By Jiji Lee

Do You Have a Flexible Mindset? You Need This to Succeed.


The way you think about yourself and your work matters.

Is there such a thing as being too obsessed with your goals? 

While it’s important to stay committed and be enthusiastic about our goals, it’s also meaningful to examine all the different possibilities, and see the forest from the trees. After all, if we become too fixated on our goals, we run the risk of having tunnel vision.

For instance, if your main goal is to get a promotion at your company, and you’ve been skipping social activities and staying late at the office to focus on this one goal, you may not be seeing the bigger picture.

A flexible outlook can unearth more possibilities. Maybe deepening your professional connections could lead to a job opportunity. Or taking classes could broaden your skills and make you poised for a promotion. Adapting a flexible mindset can help expand your idea of what is possible and maybe even get you closer to your goal.

Here are other ways that a flexible mindset can help you with your endeavors. 

Flexible mindset can help with creativity

If you work in a creative field, you may already know that when it comes to ideas, it’s actually about quantity, not quality. We can’t be too precious about ideas.

To paraphrase Washington Post writer Alexandra Petri, ideas are like fish eggs, not ostrich eggs. The more abundant your ideas, the more likely you’ll find the diamond in the rough.

We also have to let go of our attachment to our first idea. Your first idea is not going to be the best one. In fact, the first few ideas that we come up with are pretty much guaranteed to be bad or unoriginal--and that’s okay. Be flexible about your ideas and you’ll be more likely to come up with a great one.

Flexible mindset can help you become more resilient

A flexible mindset can help you develop more resilience when you experience any setbacks or challenges. Instead of giving up on your goal after a minor setback, you can use a flexible mindset to extract any lessons from your challenges and be open to changing your process or strategy.

Flexible mindset can help you grow

Psychologist Carol Dweck studied the importance of having a “growth mindset” and its role in leading a meaningful life. She says: 

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

When we embrace the idea that our talents and experience aren’t pre-determined or fixed, but rather something that we can work towards and improve upon, we can open ourselves up to even more growth, success, and fulfillment.

How to cultivate a flexible mindset

Here are some ways that you can develop a flexible mindset in your personal and professional life. 

Practice mindfulness 

A simple way to develop a more open mindset is to practice being in the present. When we’re not in the present, we have a tendency to overinflate our past mistakes or become anxious about things that have yet to happen. 

Practicing mindfulness allows us to be grateful for the present rather than regretting the past or wishing for something better in the future.

Here’s how you can practice mindfulness:

If a work meeting or project doesn’t go your way, try taking a break and go for a walk to clear your head. Try not to dwell on “what ifs” or mistakes. Instead, let it go and remind yourself that this experience will help you grow and make you better.

Take time to journal and unspool your thoughts on paper. When we see our thoughts and emotions reflected back to us on paper, we have an easier time remaining objective, which helps us manage our stress and anxiety.

Take a few moments to meditate. We all know that meditation is good for us, so why don’t we do more of it? Fortunately, you don’t need hours to reap the benefits of meditation. Even a short session using a meditation app like Headspace or Calm App can help you feel more relaxed.

Do a simple activity like coloring or sewing or washing the dishes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distracted by a stream of thoughts, a mundane activity can help you concentrate on a single task and anchor you into the present.

Focus on the process

Instead of fixating on a goal, try focusing on the process instead.

Focusing on the process may sound counterintuitive. After all, if we want to run a marathon, shouldn’t we focus on running across the finish line? 

But being laser-focused on a goal puts too much pressure on the outcome, which creates unrealistic expectations. If we don’t see results right away, we want to abandon our goals. But we have to accept the reality that we can’t control the outcome or predict the future. 

The one thing that we can control is our process. 

When we focus on the process, we can set realistic expectations and reduce pressure on ourselves, which, in turn, ensures that we stick to our goals. 

Here are some ways that you can focus on the process:

Celebrate your wins along the way. Instead of waiting to do a big celebration upon attaining your goal, make sure to stop and relish the tiny victories along the way. You’ll use the momentum to keep going and get you across the finish line.

Reframe your goals. By looking at your goal from a process-oriented point of view, you’ll have an easier time sticking to your goals. Plus you’ll have a quantifiable way of measuring your progress. 

And as Atomic Habits writer James Clear says:

When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.”

Here’s how you can reframe your goals so that you emphasize the process, not the end result. 

  • Results-oriented goal: I will finish a marathon
  • Process-oriented goal: I will run x miles by the end of the week.
  • Results-oriented goal: I will get a new job by the end of the year
  • Process-oriented goal: I will reach out to 5 HR managers for an informational interview by the end of the month or I will reach out to 5 people I admire and get advice by the end of the month
  • Results-oriented goal: I will write a novel.
  • Process-oriented goal: I will write ten pages by the end of the week