A guide, for the best life.

Renaissance painting depicting three men's profiles and two animal heads. Center: bearded man. Left: elderly man with white beard. Right: young man in profile. Below: lion and dog heads.

The Crucial Mindset You Need For Authentic Success

July 07, 20249 min read

In a world where success is often defined by external validation and comparison to others, we find ourselves caught in an endless cycle of proving our worth. We're essentially shooting ourselves in the foot, as this lifestyle necessarily implies inauthenticity. Roger Waters from Pink Floyd captures this sentiment perfectly:

"Mother, do you think they'll like this song?"

But what if the key to true, authentic success lies not in outdoing others and showing how amazing you are, but in a fundamental shift in how you view your own potential and efforts? This article explores the crucial mindset shift that will guide you toward achieving genuine fulfillment and success in your life.

The Mindset Shift: From Identity-Focused to Effort-Focused Success

Imagine two guys facing a challenge - let's say, learning to play guitar.

The first guy, Panchito, thinks, "I'm just not a musical person." He's focused on his identity, on what he believes he inherently is or isn't. The second guy, Carlitos, thinks, "This is tough, but if I practice regularly, I'll improve, wait and see." Carlitos is focused on effort and the process of growth.

This difference in thinking isn't just about playing guitar - it's a fundamental approach to life. It's the essence of what we're calling identity-focused versus effort-focused mindsets.

Panchito's identity-focused mindset leads him to avoid challenges that might threaten his self-image. He sticks to what he knows he's good at, missing out on new experiences and growth opportunities. Carlitos, with his effort-focused mindset, sees each struggle as a chance to learn and improve. He's more likely to try new things, persist through difficulties, and ultimately, grow as a person.

Psychologist Carol Dweck calls this the difference between a fixed mindset (Panchito) and a growth mindset (Carlitos). But it's not just academic theory - this shift in thinking can profoundly affect how we approach everything, from our relationships to our careers or businesses, personal development, and overall satisfaction with life.

By moving from "I am" or "I am not" to "I can learn" or "I can improve," we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities. We become more resilient, more open to feedback, and more likely to achieve meaningful personal growth.

This isn't about constant self-improvement pressure - it's about freeing ourselves from the limitations of a fixed self-image and embracing the potential for change and growth in all areas of our lives.

Don't be like Panchito, be more like Carlitos.


Understanding the Two Mindsets

To clarify further, let's break down the key characteristics of each mindset:

Identity-Focused Mindset:

  • Success is seen as a validation of who you are

  • Failure is perceived as a threat to one's identity

  • Leads to constant comparison and rivalry with others

  • Often results in fear of taking risks or trying new things

Effort-Focused Mindset:

  • Success is viewed as the result of hard work and continuous improvement

  • Failure is seen as a learning opportunity

  • Encourages personal growth and authentic self-expression

  • Fosters resilience and adaptability

Why This Shift Matters for Men's Authentic Success

  1. Breaking Free from Societal Expectations: Society often pushes men to prove their worth through achievements, wealth, or status. An effort-focused mindset allows you to define success on your own terms.

  2. Reducing Harmful Competition: As French philosopher René Girard observed, much of our desires and definitions of success are mimetic - copied from others. By focusing on personal growth, you can reduce the need for constant comparison and rivalry. What do you like? It's better to ask this question to yourself, answer it genuinely, and find out that perhaps you like a bike ride with your friends on a Saturday more than flexing a Rolex with people you don't like. True comparison: bikes can be very expensive too!

  3. Fostering Genuine Relationships: Men who embrace an effort-focused mindset tend to be more empathetic and supportive, leading to more authentic connections with others.

  4. Achieving Lasting Fulfillment: True success comes from aligning actions with personal values and continually striving for growth, rather than reaching arbitrary external benchmarks.


Implementing the Mindset Shift: Practical Strategies

  1. Reframe Your Self-Talk:

    • Old mindset: "I need to be the best to be worthy."

    • New mindset: "Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow."

  2. Embrace Vulnerability: Allow yourself to be a beginner at new skills. View struggles as part of the growth process, not as failures. For instance, if you're learning a new language, celebrate the moments when you successfully communicate, even with mistakes.

  3. Set Process-Oriented Goals: Focus on the journey rather than just the destination. Celebrate effort and progress, not just outcomes. If you're working on fitness, for example, set goals like "exercise for 30 minutes three times a week" rather than just "lose 20 pounds."

  4. Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a good friend facing challenges.

  5. Seek Diverse Experiences: Regularly step out of your comfort zone to broaden your perspective and challenge your assumptions about success.

The Impact on Your Life

Adopting this mindset shift can lead to:

  • Greater Resilience: Viewing setbacks as temporary and informative rather than permanent reflections of your worth.

  • Improved Mental Health: Reducing the anxiety that comes from constant comparison and fear of failure.

  • More Authentic Relationships: Connecting with others based on genuine interests and values rather than status or competition.

  • Continuous Personal Growth: Finding joy and fulfillment in the process of learning and improving, regardless of external outcomes.


Growth Mindset In Real Life

Let me share a personal experience that illustrates this mindset shift in action.

I was struggling with writer's block while working on this article, so I decided to go for a run. On Sundays, Mexico City closes some of its main streets to traffic, turning them into a playground for runners, cyclists, kids, and the occasional shirtless guy rocking out to Freddie Mercury on rollerblades. (Yes, that's a thing, and no, I can't explain it, but it's indescribably awesome.)

There I was, jogging along, still mulling over what story to tell, when another runner zoomed past me. Without even thinking, I started to speed up. Classic, right? It's like my ego was saying, "How dare he? Doesn't he know I'm a runner? And a good one at that?"

But then I caught myself. Right there, mid-stride, I realized I was falling into the identity trap. I was trying to prove I was "the runner" instead of just... well, running.

So I made a choice. Instead of trying to catch up with this stranger, I shifted my focus. I started thinking about what I needed to do to actually improve my running.

And you know what? I began to notice things - my breathing, my stride, even the trees around me. My speed didn't change much, and yeah, that competitive twitch was still there. But I chose to focus on getting better rather than proving myself to someone I was never going to see again.

It felt good. There's something almost meditative about getting lost in what you're doing, about actively participating in the moment instead of trying to prove your worth. It's like creating your own personal version of success, right there on the running path.

This is what the mindset shift is all about. It's not about ignoring your competitive spirit or never wanting to improve. It's about changing the reason why you want to improve. It's the difference between "I need to be the best to prove I'm a real runner" and "I want to improve because I enjoy running and want to do it better."

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Men

This mindset shift isn't a new concept. Ancient philosophers like Epictetus, Chrysippus, and Marcus Aurelius were grappling with questions of identity, success, and personal growth long before it became a multibillion-dollar self-help industry.

My personal favorite, Epictetus, dropped this gem:

"No man is free who is not master of himself."

There's something in this quote that really resonates with what we've been discussing about mindset.

When Epictetus talks about being "master of yourself," he's not suggesting we need to have ironclad willpower or never make mistakes. He's pointing to something deeper - the idea that true freedom comes from understanding what we can and can't control, and focusing our energy on the former.

In the context of our identity-focused versus effort-focused mindset discussion, this takes on a whole new meaning. It's not about controlling external outcomes or fitting into some predefined notion of success. It's about mastering our approach to life itself.

Think about it. How much of our stress comes from trying to control things we simply can't? Other people's opinions, societal expectations, the unpredictable twists of fate - we exhaust ourselves trying to manage these externals. But what if, like Epictetus suggests, we turned that energy inward instead?

This is where the effort-focused (growth) mindset comes into play. By shifting our focus to what we can control - our efforts, our responses, our commitment to growth - we're essentially practicing this ancient wisdom. We're not claiming to have it all figured out, but we're at least pointing ourselves in the right direction.

It's liberating, in a way. Instead of tying our sense of self to outcomes we can't control, we anchor it in something we can: our own efforts and growth. It doesn't mean we don't care about results, but we're not defined by them either.

Now, I'm not saying this is easy. If it were, we'd all be walking around like zen masters, untroubled by the world's chaos. But that's not the point. The point is to strive, to make the effort, to focus on growth rather than fixed identities or external validation.


Conclusion: Your Path to Authentic Success

The crucial mindset shift from identity-focused to effort-focused success is your guide to unlocking authentic fulfillment in all areas of life. In a world that often pushes men to prove their worth through external achievements, your ability to find value in personal growth and continuous effort is your greatest asset.

Embrace this powerful mindset shift today. Your future self – with deeper relationships, a stronger sense of purpose, and a life aligned with your true values – will thank you for the effort you put in now. Remember, authentic success isn't about being the best man in the eyes of others; it's about becoming the best version of yourself, one effort at a time.

Next time you're feeling caught up in the rat race of external validation, take a moment to channel that Stoic wisdom. Ask yourself: Am I focusing on what I can control? Am I defining myself by my efforts and growth, or by things outside my influence?

It's not about being perfect. It's about making the effort, again and again, to master ourselves. And in that effort, we might just find a kind of freedom and success that no external achievement could ever provide.

Back to Blog

Copyright 2022 . All rights reserved