Mindset,  Mission,  Performance

Ten Steps to Mindset Mastery – with Walt Disney

How many times have you heard the phrase “When I put my mind to something….”? Have you ever heard it end in a negative outcome? Me neither. Whenever I hear that phrase, it is pretty much always followed with a story that tells you what the speaker achieved. While people are comfortable to talk about putting or setting their mind to something, I have occasionally noticed that turning the words around and talking about ‘mind-set’ instead, can unintentionally create a layer of mystique in a conversation. Much has been written about mindset, and for the purpose of this short blog I want to suggest that mindset is simply a state of mind or a way of thinking that encapsulates your beliefs about yourself. These thoughts shape the way you think about yourself and the world around you.  The good news is that we can change our mindset to make sure we get the most out of it – and life!

Robert Dilts, one of the foremost developers of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) opted to model the work of a number of creative geniuses to better understand their mindset strategies and distil the learning for those who wanted to enhance their own creativity. One of the subjects Dilts modelled was Walt Disney. He concluded that the source of Disney’s creative genius was the way in which he looked at his work from three different perspectives/mindsets.

“The point is that creativity itself involves the synthesis of different processes or phases. The Dreamer is necessary for creativity in order to form new ideas and goals. The Realist is necessary for creativity as a means to transform ideas into concrete expressions. The Critic is necessary for creativity as a filter and a stimulus for refinement.” (Dilts as quoted by Quinn 2013)

It’s important to remember that Disney wasn’t just a story teller and creative genius, he was also a business man and entrepreneur, and it’s no surprise that this approach works in business as well as in the creative arts. I love to use it when working with clients who are developing new plans and strategies and I’m currently reading a fabulous book by Judith Quinn who demonstrates beautifully how this approach works for writers. (If there are any writers who would like to work through this more thoroughly with me, do get in touch!). It’s also a great tool for problem solving and is as useful for working with groups as with individuals.

But this is a blog post, not a book (!) so I’m going to try and create some easy steps for you to test these three mindsets – and in particular your flexibility to move between the three –  out for yourself. As I write this, I have that famous Yoda quote ringing in my ears “Do or do not. There is no Try”. Ok – let’s see how we get on.

Step 1:  Think of a time when you have been a Dreamer, a Realist and a Critic. Take your time over this – don’t rush. We really want you to access the mindset you were in at the time.  Here’s how it’s done:

  • Dreamer – when did you dream up a great new idea? Notice where you were and how it felt. Build a really clear picture in your mind of what happened. When you have a clear image in your mind, turn it from 2D to 3D and really step into it – BE that person all over again in your mind!
  • Realist – recall a time when you created a really great plan that turned an idea into action. Remember what it felt like to be ready to put the plan into action. Again, create an image in your mind and when that picture is at it’s clearest, step into it for a moment and fully experience it all over again.
  • Critic – no, it’s not time to be Waldorf and Statler – this is about great critical analysis and thinking. Think of a time where you reviewed a plan of action, and gave constructive criticism to make it truly deliverable. Again, relive that moment in your mind in glorious detailed technicolour!

Think for a few minutes about how it felt to take each of these roles. Notice the value of each approach.

Step 2:  Be clear what particular area you want to explore and think through what outcome you want to achieve by working with the Disney Strategy.

Step 3:  Set out 3 chairs. Yes, you really are going to physically move between them and sit in all three positions!

Step 4:  Take a seat in the Dreamer position. Say your vision out loud. If you’ve enjoyed working with pictures in step 1, you might like to see your vision as a movie. Get really creative as your dream unfolds – enjoy it, it’s your creation!

Step 5:  When you have done that I want you to look around the room, or maybe out of the window and notice something completely unrelated to the exercise. Enjoy whatever it is for one minute before moving to the next position.

Step 6:  Take a seat in the Realist position. Ask yourself what now needs to happen to turn your idea or dream into a reality. Carefully consider all the actions it will realistically take to create the dream.

Step 7:  Again, look around the room, or outside, and notice something completely unrelated and focus on that for one minute before moving seats again.

Step 8:  Take a seat in the Critic position and ask yourself where the problems might be. What’s missing? Where can you add value? What improvements would you make?

Step 9:   Return to the Realist position and create your detailed action plan – what is the first, second, third step? What else do you need to detail?

Step 10:  Now return to the Dreamer position and re-make your movie with all of the new information you gathered. Keep re-running the movie in your mind, re-visiting the other seats as necessary until your movie is perfect and your plan of action is detailed and clear.

I hope the ten steps are clear because it’s a great tool to have in your mindset armoury. Your ability to flex between the three mindsets will become easier with practice, and if you need any help or would prefer to have the benefit of working on this together, do get in touch.

It’s no co-incidence that Disney said “If you can dream it, you can do it”. It’s time to dream!


Until next time… be bold, be brave and be brilliant.



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Helping change makers to be bold, brave & brilliant in leading change, creating impact and living a life that matters. Are you ready to think bigger? ★ Personal Leadership & Mindset Coach ★ Founder of the online Women on a Mission community ★ Creator of the I Gotta Be Me Experience ★


  • Ruby McGuire

    Great post! We covered this on my Noble Manhattan Coaching course – fascinating. Thanks for the great reminder, I’ll be saving this one and will share in my coaching group for you too 🙂

  • Michele TravelwithMrsT

    Love this! I so appreciate the contributions of creativity. I had the privilege of coaching Odyssey of the Mind teams, and this reminds me so much of what I used to do with the students after they completed what is called a “Spontaneous Problem” .

    • magentachange


      Me too, Michele – although for many years I wouldn’t have described myself as creative at all, unless I was singing. Would love to know more about the experience you describe if you fancy a chat sometime?

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