Feeling stuck? Update your internal GPS system and more

by | Apr 7, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Over the past month, three individuals in totally different settings have quoted this Marshall Goldsmith’s 2007 book title to make their point.

In all three cases, they used the book title as a riff on why you don’t want to “do the same thing over and over and expect different results.”  That happens to be Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, not the point of the book and not very actionable advice.

Marshall’s 17-year-old book gives off a different vibe than the Einstein quote, not nearly as damming as a case of insanity. (Yes, after hearing all of these references, I was curious and returned to the source material.)

Consider the classic book’s subtitle: “How Successful People Become EVEN MORE SUCCESSFUL!” Plus he dedicated the book “To all successful leaders who want to ‘take it to the next level’ and get even better.” His message is more “Be careful!” than “Major Hazards Ahead! Proceed at Your Own Risk!”

That’s not too surprising considering how the world today, including the business world, feels like a much more complex, uncertain place than it did in early 2007. Consider some of the events we’ve experienced: the 2007-2008 global financial crisis; the rise of social media; new tech tools (smartphones, cloud computing, and now AI); increasing concerns about climate change and sustainability; political instability with trade wars; the COVID-19 pandemic; the rollback of women’s reproductive rights in the U.S.; and a reexamination of diversity, equity, and inclusion along with polarization to name a few.

Yet Marshall’s pronouncement “what got you here won’t get you there” is even more appropriate today with one caveat. You’ve got to focus on your mindset too, not just your actions. Otherwise, you can run into greater hazards today. 

Here’s why. In his book, Marshall was concerned about individuals and their behaviors, especially their problematic ones. He explained that he wrote the book to help people learn to stop taking actions that no longer worked for them based on their new situations. They then needed to learn to start doing new more appropriate behaviors.

Marshall used an analogy of an “internal GPS system” to describe the differences between individuals who could benefit from his book and coaching services versus those who were doing well on their own. (Keep in mind that GPS was still a relatively new consumer technology back in 2007.)

According to Marshall, individuals got in trouble when they lost their internal “You Are Here” map for their behavior. They needed a strong internal compass to keep them grounded and acting appropriately in various surroundings.

Because these folks couldn’t pinpoint where they were on their figurative “You Are Here” map, they tended to be clueless about how their behavior was coming across to all the people who mattered in their lives, their boss, their co-workers, their family, their friends, and anyone else who was expecting them to know better, especially in new settings. In other words, these individuals had a number of routines that had morphed into bad habits for their new responsibilities and setting.

A “You Are Here” map can still guide you, assuming you expand it into a more comprehensive map that you update regularly. The map has to include your mindset, which does more than ground you in your behaviors. Your mindset guides your thinking as well as your actions.  

Continuing with the technology analogy, your mindset serves as the “operating system” for your mind and body, orienting the way you think and act. Your mindset filters how you make sense of what’s going on, how you should act, and what you should do, including the goals you want to set. Your mindset, which is made up of your beliefs, is affected by your experiences, education, and culture. 

You control your mindset, and you can flex and change it. However, we show preferences, a la fixed or growth, depending on the topic, situation, or past experiences. And if you don’t regularly question what you’re thinking or doing, your mindset can get ingrained in a fixed way and you get stuck, finding it hard to adapt your thinking and your behavior. That’s what the three speakers I heard were probably suggesting.

If you’re familiar with the concept of fixed and growth mindsets, it’s more challenging to change one’s thinking and actions with a predominantly fixed mindset. In this mindset we tend to believe we were born with a certain amount of smarts. We want to stick with the status quo, which we view as a way to protect ourselves.

By contrast, in a growth mindset we’re more receptive to new ideas, people, and experience. We’re open to learning, trying new things, and growing. This is the point of Dr. Carol groundbreaking work about mindsets, which builds off of the work of  William James, known as the father of American Psychology. (Carol published her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success a year before Marshall’s book.)

The upshot is: You’ve got to ask yourself a new question more frequently these days: “Are you updating your internal operating system to stay up to date?” 

Unfortunately, unlike your devices, you’re not going to get direct, unambiguous prompts reminding you it’s time to perform a system update on your mindset, internal GPS, or anything else that’s out of date. (By contrast, your body will send you clearer signals that it’s losing energy or running into problems.)

Nor can you just add new apps, a la learning new skills in classes. You’ve got to stretch and strengthen your way of being and thinking. This involves finding effective ways to increase your agility, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, compassion, and capacity. Regular meditation also is an effective practice. You can do any of this work on your own, with others, or with a leadership coach like me.

To get you there, contact me, read my blog posts here, or connect with me on LinkedIn. The journey is worth it!


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