Active Mindset vs Passive Mindset: How To Control Your Destiny

active mindset passive mindset

“I’m bored.” When’s the last time you said that? I bet not too long ago. If you give me 4 minutes, I’ll tell you why that’s a sign of a bad mindset.

In the past, I always looked at other people for answers. When you’re little, your school teachers tell you what to do every day. That’s the system at primary school, high school, college, and university.

It’s always one person who tells a group what to do. What does that do to people?

School systems train us to be passive. And after we get out of school, nothing really changes. When I had my first job, I listened to my boss about what to do.

And when I started my first business with my dad, I looked at him for answers.

Now, you might think that this is a matter of experience. That’s the most obvious idea. We think:

“When I’m junior, I take orders. When I’m senior, I give orders.”

That’s about the worst mindset you can have because it’s too passive. Instead, it’s much more beneficial for our career to adopt an active mindset.

What’s the difference between a passive and an active mindset? And how do we even form an active mindset? I have a three-step-process that I’ve used to transform my own mindset. Feel free to use it too.

Step 1: Acknowledge that a passive mindset is bad

So when I talk about being bored, I’m not talking about being bored in a good way. Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we’re fully relaxed. That’s good.

For the sake of this article, I’m talking about when we say I’m bored in an “I have no idea what I’m doing” type of way.

Do you recognize that feeling? It’s a sense of aimlessness.

Now, to a degree, no one knows what they are doing. The difference is that when you’re always bored with life, you’re not trying.

And people who don’t try are losers. You know why? Life is fascinating—but you must try to experience it.

There’s nothing cool about not having your shit together. You can’t go through life as a passenger.

At some point, you must take over the wheel and decide where you’re going next. That’s the difference between people who have an active mindset and people with a passive mindset.

The former owns his destiny. The latter leaves it up to others.

Step 2: Commit to learning

The Stoic philosopher Seneca put it best in On The Shortness Of Life:

“If you apply yourself to study you will avoid all boredom with life, you will not long for night because you are sick of daylight, you will be neither a burden to yourself nor useless to others, you will attract many to become your friends and the finest people will flock about you.”

That’s why I believe an active mindset has nothing to do with experience. I know interns who are more curious and ask more questions than most senior managers.

But having an active mindset has nothing to do with age or experience.

For example, an insurance consultant in his sixties—who I work with—is as curious as an intern. He’s enthusiastic about everything you talk to him about.

The other day I visited a printing company with my brother. The owner, a third-generation business owner, took over the business from his father years ago. He gave us a full tour and showed us the old printing presses they used, etc.

My brother and I were genuinely interested. The printing press, developed by Johannes Gutenberg, is the greatest invention for human progress. Without books, we wouldn’t be where we are today. That’s fascinating to me.

The owner said, “I’ve never met anyone who actually asked about how we print our books, magazines, flyers, etc.”

Not many people commit to learning. That’s why so many people are always bored. That shouldn’t be a surprise to you by now.

Step 3: Add value

If you apply step 2, adding value becomes easy. When you’re curious and ask questions, you learn. And when you learn, you will have more knowledge and ideas.

When you have ideas, you can use them to improve your life, work, business, etc. That’s the logic.

But that doesn’t mean you should blatantly share your ideas and advice with everyone. You know why?

Just because you have a good idea or piece of advice, it doesn’t mean you must tell the other person about it. People get offended quickly.

The reason is that advice can be perceived as criticism.

Dale Carnegie writes about it exhaustively in How To Win Friends And Influence People. You must be subtle when you try to add value. Carnegie says:

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want—It’s much better to let people realize something by themselves instead of trying to force them.

The active mindset is about action

Sometimes people email me and say that I need to change something about my blog. “Your articles are too long!” Someone recently said. He clearly never read Carnegie.

When it comes to adopting an active mindset; more knowledge will not help you—the only action will. People with a passive mindset think that’s common sense. They’re quick to think they already know things.

But as you and I both know; it’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do.

The most important thing is that we commit to learning. If you stay assertive and try to help people (who want to be helped) in life and business, you’ll never be bored. Plus, you’ll keep making progress.

And making progress (no matter how little) is the sure sign that you have an active mindset.

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