Story and Mindset

by Jo Anne Nelson on January 10, 2013

I recently met a friend and collaborator, Carol Goldstein, in New York. We have clients in New York and are in and out of the City several times each month. Waiting for a meeting, Carol and I were discussing New York and how it compares to my home town, Washington DC. There are many distinctions, but I love both cities for different reasons.

As we talked, I was struck by how passionate I am about New York. I know many people who don’t like NY, and in fact, have a very negative story about it. They talk about stereotypical New Yorkers and cite lots of experiences to support their story.

I, on the other hand, am very familiar with the classic New York stereotype but can’t think of many instances where I had a negative interaction that made me think the stereotype was alive and well. I love the small grocers, coffee shops, neighborhood shops and pharmacies. Inevitably, I have had some of the best customer service experiences in those. For instance, the folks at Three Guys Restaurant on Madison between 75th and 76th, a favorite place for a quick breakfast, alway remember me, my typical order and warmly welcome me each time I visit.

I can make the same argument for Paris. So many Americans complain about the French and describe rude encounters in Paris. Yet, my family and I cherish time in Paris and France. We seem to always have wonderful experiences there and look eagerly forward to each trip, just as we do to New York.

So my mindset when I travel to NY and Paris is open, interested, extended. I expect to have a great experience, and it’s rare that my expectations aren’t met.

Those who have worked with us know that we focus a lot on story—what we say about our experiences, our intentions, how we set context, etc. Related, and just as important, is mindset.

Mindset is a measure and indicator of openness and willingness. Are we open to new ideas, experiences and ways of doing things, or are we not? Are we willing to try new things, change old patterns, see the world through a different lens?

As we saw in one of Sandy’s posts, we can choose our mindset, and winning mindsets have certain characteristics.

Story impacts mindset, and mindset influences story. If we tell certain stories often enough, our mindset begins to shift. Closed mindsets drive negative stories.

Most importantly, both story and mindset influence how we interact with the world. If I have the story and mindset that NY or Paris are difficult places filled with loud and obnoxious people, I am most likely going to experience loudness and obnoxiousness when I visit each. Conversely, if I arrive in either city with an open, willing mindset, anticipating fun and positive experiences, exciting, energetic, interesting people and opportunities for connection, those will most likely be exactly what I experience.

The same is true every day for every interaction we have, whether it’s with our teams,  managers, vendors, leaders, spouses, children. Mindset and story shape how we interact. They unconsciously set up expectations and outcomes.

If I commit to achieve a set of goals for the year, but my mindset and story are such that I think it’s going to be next to impossible to achieve them, what is the likely outcome? If I think someone on my team is difficult, how will I experience my interactions with that person?

The first step is to build awareness of mindset and how that shapes our stories. Pay attention to your ‘internal’ stories—do they open or close possibilities? If they close them, how can you shift your story to create one that is more open to possibilities? If you are open to new possibilities, how might that shift your experience?

Today is a good day to try on a more open mindset. Today is a great day to be willing. Give each a try. See what happens.

 

Jo Anne Nelson

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