For a long time, I’ve been interested in continually fostering a growth mindset. It’s a powerful belief that you can change your situation in life; that you aren’t fixed in terms of what life gives you. Instead, you can change it, learn new skills, and make your life dramatically better! Compare this to a fixed mindset where you believe that you are handed your lot in life and nothing you do will change it. That trying to improve yourself is some acknowledgement that you are not enough.
Recently I’ve been exploring ways in which ChatGPT can amplify some of the various self-help techniques I’ve picked up along the way to building a growth mindset… Techniques that have the potential to radically change your life.
Does a growth mindset work?
I was reminded of the power of a growth mindset when I thought back to my final school year recently. I had been considered a promising straight A student but for various reasons I couldn’t go to university. I remember all my peers in the year being excited, visiting college open days talking about their future classes in lush green campuses and the tales of the cute girls they’d glimpsed in the hallways.. Meanwhile I had been singled out and told to report down the hall to a CV Writing class in a dark dismal grotty art room.
5 boys sat at desks, chewing gum, and flicking leftover clay and ink from the previous art class at each other. I walked in and suddenly ducked just as a hard piece of mud hurled itself in my direction and missed the top of my head. The teacher stood up and said in a tone as if he was a prison guard addressing unruly inmates, “Right gentlemen. Here is a piece of paper. Don’t graffiti it, you only get one sheet each! Now, I’m going to tell you how you get a job at the local supermarket. Decide what you want to do most; stack shelves or work on the checkout.” I slumped in my chair. My heart sank… it felt like my world had just ended.
If I’m being frank, I slid into a mild depression for the rest of my A Levels from that point. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe working at a supermarket was important, it is. People need food after all. It was that I had aspirations of being a great software engineer. Was this really to be my fate for ever more?
The short answer is, no it wasn’t! I have been developing iOS apps for great companies for over 15 years now. Yes, you can change your standing in life; and these techniques do work. Although I’ve always tried to push forward, sometimes I have become complacent. It’s not just a skill, it’s a habit and there is always room to improve but let me show you how ChatGPT can help the process.
Setting Goals with ChatGPT
A big part of a growth mindset involves setting goals. It might seem obvious but if you don’t know where you want to go, how will you know which direction to go? A great way of doing that is imagining your future life. Some people are really good at this kind of daydreaming, for me, I might think ‘oh I want a nice house, lots of money and better relationships with my friends’ but what does that really mean? How can I vividly imagine what my life would be?
Well… this is where ChatGPT is good at filling in the blanks and one technique I’ve been working on involves creating a “persona”. Simply put, you just need to tell ChatGPT to create a persona and fill it with details with your future life you want. You can then ask ChatGPT all the questions you want to know about your future and how you got there, as if it is some crystal ball peering into your future. It will imagine the details and show you potential routes to success as if your destiny was like hot water percolating through an ’80s coffee machine, seeping into the rich jug of success below (I think I’m craving another cup of coffee as I write this!)
Here is a random example. No relation to me whatsoever!
Now as you can see above, the persona is a little raw but very detailed and contains many more details than if you came up with this on your own. The phrasing ‘make him more rounded’ may seem a bit odd but sometimes you may slip into particular hobbies or a career but compartmentalise it in your life. A great example is someone who has a love of photography but never displays any of their photos around the house. As you can see in the ChatGPT example above, it says “His city apartment features minimalist, modern decor, and is filled with framed photographs from his travels.” thus allowing you to objectively see how an aspect of your life could fit in better. Remember it is not a command, just a possibility in your new life. Think of it like looking through a glossy brochure of your life from another reality, a reality where you were more successful than you are currently. Flick through it and see what possibilities excite you.
This means it is extra important then, that you should ask ChatGPT to refine it with qualities where it could be you – the area where you grew up, your family, your approximate age when you reach your goals etc. Finally once you have a good persona, it’s time to ask it questions.
So, as an example, let’s say you said your persona was a successful businessman, perhaps a CEO who lived in a big country house in the countryside… Where do you live? Where do you work? Which clubs do you belong to? Which hobbies and sports do you take up? What car do you drive? Who is your partner? How did you meet them? What do you do at the weekend? What clothes do you wear? The limit is your imagination!
It really is exciting to imagine the possibilities. See it like writing a letter to someone who knows the future, What would you ask them if you could ask them anything?
Here are some additional questions to ask your persona, in my case ChatGPT called him ‘Jack’:
- What is a typical day in the life of Jack?
- What car does Jack drive?
- What does Jack like to eat in the evening?
- Which restaurants and bars does Jack like to go to?
- Where does Jack go on holiday?
- Who are Jack’s friends? How did he meet them?
- What is a typical life at work like for Jack?
- What bills does Jack have to pay?
- Show me the last 10 transactions from Jack’s bank account.
- How does Jack make their money?
Another tip is to pre-suppose a given question i.e., assume it is a truth. ChatGPT will improvise and roll with it, for example “How did Jack get his art studio?” or maybe, “which vintage motorbike does Jack keep in his garage as an ‘investment’?”.
As you start to play around, hopefully you’ll feel excited about what your new life could be. It does feel like a retro text-only Sims game but I kind of like that. You can literally ask it anything you want to know and ChatGPT will try to interpolate the answer. It is also important to fully explore a scenario for both positives and negatives to decide if that is what you truly want. Having a country house is nice but what if it takes you 2 hours to commute every day to your high-powered city job? How likely will friends and family visit if you live so far away? Vividly explore your persona, as it will make your decisions in life more congruent with who you want to be.
The Strangest Secret
So, you’ve set goals. Now I’m sure as most people find, it’s not always that easy, despite the hundreds of self-help books telling you to do so. You set a goal and then what? Typically, very little… worst case you might get down you aren’t achieving your goal. Something I recently discovered in an old recording of a self-help video called The Strangest Secret from the 1960s forwarded to me by a friend (thanks Mark) is to assume that massive success is possible in your job right now. It really is a mind blowing reframe that changes your thought process!
Imagine if you became a billionaire from doing what you are doing now?
Yes, I’m sure you’re laughing out loud but assume there is a route to a billion pounds in everything you do. It will change your thought process slowly but surely. Perhaps you work your way up the company, become the CEO and then get bought by Microsoft and you had thousands of shares in the company… Alternatively, perhaps you’re doing up your house… imagine if you did it up to such a standard you started renting it out to film crews for films making thousands of pounds at a time, or you decide to start up a company renovating a house from the skills you learned and now you make thousands from renovating celebrity houses. Ok so these might be a bit contrived, but my point is, that assuming this will radically change not only how you think but also how you go about your life. It’s completely different to how most people think. You will start asking yourself, how do I get there? At your next review, when your boss offers you shares or a pay rise, which will you choose? The old you might have taken the money, but the new you has a plan—you know where you’re going! Not progressing within the company? Perhaps it’s time for a new job, as you might need to make CEO soon! But it’s important to emphasise that it’s not all about material possessions or climbing the corporate ladder. Your goal could just as easily be to have a better home life, spend more time with your family, or pursue a personal passion. What truly matters is setting a clear goal and navigating a path to reach it.
Going back to my coffee pot metaphor, it’s not about *if* you will be successful… assume success is as assured as certain you are that gravity will make the hot water filter through the coffee grounds and fall into the pot. It is instead about how you got there! How will you overcome obstacles? Sometimes you can’t just follow the path to success directly. You may need to travel around obstacles or diagonally, like how the coffee often only drips from the centre tip of the filter paper.
The Power of the Subconscious Mind
The secret to this kind of thinking leverages the subconscious. That is the part of the brain that identifies environmental threats in the background, bubbling them up to your consciousness. In modern times it largely alerts you to an unpaid bill in the middle of the night or the dentist check-up you realise you forgot. It works the other way round too. Have you ever had a problem where you go off to do something else for a bit and then suddenly the solution pops into your head while you were having a shower or doing the washing up? Well, that is the subconscious. It’s like an angel or co-pilot supporting what you think about. By changing your thinking from avoiding bad situations to thinking for routes to success, your subconscious switches gear too and you may just find a new way to make money or an idea to progress your career will suddenly pop into your head instead. Now that really is a life hack!
Seeing the route to success
So how can ChatGPT help with this? Well, I’ve found with your persona you can “diff” the results (that’s engineer speak for show me what changed between two things, or show me the “difference”). Tell it that the persona started off from humble beginnings, describe your situation and then tell it to tell you how the persona got to the route that they are doing now. Set it back a number of years so you give yourself reasonable time to achieve your goals. You might find that you are surprised at a route to success you hadn’t considered before, after all ChatGPT has knowledge of so many skills and life stories about people who got to where they are, doing what you did. If nothing else, it can feed your mind with ideas and possibilities.
I’ve found this can actually have a therapeutic effect too as ChatGPT will often positively reframe any setbacks and life challenges for the persona. Since it is a persona, make it have a name that is different from yours. It is also a clever way of observing yourself objectively and disassociating with any trauma or emotional impact by seeing yourself from someone else’s eyes – a powerful self-help technique I’ve picked up along the way.
Here are some more questions to ask your persona:
- How did Jack overcome [insert-work-challenge-here]?
- How did Jack overcome a difficult relationship with [insert description of partner here]?
- 5 years ago Jack was working as a [job title], how did he get to where he is now?
- 5 years ago Jack was [living in a tiny flat in London], how did he get to his big country house?
So, I’ve explained how to dream with ChatGPT and set big goals. How to work out how to get there and how to know you’re on the right path. I’ve also tried to explain a mindset for success. It is important here, that it is as much a habit as it is a skill. Now it’s your turn, I would be really interested in the questions you’re asking ChatGPT and any other techniques you’ve found out. Post them in the comments. I want to also hear about your success and please send a big thank you cheque when you make it ;-)
My final tip is to dream big. You can think smaller and imagine, say a bigger house for your family to live in but go all out on it. Think *insert-your-favourite-wildly-successful-entrepreneur-here* level success. Shoot for the moon and if you only make the stratosphere that is dramatically more success that you or anyone else you know would have otherwise. Cheesy, yes but hopefully it illustrates the point.
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