I often speak to people from a wide variety of backgrounds who struggle to achieve what they really want in life, and one common question that I hear repeatedly is why? Why am I not getting the results I expect? Why are my colleagues doing better than me? Why are they so lucky? Why, why, why?
There could be many different answers depending on your context, but very rarely is the why question the best place to start.
It is not about why, but how. How can you achieve rather than why aren’t you. How are others getting better results? How can I learn from them? Then I tend to hear, “Well Ian, how do I do that? That is just how I am. How can I adapt my mind to think differently?”
Simple, you retrain it.
The mind is an incredible mass of complexity, much of which we are still yet to fully understand. It needs to be complex given the enormity of the task ahead of it. That is, in simple terms to keep you alive, but this is not a simple undertaking.
One of the many ways it does this is by creating shortcuts. Some oversimplified examples would be:
- As a baby you can’t walk, you have to learn how. After a while, you don’t think about walking, but it is an incredibly complex process, it really is.
- When you learn to drive a car, initially it is incredibly clunky. Having to worry about pedals, a steering wheel, and a gear stick, not to mention other road users. Eventually you may drive ten junctions on a motorway without even realising!!
- Unless you are one of those gifted individuals that can pick up an instrument and simply play it, most of us have to work hard and, at first, it can seem impossible, there is too much to learn! Eventually, you just can.
This is a remarkable trait that our brains have and the evolutionary benefits are obvious, but herein also lies the issue. This amazing ability does not distinguish between creating shortcuts for any behaviour, good or bad. It does not arbitrate between what is right and wrong for you.
As such, if you find yourself being negative, your mind may think that this is a default position you want and go about creating shortcuts to help you get to this state of mind quicker. It may then become your default position.
Because of this, when you receive a particular stimulus, your response may be to automatically react negatively, no matter how unhelpful this behaviour might be for you. That isn’t you reacting; it is your mind reacting how it thinks you want it to react, a subtle but important difference.
Think of the mind as a search engine.
If you see a sports car, for example, your mind will pop that image into its internal search engine and bring forward as much information as it thinks you might want on that topic. Your mind might then fantasise about owning a sports car, it might bring up a memory of when you were on holiday and saw a sporty jet plane, and it might then remind you of when you were on a jumbo jet and had bad turbulence and were sick. It is amazing how quick you can flick from one topic to something completely different within a matter of seconds and not even realise.
Stick any topic in Google and see what it brings up. The first page is probably mostly relevant, thereafter not so much. Your mind pretty much does the same thing; it really is trying to help but can’t guarantee success, and it will keep searching until it finds the answer it thinks you want.
So, instantly you have gone from a sporty motor to a stream of conscious and subconscious thoughts on unpleasant experiences. Allowed to continue, the mind may well decide this is what you want (when thinking about sports cars, for instance) and start to entrench this shortcut. Fast forward and seeing these types of cars may equal feeling negative, unhappy, and possibly sick. It is nothing to do with the car, simply the shortcut or anchor your mind has associated with it.
It is this exact process that can fuel negativity, pessimism, and ultimately impact your wellbeing and success. Yet, you might not see it for what it is, a limiting belief.
The most important principle to understand is that beliefs are assumed truths, they are not facts. Let’s repeat that again as it is the crux of the whole issue.
Beliefs are assumed truths; they are not facts!
You can only really grow effectively if you get out of your own way and understand which the helpful thought processes are and which are not. This is initially very challenging, but with practice you can develop this skill. But how I hear you ask?
The best place to start is to get mentally in shape. Below are some tips for unpacking entrenched and limiting beliefs/shortcuts to help you spring clean your mind of all the head trash that is holding you back, I hope they help.
- Become aware of what you are actually thinking. It is surprising for many to realise we actually spend most of our time remembering the past or fantasising about the future. Generally, people spend little time being in the present, and, as such, we do not always make the best decisions for the here and now.
- Try and spend more time on the present. Meditation, yoga, and exercise are helpful ways of doing so. Your mind struggles to “Google” during these times.
- Remind yourself that your thoughts are not facts. They are search engine results thrown in front of you by your subconscious. They may be relevant; they might not be. Take them for what they are: thoughts.
- Learn to allow your conscious to have a balanced conversation with your subconscious. So often our subconscious leads the way if we let it, but as we have learnt, it might not always be the right way. Use your rational conscious to challenge your mind and help your subconscious learn what is right for you
- Have compassion for your mind and its endeavours. It is trying its best, it really is! Do not beat yourself or your mind up for the thought patterns it brings forward. Remember the intentions are good even if the results are not. Learn to accept thoughts for what they are, adverts in your movie of life that may or may not be of interest.
- Listen to your body. The mind and body are a linked system and the mind will often use the body to try to communicate with you when something isn’t quite right. Learn to understand these signs and learn to really trust your instincts.
By becoming the best self-coach possible, you will be able to ensure your attitude remains positive so that you make the best choices for you, which ultimately leads to your increased levels of success. So, get thinking and make it happen.
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