In his book Overachievement John Eliot discusses how to get into a Trusting Mindset (A mindset of accomplishment) by thinking like a squirrel. He also defines an opposing method of thought called the Training Mindset. This is how we think when practicing to do something. The process of learning and getting better is a completely different mindset than actually doing something.
In the Training Mindset, you second-guess what you do. You think about it while you are doing it and evaluate every move to see if you can make it better. While practicing you should be analytical and critical, but are those helpful when you are actually doing something? How do you get into that Trusting Mindset that lets you just use what you’ve learned without over-thinking the process? In the book, Eliot states that a lot of mediocre achievers never get beyond this Training Mindset.
He uses squirrels to make his point about Trusting Mindset. Squirrels, he points out, don’t really think, they just react to their surroundings. When a squirrel is presented with a telephone wire to cross, it doesn’t consider how windy it is or how high the wire is off the ground, it just scrambles across. People get nervous and start think about falling and calculating how fast they should move to maximize safety as they make their way across the wire.
Another example of Trusting Mindset is tossing a set of car keys to someone. It’s an easy task, you can do it without thinking. Suppose someone told you that you could get a million dollars for successfully tossing them a set of keys. Would raising the stakes change your process? Would you be able to do it? Would it decrease your chances? It would flip you instantly into Training Mindset.
Here are some adjectives Eliot uses to describe a Trusting Mindset: Accepting, Instinctive, Playful, Letting it Happen.
He also says, “The Trusting Mindset is what you were in before you knew any better.”
To use the Trusting Mindset, he advises “practice, practice, practice” and that you should come to accept and enjoy the pressure that comes with creating something. Expect the fear and reservations that come when you are starting something new and let them become part of the experience while you focus your abilities and remain confident. Don’t not do something because you are worried about failure. In other words, there is no secret except knowing how you always feel before you begin and letting go of those emotions while you are creating.
Once you start creating, become that squirrel, unconsciously using every ability you have to get across that wire without fear or stopping to consider the consequences.
Be a squirrel.