How Black and White Thinking Cripples Us Strategically: 3 Steps to Remove Mental Barriers to Your Success

How Black and White Thinking Cripples Us Strategically: 3 Steps to Remove Mental Barriers to Your Success

Over the past few decades people have become extremely conscious of what they eat. First we saw the low fat, high fiber craze.  Recently, carbs and sugar have been deemed the enemy.  We are often told that “we are what we eat.” If you want to look good and perform well as a human being, then you need to eat a healthy diet.

I could give you a whole lecture on what this entails but I’m not writing this blog about food.  Today I’m writing about something that is equally vital, and that is our psychological diet.  

Just as your body and physical health are affected by your nutrition, the people, ideas, and information you surround yourself with every day with impact your mind and what your mind considers possible.  This is your psychological diet, and it will impact your happiness, your ability to get through hard times, and your success in this life.

The more narrow your psychological diet is, the more narrow your possibility to be a resilient, well though out, and successful human being.  Here are three tips to ensure that your psychological diet is up to snuff:

1. Never let a negative person bring you down.  
   At one time I was in a long-term relationship with a woman who hated her job. She came home from work every day complaining, and whenever I went to try anything new, she would become jealous. As I worked extra hours to try to open my own business, she would say things like, “why are you even trying at this?” and “there’s no way you’ll be successful at that.”  Eventually I stopped working to open that business up, and I didn’t start again until the relationship eventually ended. I often think of the months I wasted because I listened to her negativity, but I’m also grateful that I got myself out of the relationship.  

Be wary of the people you surround yourself with and how they affect you.  Try to surround yourself with positive people who want you to succeed at whatever it is that you choose to do.  You want people around you who are going to constructively criticize you and challenge you to become better, but do not entertain the ideas of someone who is flat out negative.

And remember, as Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you hang around with the most.”  Hang out with five negative people who have nothing going for them, and you will be the sixth.  Seek out positive people who are working to better their own futures and they will help to better yours.

2. Seek out friends from different social circles and value the opinions of others.

I am a big fan of befriending people who do not think the same way I do.  I lean on the conservative side of the fence politically, but I have many friends who are liberal.  I am a Catholic, but I have friends who are Baptist, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu.  

This allows me to see things from multiple perspectives and helps me to avoid narrow and limited thinking. This does not mean that I am not principled in what I believe. To the contrary, I am able to formulate many of my arguments more effectively because I better understand what others think.  It also keeps me from being being “dug in” on any one particular issue that might lead to me making a serious mistake in judgment.  

I myself am wary of anyone who demonizes an opposing viewpoint because that tells me that they have not considered anything and that they do not have the power to understand things from alternative perspectives. People like this are actually very easy to control. You can simply manipulate them by saying things that they’ll agree with (think of presidential politics at the time of this writing).

All politics aside, do not allow yourself to fall into narrow minded behavior. Understand opposing arguments, and this will allow you to think more independently. It will also allow you to understand people. Understanding people, and how they think, is a key attribute of being a leader.  None of us, even those of us in the military, can be tyrants if we are leading humans. The only true way to lead is to get people to want to follow, and to do this, you have to understand how they think.  

3. Read

I say this over and over again, but if you want to be successful you need to read. Not all of us may be able to travel the world at the moment. We may not be able to get mentors who are multi millionaires or who’ve held leadership positions, but any of us can fork out a few dollars for a book.

Books are important because they give us perspective.  Reading about the lives of successful people can help us to understand that the difficulties we go through in life are part of the process of becoming successful.  Books like these keep us from feeling sorry for ourselves and they help us to realize what is possible in our lives.  Above all they help us to realize that we are not resigned to any particular fate.  

And just as with people, do not just read books that you agree with. Read books about opposing view points and books about people from differing backgrounds than yourself. Read books about other religions, books about people from other times and places, and books about people who you may not like personally.  Every perspective contains something you can learn from.  


To sum all of this up in one big phrase: don’t allow yourself to become narrow minded.  When you are narrow minded it opens you up to being manipulated and held back from your true potential.  Surrounding yourself with positive people, understanding opposing opinions, and reading books from multiple perspectives are three keys to having a healthy psychological diet and a life without limits.

And keep in mind, none of this is meant to change your opinion on anything.  Rather, it is meant to allow you to express your own opinion in a more coherent and logical manner.  Knowing more never makes you less of a person, but being ignorant can keep you from being the person you were meant to be.