of the life design mindset…By simply identifying ourselves as lucky and making the conscious decision to be a lucky person, we will create circumstances in our lives that seem lucky…When you are clear on intention, the universe can do its work.”

Intuition Mindset

Here, the mindset is having the belief that the subconscious mind is a powerful ally to be trained and listened to.

Sonia Choquette in Your Heart’s Desire: Instructions for Creating the Life You Really Want has an entire chapter on gaining the support of your subconscious mind. Excerpts:

We create what we believe. What you consciously desire and what you subconsciously believe about that desire must agree for you to succeed.

Your subconscious mind produces what you dwell on. That’s why you end up experiencing exactly what you worry about. The subconscious mind isn’t trying to sabotage you. It is simply giving you its very best expression of what you impress upon it with your powers of attention and focus.

Affirmations are a way to gain the support of your subconscious mind. Simple statements redirect the subconscious mind best.

One way to identify your beliefs is to contemplate your Heart’s Desire and ask yourself what might happen if you did manifest such a dream. Do you uncover any anxieties or fears while doing this?

Change your desire from simply accomplishing an outcome to contributing in the world.

Choquette also has a chapter on being open to intuitive guidance:

The most important way to prepare for guidance is to meditate. Once you have learned to quiet your mind’s chatter with meditation, you can use meditation to directly ask for guidance. Ask, don’t demand. Spirit is subtle and often overlooked by those who aren’t paying attention. Keep your mind clear and quiet. Meditate every morning. Pray every night. Whenever you have an urge to ask for help, do so.

Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner express some similar, albeit less overtly spiritual, views in Life by Design: A Personal Plan to Bring Out the Best in Yourself. Excerpts:

Your conscious mind works as a sort of spotlight of awareness, highlighting some aspects of your experience while ignoring others. But all that other information doesn’t just drop away. Instead, it is collected, sorted, and managed in your unconscious mind. As soon as you choose to live life by design, you begin to organize yourself at a subconscious level to do so.

Under challenging circumstances, the problem with your mental system is that it runs on very little conscious information.

Generalizations harden over time into unconscious beliefs upon which you base the behaviors that affect your health and well-being. Do your generalizations support your life by design?

You can use your mind on purpose to break associations with the past that no longer support you (disassociation), and create the associations that will help you live your life by design.

Two kinds of assumptions by which you can guide your behavior, limiting and useful ones. Limiting assumptions, like “I’m bad with money.” Useful assumptions, like “I can do whatever I set my mind to.”

Determine what attitude will enable you to change your behavior. Locate the resource somewhere in your life [E.G., ‘determination’ in sports]. The more specific you are about how you are when you’re in that resource state, the easier it will be to associate it with another situation. The more times you repeat this mental fantasy the stronger the new association will become and the more likely you will respond in a new way the next time you are in that situation.

When you believe that something is so and can be achieved, you gain the confidence to choose a course of action. Think and act “as if” a better future is possible. “As if” thinking works great to reverse the negativity caused by the fear that something will get worse.

Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live has a chapter titled Advanced Compass Reading: Intuition. With many case studies, the chapter explores the potentially psychic, paranormal, or ESP levels of intuition. Excerpts:

I know from experience that people who set out to find their own North Stars tend to awaken whatever paranormal skill they may have. In general, the more closely my clients follow their physical and emotional “compasses,” the more they begin to sense intuitive guidance. Priorities of North Star compass reading: body first, emotions next, intuition last.

The more you listen to your intuition, the more it will change your life; and the more bravely you set forth into the territory of change, the more you’ll come to rely on it.

Your intuition has a more refined understanding of your right life than any other part of your consciousness. Nothing seems to be working like it’s supposed to, so what the hell—might as well trust your gut. You may find yourself noticing very quiet suggestions that seem to come from somewhere inside your deep self but outside your rational mind.

I believe that intuitive information about your destiny, about what you should do, comes only to you [and not anyone else.]

I’ve come to believe that we all carry clear, precise maps of our futures inside us.

Whenever your mind is focused on a given topic, your attention will sort through the infinite bits of information you encounter every day and zero in on things relating to that subject.

To review, as you begin your life design journey, take some time to reflect on and further develop the following mindsets that will serve you well on the journey:

  1. Growth Mindset
  2. Abundance Mindset
  3. Service Mindset
  4. Full Life Mindset
  5. Design Thinking Mindsets
  6. Agency and Intentionality Mindset
  7. ‘Why’ Mindset
  8. Be Lucky Mindset
  9. Intuition Mindset

Over to You

Rate yourself on a 0-to-10 scale for how strong each mindset currently is in your life. Then, for mindsets with a low score, create plans for strengthening the mindset. How might you bring more of the low-scoring mindsets into your life via deliberate practice?  

If you are on a life design journey, do you depend on any other mindsets different than the above? Please answer in a Reply to this article. 

Note: The book links are Amazon affiliate links that pay a small commission to me upon purchase, at no cost to you.

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