How ultra-successful CEOs, athletes, and entrepreneurs avoid mental traps for unparalleled success

Our brains are evolutionarily hardwired to make connections, draw conclusions, and reason. But until we learn how, it’s hard to fully understand and properly harness the innate brilliance of our thinking.  

Although your mind is a powerful tool, subconscious reasoning and clogged cognitive filters can deceptively drive you in the wrong direction. Much of our inner wiring was developed to help us survive as cavemen, and plenty of that can be misleading in the modern business age. 

What separates conscious, unstoppable leaders from the rest of the pack is that they’re able to recognize their cognitive blindspots and untie those mental tethers for unrivaled success. 

As the CEO of a leadership development center who has trained hundreds of CEOs, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and top leaders, I’ve seen first-hand how even the highest performers aren’t immune to their mental blind spots. Thankfully, just like them, you can access your subconscious thinking and elevate it to a conscious state to become unstoppable. 

Here are five of the most-common detrimental mental approaches that you can shed for greater success: 

Being too serious  

Children are naturally curious, and willing to explore anything with open eyes. As adults, our mental blinders deprive us from that sense of wonder; creating a myopic vision focused on the next KPI or metric. But as Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, once said, “Uncurious people do not lead examined lives; they cannot see causes that lie deeper than the surface.”

Everything from the first flint for starting a fire to Patagonia’s unique brand was the result of curiosity. In today’s consequential business world, there are plenty of days when I need to remind myself not to take things (or myself) so seriously, especially in heightened times. It might seem inconsequential, but research shows that this approach not only results in increased innovation, but also fewer decision-making errors and better team performance.  

Solution: You don’t necessarily have to go on a swing set or build a Lego fort. Just setting aside your phone for a few minutes and opening your mind up to exploration and “playtime” – whether that’s drawing or jotting down a blog – can allow you to see the world through new eyes.

Not living in the present 

The norm for most people today seems to be like living in a fast-paced video game where the unexpected is flung at you at increasing speeds with every new level you achieve.In contrast, the key to winning this “game” is counterintuitive. Learning how to stand in the moment, pause and then respond is how you thrive.

Jostein Solheim, former CEO of Ben & Jerry’s said, “When you are fully present and focused in the moment it allows you to develop your own inner resources, build your own tolerance, your own openness to ideas, your own thinking methodologies.” 

Prioritizing making being present a daily practice allows us to become aware of our thoughts – and where they come from – and if they are beneficial or not. Then, we can change them. Our thoughts inform our decisions and actions, which ultimately determines our success.

Solution: It might seem difficult in your hyper-paced world to stay present, so here’s an easy way for you to start: practice training your mind to be present for just one minute a day. Pick a word that is sacred to you. If you find your mind has wandered, bring it gently back to that word. Once you notice the effects, it can easily snowball into a full-fledged successful habit. 

Feeling like a fraud 

Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) certainly tick off all the boxes for success, but even they report feeling like underqualified frauds sometimes. This psychological phenomenon is known as Impostor Syndrome which can destroy your inner-confidence by making you feel like your success is undeserved. 

The reason is that our brain, our survival organ, filters information through two main filters: safe or not safe. Personal development is important to be able to keep these filters clear so your decision-making is accurate. 

As leaders, if we are not in a practice of clearing our filters, our interpretation of safe/not safe can be skewed. As leaders we are supposed to be able to lead others forward to better, safe environments. But if we don’t know how to do this for ourselves, we can’t do this for anyone else and start feeling like a fraud. 

Solution: Understand what drives you, where your edge is, how you respond when you get there and how to lead yourself past it. When you do, you gain confidence and trust in yourself – and imposter syndrome vanishes.

Our brain is wired to keep us safe. It’s what’s kept us alive for eons. Our personal experiences add to the primal filters of what is safe or not safe. Unless we consistently test the line of these filters, clear and expand them, we can become trapped in our own self-constructed safety zone that may have nothing to do with reality. With this mindset we often  become so sheltered with comfort that we aren’t really living. We are surviving. This becomes abundantly clear when we are thrust into unprecedented times, lose our bearings, and react rather than respond focusing on doing anything we can to maintain the status quo rather than lead with curiosity to innovate in the moment for the moment. 

Solution: Realize that living life truly begins at the edge of the comfort zone. Ask yourself: Is your desire for comfort fueled by fear — subconscious or otherwise? If so, it’s time to elevate your subconscious thinking to a conscious state and reframe and expand your comfort zone. 

This is best accomplished by entering what’s known as your anxiety sweet-spot – a psychological state where you have moderate anxiety and optimized performance. It can be accomplished with small, daily steps that take you out of your comfort zone and let you acknowledge that you’ve outgrown it. 

Identifying yourself and your life through your work 

Most of us make the mistake of tying our identity to our job, which limits our vision to the outside world and the infinite possibilities that lie there. According to Psychology Today, this affliction is known as “work-role centrality”, and it increases your likelihood of depression and anxiety — and can make you feel like you have less purpose.

Solution: To combat this, don’t rely on your job for your self-worth. Instead, adopt a new mindset and make personal fulfillment a habit. This can start with a few minutes a day — whether that’s chunking out time to spend time with friends, or getting more sleep so you can be a better leader. 

This thinking is what sets unstoppable leaders apart from top leaders. Because billion-dollar companies aren’t created by those who follow convention; they’re formed by unstoppable leaders who are emboldened to change the world.

Remember, we’re all susceptible to blind spots. It’s part of our human makeup. Initially, it’s not comfortable and can seem challenging to examine ourselves through the self-honesty lens, especially if we have let our egos go unchecked on the road to achievement. The first step, becoming aware, is often the toughest part.  We created tools to make this step easy. Once you start thinking differently and consciously, you can learn who you really are and unlock the experience of your best life. 

Want to learn more about how to find your personal blind spot so you can become unstoppable? Check out the StillPoint Experience – a unique science-based digital framework that shows you how you think subconsciously, and how you can use that to take you to your next level of conscious leadership.