How to Change Your Mindset When You Can’t Change Your Circumstances

Jenna Kutcher 

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May 2, 2024



One of the easiest sentences to say and the toughest to act on: focus on what you can control. While life makes it clear about some things that are wildly out of our power to control, it’s still easy for us to get tangled in the weeds. We hold ourselves back and waste our own time with so many what-ifs, fears about the future, and limiting beliefs that create narratives about our lives that, frankly, aren’t true. And they certainly aren’t serving or supporting us. 

So, how do you unlearn negative thought patterns and cultivate a new mindset of growth, acceptance, and empowered self-awareness? Well, let’s start with this: it’s not easy. But like learning how to ride a bike, it not only gets way easier – it gives you freedom! (And maybe a little more wind in your hair.) 

An unlimited mindset is a powerful tool. Let’s dive into a few ways you can become more aware of yours, break through what holds you back, and create a life that is less hindered by worrying about what’s not in your control.

Related: Scarcity, Abundance, and the Mindset Work I Avoided

Determine Your Limiting Beliefs

Identifying what limiting beliefs or unhelpful thought patterns you have starts with an open conversation with yourself. Get curious and honest about how you’ve been feeling lately. As every answer bubbles to the surface, you sharpen the focus on how you see yourself. You’re looking for the root of your beliefs about who you are. 

Whether you’re a verbal processor or you need to take pen to paper, dive into questions, and listen inwardly to what your gut-reaction answers are. Some questions you can start with are: 

  • Do you feel frustrated with aspects of your life?
  • In what areas of your life do you feel the most inspired and free?
  • What stresses you out or makes you anxious?
  • How do you feel about your future?
  • How do you feel about your relationships?
  • How do you feel about yourself? 
  • Do you ever think “I want to do/be/achieve ____, but I never will because _____.”?

Often, honest answers inspire even MORE honest questions, so this is where I tell you to trust the process but don’t overwhelm yourself – it’s not an interrogation. An open conversation with ourselves (without letting the usual distractions pull us away) can be tough and life-changing. Treat your responses with as much grace as possible.

Change Your Thought Patterns

Changing your mindset can sometimes happen in a snap, have a much longer timeline, or come to us in waves. But one thing is for sure: a major step you’ve already taken is becoming aware of your mindset in the first place.

What I first tend to notice when I need a mindset shift are my patterns. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I start seeing how more frequently I’m losing boundaries on my schedule and working a little too hard for too long. When I start believing any criticism lobbed at me, I catch myself in a pattern of negative self-talk. Avoiding human interaction means I’m in a pattern of self-doubt. 

Learning my own patterns, or loops, helps me recognize my cue to make a change. As I discovered the root of my limiting beliefs, I can rewrite that root and slowly change my belief. A powerful and uncomplicated shift is a simple verbal cue. Some people call them mantras, and for others, it might feel like a full-blown battle cry. When I notice I’m in a loop of stress and headed for burnout, I say out loud, “It’s okay to let this be easy.” In a moment, I remember that I have permission to slow down and truly have no need or desire to control the future. A verbal cue can reset your mind in a single sentence.

Other ways to shift your mindset should simply be giving yourself the gift of being quiet and alone. How often do we truly get to be in silence and see what comes up in our minds once the volume on the rest of the world and life gets turned all the way down?

And to take a note from the incomparable Elizabeth Gilbert, you can even write a letter to your fear. On writing these letters, she says, “Often, I think I know what I’m afraid of, but when my fear is given a chance to actually speak, I’m surprised at what the real issue is. …my fear is not (contrary to how it often feels) BOTTOMLESS. Fear and anxiety can feel like they have infinite depths, like they are afraid of EVERYTHING, but usually they are just afraid of 2 or 3 very specific things, once you look closely.” From there, she writes a letter back to her fear thanking it for protecting her, and then “respectfully explain your new plan.”

Related: 5 Mindset Shifts to Take You to the Next Level

Focus on What You Can Control

The magic about getting to the root of your limiting beliefs and mindset is that you start to change the way you see control altogether. Not having to control everything means we can control some things. It means we’re more free than our limited mindsets would let us realize. 

Where you used to reach for that iron grip on your life, you’re more than happy to let go and free your hands up for what you truly want to do. Where you used to spend hours worrying, you have that time back in to invest in what matters most to you. Where you used to overwork yourself, you’ve released outdated and unsupportive expectations, and now you create out of joy. 

While mantras and mindsets can’t change all circumstances, they can set you free in so many other ways. What holds us back is often what depletes our one main, non-renewable resource: time. Transforming your mindset means you can shift your focus back on your one, beautiful life and start asking yourself, “How do I want to live it with what I’ve got?”

Here’s a tool that can help your transformation:

Download my FREE daily planner to focus on what you can control!

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A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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