Monday 25 January 2021


The Bhagavad Gita has one of the earliest articulations of what we today know as the importance of mindset. It talks about the importance of "doing one's duty and not focusing on the fruits of one's labor". This is such a fundamental framing of the concept of mindset that many other following philosophies and disciplines have borrowed this and articulated it for their specific contexts.

But in many ways, following what the Bhagavad Gita and others say can be rather unnerving. Applying this mindset in one's daily life can feel like exhausting. It can feel like you are not making any progress at all. But you still need to keep on going, not worrying about or focusing on, expecting results.

Now there is emerging research in the field of behavior change, from the likes of BJ Fogg, that adds a different dimension. This identifies the role of small wins and incremental success markers have in wanting us to keep going. And help our brains wanting to adopt a new mindset. Andrew Hubermann, Stanford neurobiologist, and his study of the human brain has also shown that this 'incremental wins' approach is among the best ways to keep the motivation going and to reinforce it along the way. Most of the dopamine release in the brain happens not after achieving some big goals. But it is actually released when we are in pursuit of those goals.

So, is the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita which calls for a detachment from the goals and BJ Fogg's research about celebrating micro-wins inherently at conflict with each other? How can these two forces be resolved? One which is philosophical, and the other, that seems more practical and looks to create an environment that reinforces motivation by training our brains to be driven by the incremental wins.

Actually, it struck me one day that there is a very elegant resolution for this. And it can be very simple. It goes as follows.

Reframe the mindset into one which falls in love with the process. In fact, staying detached and doing the work is exactly what the incremental rewards should enable.

Fall in love with the process of doing and get the rewards from this. I would like to call this as the habit of 'going on a Process Quest'.

This is the simple and straightforward framing that makes the Growth Mindset something that can be learned. Which is to fall in love with the process. Change the mindset from "success comes from the eventual outcome of what you are doing", to "success is doing the process". This way the micro-goals and small wins will indeed be triggered when the process is being done.

Going on a Process Quest nicely resolves the tension. Detachment from goal orientation on one hand. And the motivation for behavior change requiring small wins on the other.

A Process Quest mindset provides an elegant solution by making this into a workflow for the mind, eliminating friction.

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