The mindset that silently holds us back

January 19, 2023

The mindset that silently holds us back

“We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”—Albert Einstein

We hear the word “mindset” get thrown around all the time. Whether we are talking about leadership, work, productivity, or self-development, all the “experts” tell us that our quality of life is as good as the mindset we adopt. So when we feel stuck, stagnant, and like something is holding us back from our quest to develop ourselves, it probably has to do with the way we think.

Repeated thoughts lead to beliefs, and beliefs lead to emotions, which lead to actions, which lead to outcomes. These outcomes serve to support those ideas and convictions, perpetuating their cycle. So, you must stop the loop if you feel stuck and want to unstick yourself. Break the wheel and replace it with something new. Something more suitable for you.

Here are some mindsets or thinking patterns that might be holding you back from reaching your full potential and becoming the best version of who you are, who you could be, and who you want to become.

Negative Thinking

Humans have a natural tendency for what psychologists call negativity bias. We spot what is wrong, what could go wrong, and imagine things that are going absolutely wrong more than the positive things in life.

This is hardwired into human DNA for survival, dating back to the times when our ancestors lived in the wild and had to evade predators. But in the modern world of technology and information, it can become pretty detrimental.

Many people have a tendency to quickly descend into catastrophizing and negative thinking. We can become fixated on focusing on everything that might go wrong, even though it may be helpful to consider potential scenarios that might interfere with our goals in order to anticipate, prevent, and have a backup plan available in case it does.

This leads to anxiety, paranoia, and a plethora of other mental health issues, and it just straight up sucks the happiness out of our successes. It also tends to cause us to live in fear.


Fear is a natural emotion and is crucial for survival. It is beneficial to fear things that could potentially lead us into danger—but only if the fear of a potential threat is actually real.

But nowadays, humans have all sorts of irrational fears, such as fear of failure, fear of success, fear of loss, fear of being judged, fear of losing our identity, fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, et cetera.

Fear can also sometimes come from a place of past wounds and childhood trauma, in which case there is no shame in raising your hand and seeking professional help so that you can unpack the source of your fears and be free from them.

We were all taught that it is often better to err on the side of caution, and leaders are used to walking the fine line between taking risks and knowing how to minimize them in order to maximize profit and succeed.

But when fear takes the lead in all our decisions, we find ourselves limited in the opportunities we could take, and it often leads us to doubt ourselves, our skills, and our experiences.


It is easy to give in to doubt when it creeps in. While it is normal to feel doubt every now and then, it can hold us back from going after our goals and getting what we need and want simply because we feel like we can’t.

When we doubt ourselves (and others) too much to the point where we don’t even try, we create more problems than we thought we were avoiding by not trying.

Fixed mindset

On the flip side, being too sure isn’t always a good thing either.

Whether it is never questioning your thoughts and beliefs, testing whether what you believe to be true is really right or whether there are other better “truths” you can explore, or being so sure that who you are now is all you will ever be and that you can no longer go beyond your current skills and talents, a fixed mindset can be a huge setback for you.

Nothing in this world is permanent except change. And if the whole world around you is constantly changing and evolving, who’s to say you are limited in what you can learn, achieve, and develop?

Performance mindset

Sometimes, fear of failure prevents us from trying anything new. Other times, we opt for the “fake it till you make it” kind of thinking.

We are so afraid of being branded as “failures” for making mistakes that we would rather appear competent and productive (even when we are not) than let others see us make mistakes.

This prevents us from actually learning and growing from our mistakes. We are content with faking it so that we don’t progress. Sure, you “make” it. You keep the job or position you hold. But you don’t see any real progress either. And at some point, the person who refuses to grow gets pushed out by someone who is daring enough to learn even at the risk of stumbling and looking like a fool.

Failure can be a lever for growth and success if you use it to learn.

Prevention mindset

The higher up the ladder we go, the more we want to cling to the power that comes with it. Sometimes, you fear that a mistake can cause you to lose the privilege you are basking in, so you opt to avoid problems instead of taking the risk and confronting them.

We often hear the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but you don’t wait for your car to break down while you're driving on a highway before you take it to the repair shop. You have it frequently and consistently checked, tuned up, and maintained so that you can prevent accidents before they happen.

People who avoid problems often end up creating more problems. Even if something isn’t broken, it would be worthwhile to proactively seek ways to make it better. 

Innovation starts with being willing to change and creating something to adapt to that change before the need to change occurs.

Implemental mindset

Sometimes we get addicted to action, and we don’t stop to check whether our actions are still driving us in the right direction.

While it is good to get things done by “doing,” pausing to re-evaluate, ground yourself, and check your bearings is necessary to make sure we don’t burn ourselves to the ground doing things that don’t take us where we want to go.

Changing the mindset

There are plenty of other thinking patterns that might be holding you back that did not make the list. But regardless of the mindset you might be struggling to break, being aware of your thought patterns and how they can be problematic is a good first step.

Changing the way you think will take time. You may find it challenging and even exhausting at first because you must constantly be on the lookout for your self-limiting thought patterns and consciously alter them until they become automatic for you.

It might make you feel vulnerable and exposed, too. That’s okay. 

It can be extremely helpful in your effort to alter your mindset to have someone you can trust, someone who genuinely cares about you, and who would want to help hold you accountable and lead you back when you've gotten off track.

But when you’ve done the hard work, you will notice the changes they make in the way you feel, act, and interact with the people around you, your environment, and yourself.

Thanks for reading “A Brilliant Tribe.”