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5 Mindset Shifts That Changed My Life (And Can Change Yours, Too)

An essential part of my personal development has been understanding and constantly improving my mindset. A simple shift in your mindset can dramatically increase the quality of your life. Here are some of the simple shifts that have made the biggest difference in my life.

1. You Don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. 

I learnt early in life but I’ve had to reinforce it over and over as my ego tends to rear its ugly head. When I find myself feeling insecure or backed in a corner, my defence system is to show how smart I am by using buzzwords which only alienates the same people I am trying to impact.


In high school, I was one of the best Maths students in our class. One day, I was in a group discussion to solve an equation and guess who comes up with a suggestion, one the poorest student in our class. His approach was very simplistic and I instantly shut him down. It turns out that his approach was correct and I was wrong. This humbling experience would go on to teach me to value other people’s approach regardless of my perception of their knowledge, skills or status.

I am not afraid to be wrong and as I matter of fact, I no longer feel the pressure to have all the answers. I’ve also learnt to put myself in situations where there are other that are way smarter and better than me, That way I can be challenged and learn from others. In the situations where I am “the smartest guy in the room”, I have learnt to hold back and let others shine. It’s more rewarding and impactful to bring out the best in others that always being the star.

2. Failure = feedback

I used to believe in the dichotomy of outcomes: there are winners and losers, you either succeed or fail. When I failed to achieve what I set out to do, I would internalise this and see myself as a failure.  When this might seem like simple semantics, there is a great difference between failing at something and being a failure.  Calling yourself a failure means you can making a declaration on your identity as a human being while saying that you failed at something means you are calling out just the simple action of failure in a specific situation. The later is easier to isolate and fix.

When the lean startup movement popularised by the Silicon Valley technology companies started becoming mainstream, I learnt that failure is simply feedback. You try something out, it does not work out, you go back to the drawing board and try a different approach and iterate until you find the right solution. It’s like putting a scientist coat and goggles and looking at your life as one giant experiment.  I think of frontiers like Thomas Edison and the invention of the light bulb, the dude tried soo many times until he finally got it right.  In later interviews when asked why he did not give up, the answer was more in the lines of every failure was him learning what does not work. 

Next time you fail at something, consider it as a lesson on how to not do something.  Sometimes with failures come opportunities. 


3. Don’t avoid pain

Like most people, I hate dealing with painful situations. Be it confrontations that need to happen or addressing hard issues that I don’t have the answers to. My default approach is to do nothing and hope that the situation dies of natural causes. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works, if you don’t deal with issues, they only get bigger and uglier. I look back at the areas of my life that have caused me the most long term grief and the genesis is not dealing with the initial discomfort and pain.
A good example is the personal and business relationships when I ended up feeling resentful but could have resolved by setting healthy boundaries from the get-go.

Whatever is causing you grief today, confront it head-on before it turns into an ugly monster. 

4. From little things big things grow.

This is one shift that has helped me connect my small sometimes seemingly insignificant daily decisions, choices and actions and the long term outcomes and consequences. It’s also helped me learn how to break down big complex goals into simple manageable chunks that can be done over a period of time. Rather than trying to do everything all once and always end up feeling stressed, overwhelmed and in some cases burning out, I can now break down my goals into smaller tasks and take a long term approach to see things through.


A good example is my health. Rather than try to lose weight fast, I’ve broken down the process into different phases that will probably take at least 12 months to fully execute. That way every change I make is sustainable and in many cases builds on the previous successes.  I also look back at some of the things I’m enjoying today e.g. a great marriage that was built on small daily habits done over the last decade. 

Another personal example is this blog. I want to write books one day that will impact people. Rather than wait until that time comes, I’ll start impacting others one article at a time. That way I get to learn how to be a better writer an build an audience of readers along the way. By the time the book eventually comes, I will not be launching to crickets. 

5. Respond don’t react.

Have you ever said something you wish you could take back or said something in a conversation and once it’s done and you’ve walked away thinking about “everything you should have said”?  Or it could be that split-second decision you made and now you are dealing with the consequences. What if you could take a moment to ponder before saying something or making that decision?
Here is what I have learnt, when someone says something and my initial reaction is to be offended or defensive, rather than jump into conclusions, it’s better to pause and get clarity on the other person’s intention. Something asking the simple question “what do you mean” can help you clarify things and determine the best response.


Also, if you don’t have the answers, rather than keep rambling and make stuff up, it’s actually ok to just let the other person know that you’ll get back to them. Trust me, it does not make you look silly.

In Conclusion

Why don’t you take a moment to consider the areas of your life that could use a mindset shift. I would love to know what are some of the mindset shifts that have had the biggest impact in your life.

Please share in the comment below

John Kiama

On this site, I share everything I've learnt (and still learning) from my personal and business growth. Hopefully, my life lesson can help can get to your goals faster, without making the same mistakes I’ve made.

1 Comment

  1. Rachel on October 2, 2020 at 5:34 AM

    Great post John! I like your approach on your weight loss goals. Having a long term goal , broken down into small goals.
    My mindset shift has been, you don’t have to know every detail on how to achieve your goals. just get started and take the next step, and the next, and eventually you will accomplish your goals.

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