My lifetime obsession with achieving success has led to many years of grinding it out. Most of the early years left me unfulfilled — and very unhappy. Even when my performance produced what others labeled a success, I still found myself feeling almost empty. The harder I chased after success, the more unhappy I became. I didn’t realize that success and fulfillment are just like beauty: They’re in the eye of the beholder. Simply put, the benefits of success are byproducts of your mindset.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended a strategy called “cocooning” to protect infants against whooping cough and other infectious diseases. Cocooning is the practice of vaccinating all close contacts, keeping all those around the infant disease-free. This circle includes mother and father as well as siblings, grandparents and other caregivers or potential caregivers. As a result, the infant is surrounded by people who pose no risk of spreading disease.
At the same time, recent research unequivocally shows you will become most like the people with whom you spend the most time. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine found that if you have a friend who is obese, you have a 57 percent chance of becoming obese yourself. “It’s important to remember,” said study coauthor James Fowler of the University of California San Diego, “that we’ve not only shown that obesity is contagious, but that thinness is contagious.” In other words, consciousness and mindset are as contagious as whooping cough and other infectious diseases.
Check your ‘cocoon.’
If you find yourself constantly trying to obtain that ever-elusive success, stop and check your cocoon. Fulfillment and happiness are mere symptoms of the “disease” of mindset mastery — the same way cough, fever and nausea are symptoms of whooping cough. Symptoms are effects, not the root cause. Stop pursuing effects and seize the cause.
An infant is infected with whooping cough by being around those who have the disease. The mindset mastery that produces success is just as contagious. Take inventory of your environment and assess your own cocoon.
Choose your environment.
Focus on the environment and the climate that you can create and control. Your airspace is yours and yours alone. There are many voices in the world, and all of them are clamoring for attention. In fact, everything on the planet has a voice, and they all talk to you. The chair in which you’re seated is speaking comfort or discomfort. Your car will start talking to you when the fuel gauge begins to get low.
Each voice is imbued with a corresponding emotion — a molecule of the disease it is carrying. The loudest and most influential emotional molecules stem from fear, followed by pain and then guilt. Love, of course, will overwhelm all others, and humor always seems to help.
Your mindset-mastery cocoon is built by the voices and emotions you allow, giving them a place and a platform within your airspace. Your mindset will either infect you with the disease that produces the symptoms of success, fulfillment and happiness — or the disease that brings unhappiness. You must be mindful of what you see, hear and read. Deliberately calculate what you feed on and where it came from. Place a value measurement on those sources of information and distraction.
Know what to ignore.
I place minimal value on anything that comes from social media, the internet, media, family members, coworkers, books and even new research — until I can scrutinize, investigate and verify for myself that the new information is fact-based and not truth-based. I absolutely refuse to allow any unvetted opinions and assumptions unrestricted access to my airspace. Any unauthorized intrusion of dread, gossip, complaining and fearmongering are given a fighter-jet escort out of my airspace. The same goes for anything that conjures up worry, anxiety, depression, defeat or misery.
I’m not saying any of these voices are wrong. I don’t ignore or deny facts. But I do decontaminate my airspace and inoculate my mindset. Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Neither viewpoint is wrong. But a cocoon of half-empty friends is just as contagious as a cocoon of half-full friends.
No one lives in a vacuum. Once you rid your cocoon of worry, fear, anxiety and naysayers, you can fill it with voices that motivate you to the highest performance levels. Search out the voices that produce emotional molecules of perseverance, fortitude, determination, commitment, resilience, stamina and victory. Where are the voices that encourage you to thrive and flourish? You need to do more than merely survive — and you can’t afford to wither in the face of adversity.