Research & Analysis
If you want to be a millionaire, start thinking like one

Your earning potential doesn't start with your job — it begins with your mindset.

So, if you want to become a millionaire, it doesn't hurt to start thinking like one.

In "The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class," Keith Cameron Smith shares the insights he gleaned from spending two years working with and studying the ultrarich, including the attitudes that distinguish their ways of thinking from that of the average person.

If you want to set yourself up for success, click ahead for four millionaire mindsets to adopt.

Millionaires think long term

Wealthy people don't only think about the present. They also consider the potential of the future. That means setting goals that might span years or decades, not just weeks or months. According to Smith, the longer you can stretch your thinking into the future, the richer you will become.

That's because long-term goals force you to grapple with big-picture questions such as, "How can I double my income this year?" instead of short-term issues, such as, "How am I going to pay my bills this month?"

Smith finds that millionaires are willing to put temporary comfort on hold to seek out long-term financial freedom. And that mindset speaks to an important trait many millionaires share: patience.

"Middle-class people want instant gratification," Smith writes. "I was like that for many years. Whatever I wanted, I charged to my credit card or put a little bit down and made payments on the balance. Now I wait for the things I want because my goal is more freedom, not comfort.

"Rich and very rich people have developed the discipline of delayed gratification."

Millionaires embrace change

Whether small or big, change can be intimidating. While the middle class tends to fear change, millionaires view any type of change as opportunity, Smith says.

"The problem with the middle class is it assumes change will be negative most of the time," Smith writes. "Millionaires assume that all change, positive or negative, will benefit them."

Learning to welcome change, and welcome the growth that often accompanies it, builds confidence, which Smith says is key.

"Confidence is acquired through preparation and hard work," Smith writes. "Confidence is the result of working on yourself. It is the benefit of proving yourself to yourself. It is knowing you can handle whatever comes your way."

Millionaires never stop learning

Walk into any millionaire's home and you're likely to find an abundance of books, if not an entire library, Smith observes. That's because millionaires know that learning doesn't stop when you finish school.

"Success is a process," Smith says. "If a percentage of your income isn't going toward a financial education, you will stay trapped in the middle class. The more money you spend on financial knowledge, the more money you will make."

The cheapest and easiest way to start investing in your financial education is through books. "Are you aware that you can learn a concept in only a few hours from a book that took someone years to develop?" Smith writes.

"I feel like some of the $20 books I have read were worth $20,000 because of what I learned from them," he adds.

Millionaires ask themselves empowering questions

The No. 1 difference Smith observes between millionaires and the middle class is how millionaires present information to themselves. While millionaires ask themselves empowering questions, the middle class tends to lean toward disempowering ones.

Millionaires ponder, "How can I make $1 million a year doing what I love?" while middle class people stick to the practical: "How can I get my boss to give me a raise?" Millionaires look at a hard situation and ask, "What is life trying to teach me right now?" while the middle class tends to focus on, "Why do bad things always happen to me?"

The distinction between these sets of questions is subtle but crucial. "Empowering questions ask what you can do, and disempowering questions ask what you can't do," Smith writes.

"Empowering questions cause you to reach for your full potential," he continues. "The questions you ask yourself determine the results you get in life."

How you frame situations informs how you handle them. "Millionaires are more creative than reactive," Smith writes. Instead of simply taking things as they come, millionaires focus on how they can make the future different — and better.