I bet you have no idea how much your thoughts influence outcomes. I didn’t. In the latter part of 2017, I started to read much more than I had ever done before. (Quite a departure for the daughter of an English teacher who used to despair that the only thing she ever saw me read was Jackie.) And when I say read, I mean ‘proper’ books not my usual standard holiday reads.
Suddenly stimulated to add to my own knowledge, and to inform the work that I do, my books of choice have focused on mindset and the awe-inspiring power of the brain and positive thinking. What I have discovered is fascinating and as we begin a new year, there’s no better time to learn how you can influence its course purely on the basis of managing your thoughts.
It appears that the brain is similar to a computer in that it is programmed to behave in certain ways. When we are faced with a particular situation or decision it will, in a split second, reference previous similar situations and deliver a similar outcome. It has no capacity to judge whether that outcome is good or bad or whether it will be deemed a success or failure, it simply delivers on the basis of how it has been programmed.
This programming is the result of our conditioning and the things we have been told from an early age, the opinions we have been exposed to, and all manner of influences we are subject to on a daily basis. What’s more, the programmes become even more entrenched by the things we tell ourselves, be it consciously or subconsciously: it is a self-perpetuating cycle. In short, what goes in entirely controls what comes out. Here’s the exciting thing though: we can actually break the cycle and actively wire the brain differently to create the outcomes we want and deserve. Despite how it might feel, we have a CHOICE on how we respond to things and therefore, by extension, on results.
I read ‘If I could tell you one thing..’ by Richard Reed over Christmas in which he draws from the experiences of various (mainly) well-known personalities. The story that stood out most to me was not that of a celebrity or an academic but rather a soldier, Corporal Andy Reid, who had lost both his legs and one arm in Afghanistan. Rather than blaming others, he describes how he accepts reponsibility for what happened as he knew the risks and chose to take them. He counts himself lucky that he has returned home when so many of his colleagues didn’t, and marks the anniversary of the accident as ‘Happy Being Alive Day’. He has rebuilt his life and achieved remarkable things. He had a choice and he chose to take control of his mind. Instead of allowing it to believe that his life was over, he chose to programme it differently. The results are staggering. He even claims that he is happier than he was before.
As Napoleon Hill said way back in 1937:
Whatever your mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve regardless of how many times you may have failed in the past…
Your potential is limitless but wasted unless you can programme your mind to do what you need it to do. It is the difference between New Year’s resolutions that are disgarded at the first hurdle leaving you feeling that you have failed and those that stick, giving you the motivation to power you forward to ever greater heights.
If you want to make 2018 different, here’s a starter for 5:
- Vision – it is worth spending time defining exactly what you want to achieve. Bring it to life in your mind in as much detail as you can, using all the senses to conjure up how success looks and feels (I use the present tense here specifically and recommend that you do too, as if what you are aiming for is already happening). Remember you are painting a picture for the brain so it knows exactly what it is supposed to be delivering. Some people find it useful to represent their vision visually in pictures or by writing it down.
- Negative self talk – it is useful to spend a few days actively monitoring the thoughts that go through your mind both consciously and subconsciously. Write them all down as soon as you notice them. You may be surprised at how many times you are feeding the brain with less than helpful information which, albeit inadvertently, will sabotage what you are trying to achieve.
- Talk the talk – once you have recognised the dialogue that goes on in your head, your job is to eliminate anything negative. Don’t forget the brain is listening and is easily-influenced. As soon as you find yourself doubting what you can do, don’t let it take a hold. Turn it immediately into positive thinking: I ‘can’t’ becomes ‘I can’, ‘I won’t’ becomes ‘I will’. Don’t allow anything, or indeed anyone to tell you otherwise.
- Frame the day – create the best possible conditions for success by starting and finishing each day with some positive thinking. As soon as you wake up, think of at least 10 things you have to be grateful for. Having done this for 6 weeks, I can testify that it makes a huge difference to how I feel. Even if you wake up with a heavy heart at the challenges that lie ahead, your mood will soon change and you will have all the energy you need to make the day run so much more smoothly.
- Recognition and reward – acknowledging success however small is critical and reassures the brain that it is going in the right direction. Set milestones on your journey and take time to celebrate how far you have come. as Andy Reid says:
The most important thing is don’t look back on what has happened. Instead look forward to what you can do. Just crack on.
New Year’s Resolutions in themselves are nothing but empty, soon-to-be-forgotten promises but spend the time setting yourself up for success and understand how to train the brain to deliver and the sky is the limit for 2018!
Let me know how you get on.