I wrote this blog, R.C. Thornton- Intelligent Personal Development, as a comprehensive personal development blog that seeks to answer one question:

How can we be successful in our lives?

Throughout college and beyond (from where he recently graduated), I obsessively pursued learning more about this topic, and realized a few important things:

1. Successful people have a distinctive set of traits, mindsets and skillsets that most people do not.

Of course; that didn’t take rocket science to figure out: successful people are different.  It’s what I figured out next that was the most interesting revelation:

2. It’s actually not that hard to gain those skillsets.

I don’t mean this in a “get rich quick scheme” kind of way, as if to say we can all go quit our jobs,make $182.34 an hour peddling stuff online, and be guaranteed that it will all somehow work out in the end.  Rather, I realized that that the reasons we (including myself at one point) think success is so hard to achieve is because we often try to change our actions without understanding the underlying beliefs that are the core directors of the way we act.

That is, the idea that:

Mindset Inspires Action!  

Mindset inspires action is the idea that, at first, it’s more important to focus on the way we think about problems and the problems in our mindset that hold us back, rather than worrying about the specific action steps needed to improve.  In other words, by changing our latent thoughts , our actions will naturally–or more easily–follow next.

I’ve embodied this philosophy in this blog’s first and guiding article, the main idea.

What exactly do I mean by mindset inspires action, and how is it different from how many approach personal development?  Let me tell you the story of the beginning of this philosophy, and how thinking about public speaking developed this idea:

How “Mindset Inspires Action” Came to Be

One evening in December 2011, I was at a good friend’s Christmas party.  As was customary, the first order of business was to raid the bar.  An hour into the party, I had  drank 3 gin and tonics with cranberry juice (an oddly good combination, you should try it), and was in a state of slight inebriation which allowed me to easily ponder and opine about the world.  As I stared at the melting ice in my translucent-purple drink, I had a striking thought.  My friend Peter, who I often spent late nights discussing interesting topics with (at least they seemed interesting after a bottle of wine), was standing next to me.  I asked him:

“Peter, don’t you think it’s odd how people try to learn public speaking?”

He responded with something that seemed like  he was confused, but it was too loud to hear what he was saying.  I just kept talking:

“Think about it.  I love public speaking, and it’s something I’m really passionate about.  When I go up and give a speech, I just go.  I don’t think about my hand gestures, the pacing of my words, the way I stand, whether or not to tell a joke…it just comes out, and it usually comes out great.

“But think of the average public speaking book that those wanting to improve their speaking skills will buy.  It’s 300-odd pages long, and contains detail after detail about different types of hand gestures, tone inflections, etc.  Hell, it even tells you how many jokes to crack.  It seems like no one could possibly memorize and execute so many minute details.  Isn’t trying to do so an awful way to learn how to speak?”

Finally, the crowd died down a bit, and I could hear Peter’s response: “Well then, if not that RC, how can you teach someone who wants to become a better speaker?  How did you learn?”

I thought about it for a minute or two, and I realized how I had learned it.  I didn’t think about it consciously as I was learning, but it made sense now:

“I think I learned because I had the right mindset, Peter.”

He said: “The right mindset?  How can you expect someone to learn how to speak if you don’t cover the details?  You can’t just omit talking about tone inflections and expect someone to become a great speaker!”

I thought about what he said, and said: “You’re right, you’re right.  I’m not saying you can ignore the details.  Clearly, detail is the key to excellent execution.  What I mean is this: because I understand the concepts and parameters that define a good speech and allow me to improve, the rest basically came naturally.  I don’t try to “memorize” how to give a good speech.  I have a few basic ideas about giving a speech: such as “saying only words that are value-added”, “seeing myself as an entertainer in addition to an informer”, and “emulating and practicing the speech techniques of other speakers I consider to be excellent”; when I combined those three attributes with a burning desire to improve myself, everything else came naturally.

“Even if I wanted to try to memorize 1,000 tips on hand gestures and tone inflections, I don’t think I could anyway.  Frankly, I think that’s why so many people think public speaking is hard and give up trying to improve: they think they can’t handle it.  They don’t know where to focus.

“So by focusing on the key, core concepts, I’ve been able to improve rapidly and become very good at my craft.

“Then, if it’s true the best way to learn speaking–or anything, for that matter–is by understanding cardinal concepts and having the right mindset before trying to memorize actions, why aren’t people taught self-improvement with a focus on mindset inspiring action?”

By now, I think Peter had stopped paying attention to me and started paying attention to the girl that joined  our conversation.  That was fine, because I had come up with a great idea, and I was ready to roll with it.

And that’s where this blog has come from.  With regards specifically to public speaking, this philosophy was the impetus for my 3 part series on public speaking, where I start first by talking about the mindset necessary to give a speech (which is the only thing you should try to memorize at first), and then about practice and improvement tips based upon that mindset.

Why the “Mindset Inspires Action” Approach Works for Any Personal Development Issue

In a sense, mindset is the cause, and action is the symptom.  Because we think of things in a certain way (the cause), we are inclined to act in a certain way (the symptom).  Just as with treatment of disease, it’s more prudent to focus on curing the cause rather than just the symptom.

I think back to my own life and think of some ways I consistently failed to improve myself before thinking about “mindset inspiring action”: getting back into running and spending more time reading.  Before, I could hardly motivate myself to go on a run or read a book; even when I did it once, it was amazing if I could do it again.  When I think back, I never bothered to tackle my mindset and attitudes toward running and reading.  I just tried to cure the symptom by telling myself to go run.

Now that I’ve worked on curing the cause by adopting a better mindset, I read constantly (if anything, I need to readjust myself to spend less time doing this), and go running a few times a week with minimal difficulty.

Theodore Roosevelt once said something that is often quoted today:

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

Perhaps it was nothing more than this mindset that helped him accomplish the amazing and interesting things that people a hundred years later still remember him for.

 What Issues Affect You?  Do you think “mindset inspires action” could help you with them? 

Leave some comments below and tell me what issues have been on your mind recently, be it starting a business, confidence issues, career…let me apply the “mindset inspires action” philosophy to your topic.  Hey, maybe it will even turn into an article! ;-)


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=734203976 Marina de la Torre

    I like how your “mindset inspires action” process clearly addresses the powerful issue of our underlying system of believes.  I enjoyed your post and the cause-symptom analogy.  

  • Stuart Young

    I totally agree. It’s why I created my 90 Program around it. Good to see another like-mindset spreading the word. :)

  • Sumanyu8696
  • Kat

    I’ve enjoyed reading this article.  I think you are on to something here.  I come from a highly dysfunctional family and I wrestle with constant negativity to the point that it has affected my health.  More recently I’ve began paying attention to what I think and how those thoughts influence my behavior and actions.  I would like to read more on this subject.