Article by: MaryEllen | Thursday, September 23, 2010

By PJ McClure

“Wow, that’s almost too simple,” was Joe’s response when I laid out my concept about his mindset.

“Do you see any holes in it? Anything that doesn’t apply?” I asked.

He considered the question and shook his head. “It answers every question I’ve ever had about why I see things the way I do and how I can make great things happen more consistently.” He sat up and leaned forward, “This is seriously exciting stuff!”

Joe’s reaction was consistent with other successful people I studied. All of them went through life with certain routines and habits, but they all knew that there were deeper explanations for how they achieved success. I noticed the greater level of success a person had, the greater their desire to know why it happened.

Compare that with the moderately successful people down to abject failures I studied. They would obsess with reasons when things went wrong, but seldom gave their thoughts or actions a second thought when things went right. Chalking up successes to good fortune and luck was the norm. “Why try to fix what’s not broken,” was the overriding sentiment.

This nonchalant attitude spells a major difference between inconsistent, okay results and continually amazing performance. The idea isn’t about fixing something that works, but to understand what works so we can repeat the success and improve our performance. A desire and love of awareness is where all of this starts.

I first began to understand awareness as a tool for personal growth in the unlikely world of manufacturing. Good manufacturers remain aware of what is going on in their processes so that they know when things are working well and when there is need for concern. Awareness is also the foundation from which all quality management systems build.

Lean, SixSigma, TQM, etc., all rely on the company and its people staying aware on a regular basis. Initially, awareness stems from verbalizing and documenting what the processes entail. Knowing how each piece progresses and integrates with the others is vital to a successful operation. More than 90% of all manufacturing problems exist because different departments don’t realize how they impact each other.

When I’ve lead groups through process mapping, it is often the first time individuals see how they function within the whole. There is a new appreciation and importance for each step in their day. For the first time, they are aware and understand where they are in the scope of possible quality. Without the clarity of establishing a baseline, there is no way to measure progress or make improvements.

The second level of awareness happens during the process. It may seem obvious that you’re aware while in motion, but motion does not equal awareness. That’s where the phrase, going through the motions, comes from. We do things without thinking or noticing what is actually happening.

In a production line environment, unaware workers can create bottlenecks and voids that threaten to shutdown everyone around them. When they are aware of their influence up and downstream, they can observe potential pile-ups and make adjustments in process to correct for the moment. Bringing awareness to the act allows for greater insight and efficiency.

Finally, quality management systems bring awareness to the evaluation stage. We planned the process and executed the process, now we look to see how we can make it better. The questions are simple, direct, and powerful.

  • What did we plan for?
  • How did we perform according to plan?
  • What did we learn while performing toward the plan?
  • How can it be better next time?

This is the cyclical nature of improvement. Plan, execute, evaluate, improve, plan, execute…and it requires heightened awareness.

The greatest companies in the world use quality management systems to promote continual improvement and growth. I studied them continually while working for my MBA and have gone to numerous trainings that focus on the awareness needed for continual improvement. Companies spend millions to get these systems in place because of the potential return on investment.

Still yet, I’ve seldom seen any effort put toward making the same system important for the individual life. My primary role when coaching or consulting with someone regarding mindset is to first, heighten their awareness. When properly guided, our mindsets respond like a system that determines the quality of our lives. To take control of our mindsets we must first be aware.

Just like a quality management system for your life, we record, execute, evaluate, and improve each area. If you don’t keep a journal as a habit, start now.

  • Write down how you feel about the major areas of your life. Relationships, health, profession, spirituality, personal growth, and so on. How would you rate your level of fulfillment and satisfaction with each? Give it a rating from 1 to 10.
  • What are your habits and routines around those major areas? These are the things that have gotten you where you are.
  • Journal daily about what you notice in those areas. Make immediate corrections and adjustments for improvement when you can. Note areas for future evaluation.
  • Go back through your journal on a weekly, monthly basis and look for patterns. Where did things work well? How about, not so well?
  • What can you do to make them better, regardless of how well they worked?
  • Make your plan of improvement and put it into action!

Rinse and repeat… keep repeating the cycle and gaining deeper awareness. The goal is not perfection, but a life of constant improvement. As your awareness increases, you become more efficient and less stressed. Feelings of overwhelm dissipate because you understand how all parts of your life integrate to produce the whole.

A beautiful contradiction gives you peace. The greater your awareness of life’s complexity, the less complex your life becomes.

Take the lead from the production juggernauts of the last century. Understand where you are, pay attention to how you perform daily, evaluate how that performance serves your life, and make your next performance better. This simple and powerful formula will change your life and help you manufacture your own success and happiness.


PJ McClure is the world’s foremost authority on mindset and how to build yours for optimum happiness, fulfillment, and success. He has helped more than 3,000 entrepreneurs in 54 countries to have more life by building a business that supports your ideal life instead of killing it. His Goals Guide is helping people from all walks of life to understand the difficulties of achieving goals and how to make them work for you. Get your copy of The Mindset Maven’s Goals Guide here.

PJ is also the creator of The Ultimate Working Moms Only Mindset: Seven Easy Steps to Achieving a Prosperous, Purposeful and Happy Life.