One of the hardest parts of being on the road to success is the path itself. Becoming the person you want to be isn’t going to be a smooth, easy ride. You are, frankly, going to eat shit pretty damn often before you start to taste victory.
This is actually a good thing. Failure, especially when you’re starting out, means that you’re doing things that are outside of your comfort zone. You’re pushing yourself past your limits. You’re investing the sweat equity now that will lead to the rewards later on. But it can be hard to stay motivated when it feels like you’re just getting your ass beat while you try to get better. Becoming someone worth dating can be a long, frustrating journey, and it’s very easy to get demoralized.
But if you want greater success in your dating life, you’re going to have to have the mental strength to endure. Here’s how you develop a mindset for success that will keep you going through the hardest times.
Focus on What You Can Control
The first step to developing a success mindset is to recognize a fundamental truth: you are not God. You’re also not Superman, Doctor Manhattan, or the Beyonder.
You are a creature of meat and bone, not an all-powerful being. This is important to keep in mind because we tend to get caught up in the idea that we have – or should have – more control of our lives. You have relatively little control over your body, for example. You have no real say in your height or your build.
Other people are also outside of your control. No matter how amazing you may be, there will always be people who just won’t like you the way you want and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
Random chance will also be a factor in everything you do, and it’s outside of your control. There will be times that there simply won’t be a path to victory – even if you do everything right. That’s just life. And the sooner you accept it, the less those hardships and failures will hurt you.
Now don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean that you’re helpless. It doesn’t mean that you have no agency or any ability to change or affect your life. It simply means that there are things that you cannot control. Much of the misery in our lives springs from the idea that we should have been able to do something about things that we have no way to change.
This is why, when you want to develop a success mindset, you focus on the things that are within your control. You can’t change your height, for example, but you can affect how people perceive you. You may not be tall, but you can learn to fill the room. Your genetics determine whether you’ll have a six-pack or not, but you can still be fit regardless of your size. You may not be able to win the heart of that specific person, but you can make yourself more attractive and dateable over all. And by being prepared, you can make your own luck and maximize your odds for success.
By acknowledging the things that are outside of your control, you learn to not let things affect you. It sucks, but it is what it is. You can’t affect it and thus you can free up your emotional energy for the things that are within your control.
If You Can’t Control The Outcome, Focus on the Process
Once you bring up the topic of things being out of your control, there’s an almost immediate impulse to say “well then what’s the point? Nothing I do is going to make a difference.” And to an extent, they’re right. By doing nothing, you influence nothing. But the fact that there are things outside of your control doesn’t mean that you can’t work to turn things to your favor. Not doing anything is giving up control entirely. Focusing on the things you do have influence over, on the other hand, maximizes your opportunities for success while minimizing the damage to your sense of self.
When it comes to “what’s in my control” and “what’s out of my control”, I think of blackjack. Out of all games of chance that you’ll find at casinos, blackjack allows the player the greatest control. There is always an element of random chance – the shuffled cards – but by playing with the correct strategy, you tilt the odds. You may still lose – chance will always exist – but by focusing on the process, you’ve increased your ability to win beyond “close your eyes, make a wish and count to three”.
Just as importantly, however, is understanding that your lack of perfect control allows you to shift your mindset. When you’re focused like a laser on your goal, you make achieving that specific goal central to your sense of self-worth. Didn’t get that A despite studying your ass off? Didn’t lose 30 lbs like you said you were going to, even though you were dieting like a madman and exercised like your life depended on it? Failed to lose your virginity by your freshman year in college1. Now you’re going to feel like ten pounds of shit in a five pound sack. You’re a grade-a certified loser.
Except… you’re wrong. The fact that something didn’t happen the way you wanted doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It just means that things didn’t line up right. Because there are factors outside of your control, there will be many reasons that you simply won’t achieve your goal. The vagaries of the human metabolism, a bad night’s sleep, even just shitty luck can all cause you to fail through no fault of your own. Focusing on the process, on the other hand, means that you know that your inability to succeed is not about who you are. Sometimes you get dealt a bad hand and that sucks. Now you have to try again.
Not to mention: focusing on what you can control guarantees you that no matter what the outcome is, you will have made progress. It may not be where you hope to be, but you’re a hell of a lot further than you were before. Nothing can take that from you.
Keep in mind: this isn’t a reason to use “I did my best” as a way of excusing failure. “I’ll do my best” tends to be a hedge, an excuse for half-assing something that deserves the whole ass. Failing is still failing and it’s important to acknowledge that.
But that doesn’t mean that failing is bad per se. See, that’s because…
There is No Good Or Bad, But Thinking Makes It So
Ever notice those people who never seem to let life get them down? The “always look on the bright side” folks who seem so delusionally happy that you just kind of want to slap them?
Yeah, they’re kind of annoying, especially when it feels like you’re neck deep in shit and slipping deeper. But they have a point: events are ultimately neutral. How we perceive them, however, changes how we feel about them. Losing a loved one, for example, is a bad thing. But when death is coming at the end of a long, painful decline, it’s a relief. Losing your job is awful… but it can also be the thing that frees you to find a better one.
To give a personal example: getting dumped by a woman I thought was perfect was – at the time – the end of my world. And yet, if she hadn’t dumped me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Things that happen are just that: things that happen. Our thoughts and interpretations give them meaning and import – and thus, decide how much they hurt or help us. Choosing whether to look to the bright side or the dark side can affect everything.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the best way to develop a mindset for success is to achieve Panglossian-levels of delusional optimism. Nor does it mean that you should be going around talking about how everything bad has an upside. Checking out from reality isn’t any better than wallowing utter misery.
What it does mean, however, is changing how you choose to interpret events. Mistakes happen – but mistakes don’t mean the end of the world. If, for example, you have a bad day and fuck up at work, you may worry that you’ve just destroyed your career. Or… you grit your teeth, acknowledge it and soldier onwards. It happened, but it’s not the worst thing to happen. You fix things as best you can and move on. By the time the next week rolls around, it’s pretty clear: it wasn’t as bad as you thought it would have been. You’ve turned down the immediate panic and gotten through the set-back and pulled out a win.
So it is with dating. You get rejected by one person… you can assume that this means that you’ll never know love or you can just take it as one person not being into you out of potentially millions who might. You’re now free to find someone who does dig what you have to offer. You’re not trying to make it so this was the greatest gift ever given to you, you’re simply learning that something doesn’t have to suck as much as you think it will.
And that can be important because…
Sometimes You Need To Fail Your Way To Success
Success is a tricky bastard at times because most of us misunderstand it. We want to become successful at something as quickly as possible and ignore how much blood, sweat and tears comes along with it. We study success stories and assume that if we duplicate everything they did, we’ll succeed.
Worse: we tend to assume that a failure, any failure, is a sign that we can’t succeed.
This comes up a lot in dating. People make one attempt before declaring everything to be hopeless or assume that if they haven’t crossed their particular finish line by some arbitrary age, they’re done for. No point in trying to date/have sex/get married/what-have-you once you’re past that particular point in your life. Your genitals fall off and people can see the neon LOSER sign over your head.
But failure is what leads to success. Failure is the fire that tempers our steel and firms our resolve. Failing early, for example, helps us learn to not fear failure. The fact that we didn’t succeed is just that: a lack of success. As with many things, the fear of failure – the beliefs we ascribe to it – is worse than the actual results of failing. Getting shot down by the hottie at the bar, teaches us that we weren’t destroyed by her rejection. A failure at work doesn’t mean the end of the world.
Failure does usually come with consequences. Failing at starting a business, for example, means that you’ve lost the time and money you invested in it. But it also shows you just how much success means to you; how badly do you want to make this dream come true? Are you going to learn from your mistakes and try again? Or maybe now you’ll re-prioritize and decide that something else is actually more important to you. That doesn’t mean that you are a failure; it means that in not succeeding at one thing, you’ve realized that you care about other things more. Failure in one area is often what leads to your becoming a success in another.
But if you’re letting the fear of failure keeping you from beginning, then you need to remember:
Accept That You May Be Wrong
One of the hardest things to accept in life is that you might be wrong about something – especially when our identities get wrapped up in it.
Perversely, this actually causes a lot of people to fight against their own success. Even when we’re wrong about something that makes us miserable, we’ll fight tooth and nail to hold onto that belief because… well, who would we be without it?
Take the (incredibly common) idea that being short makes a man unattractive. Point out that John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are shorties and people will argue that they don’t count because they’re handsome, rich actors. Never mind that this implicit rejection accepts that one can be short and desirable at the same time because attractiveness exists on multiple axises – they just don’t count. Have women talk about how much they love their diminutive boyfriends and husbands and they’ll be dismissed as exceptions that prove the rule2. The state of “short = unattractive” is a cornerstone of their identity and changing that is unacceptable.
As a result: they’ve failed before they’ve even made the attempt. They won’t consider the possibility that they could be wrong about something so central to their identity.
So it is with many self-limiting beliefs: you have held to them so long that you won’t let go.
But what if you’re wrong? What if – despite that bone-deep belief that you’re singled out by fate – you’re wrong and you can change? What is the worst case scenario if you do start putting the work in?
Either you’ll fail – at which point you’re no worse off than you were before – or you’ll improve.
(And yes, we’ve already considered the possibility of being wrong about your ability to succeed. That’s called life, and having a realistic knowledge of your limits is useful. Now go try to be clever somewhere else, adults are talking.)
If you want success, then you need to be ready to accept it. Refusing to believe in your own potential only cuts yourself off at the knees before you’ve even made the attempt.
Failure will happen. That’s part of life. But a success-oriented mindset means that failure won’t stop you. You’ll have the inner strength and endurance to not just survive but thrive.
And that is how you put yourself on the path to becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.