Mahatma Gandhi said “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”
His words trace the path from neurochemicals and mental states to neurobiology and the physical state that leads to actions. How exactly we choose to react to a particular situation becomes key to what we are able to do from a cognitive point of view. Cognition, the ability to use the higher executive centers of the brain to make a decision hinges upon perception.
What we perceive becomes our reality. That reality, in turn, determines our assessment of a particular situation and guides our response. How mindset affects all this is easy to see with Julia Galef’s talk on the “soldier or the scout” mindset and the characteristic of each one:
The point Galef is making (and it is an important one) is that the image you draw up of yourself in your mind determines how you behave. It creates the reality you experience by activating a specific internal model which then affects everything else.
Galef is right in that it is difficult to be both. Most of us end up being a “soldier” or a “scout” and probably oscillate between the two mindsets depending upon the severity of the situation we face, the pressure we experience and our experience of that pressure and situation.
There is an exception to this: snipers. Snipers are called upon to be both soldiers and scouts. They have to balance the skillset of a force multiplier being called upon to take part in battle and the intelligence gathering skills and curiosity of a scout.
Developing that mindset requires specific skills that help improve attention, memory and knowledge. These, filtered through experience inform perspective which then creates what we, individually, perceive as reality.
The real magic here is that with just a little application, the awareness that comes with knowledge and some tips from those who are at the cutting edge of their profession, we too can learn how to be top-flight performers.