Develop a Purposive Mindset

When you think about change, what comes to mind?

This morning I asked that question to Jim Blasingame, host of the Small Business Advocate, radio show. You can listen to my interview by clicking below.

Not surprisingly, his answer was “Pain and having to adapt to changes in the environment.” He said it feels like getting run over by a truck. That’s what I call “adaptive” change. We all have to do it, but it’s not what we prefer, and it’s probably not what we would’ve chosen. Adaptive change is like chasing after a bus that has left the bus stop. Most of us would rather be driving the bus, than chasing it.

When the change is our choice and we decide to initiate an action, that’s called “purposive change,” or what I call “change leadership.” The difference between adapting to change and choosing our own changes for our own purposes is one of perspective. It’s a mindset.

We find what we look for. I recently watched a documentary about the construction of the 911 Memorial and the new One World Trade Center building in New York City. One of the workers was talking about what it is like to work on beams 800 feet above the ground. He said he doesn’t notice the ground because he is focused on the beams he is installing. If he chooses to look at the ground, he will find he is operating at dizzying heights and is struggling to adapt to the wind, the temperature, the crane operator and many other environmental conditions. If he chooses to look at the floor he is building, he will feel he is on solid ground, building an office.

A purposive mindset is about choosing what we look for; choosing why we are doing something—the purpose. However, the purpose can be taken too far. If we tell ourselves, “I must achieve such-and-such goal,” we are putting ourselves back under the same pressure as having to adapt to changes mandated by others. Isn’t liberation and freedom what we are after? So why chain ourselves down to a “must.” Albert Ellis, the famous psychologist, argued that telling oneself, “I must,”—I must lose weight. I must be more successful. I must have a newer car. I must whatever.—is the cause of most unhappiness and mental health problems. So a purposive mindset is not about “I must” achieve a certain goal.

Rather, a purposive mindset is about perceiving the freedom to choose what world to create for ourselves and our loved ones. Many great scientists and philosophers have argued that creating is the essence of life and humanity. If we have the mindset that we can choose what to do with ourselves and what to make of our life, we can create our world. It is true that we still face many limitations and there will always be changes happening around us. But if we have the mindset that we are free to create our reality, then that is the reality we will experience—just like the ironworker is living a reality that he is on an office floor, instead of living a reality that he is dangling precariously 800 feet above the ground.

A leading research psychologist, Edward Deci, found that when people feel their actions and life are “self-determined” they are happier. If you adopt a purposive mindset that you are determining and initiating the changes that enable you to create the life you desire, you will likely be happier, too.

Purposive Change = Creating Your World

What world are you creating, now?

For example, the next time you are in a meeting, ask yourself, “What are we creating here?” For example, are you creating a strong team and an environment for collaboration and productivity? Or, are you creating a battlefield for a competition of egos and the display of power? You will find what you look for. You will create the world that you choose to look for.

What world do you want to create?

A purposive mindset will enable you to create and to live that world.

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