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Challenging times? Challenge your thoughts.

Nov 21, 2022

Here is the news

I remember a long time ago when News bulletins on the TV would end with an ‘And finally…’ news item. It was always something fairly light and uplifting and I welcomed it after hearing about the world’s troubles. I don’t know when nor why they stopped but I miss it. It’s not because I wish to make light of what’s going on in the world, it’s because of precisely what’s going on in the world that I’d like to see the ‘And finally…’ return.

Unfortunately, at the moment especially, I find I’m checking what the latest news is, a lot. Do you ever check the news on your phone before going to sleep? My advice to you is, don’t. Our subconscious mind never sleeps and that’s why watching a horror film, reading/looking at the news, or going to sleep straight after an argument is never advisable. Whilst asleep, your subconscious is busy processing that last thing you said or did and turning it over and over. This is something I need to remind myself of because checking the news once I’m  in bed is something I do. And rarely, very rarely does there seem to be any good news.

Thinking about the way you think

It’s not about ignoring world events or being blinkered to the effects of government decisions; we of course need a realistic take on what’s going on out there. It’s no good denying the challenges we face by putting our head in the sand. There is no denying that economically, things are likely to be incredibly challenging over the next 18 months to two years, and for some more than most. However, if we do not harness the collective ability, belief and talent that is possible, whether it’s as a country, an organisation, a business, as a family, or as an individual, then we’re headed for the wrong exit. It’s so important that we believe that we can find a way through, even if we don’t yet know the answer of the how, that belief will help our brain to find a solution, or to muster the resilience. The alternative is feeling that we’re in a pit of despair, but this will not help our brain to be resourceful- it will not enable us to feel resilient and able to cope. This is very much not about positive thinking because right now, there are so many people who have no idea how they are going to economically survive the next 18 months to two years – whether it be their business and/or personal circumstances. For some, it is quite literally a choice of heat or eat. So, thinking positively does not cut it.

The psychology

During the Second World War, Viktor Frankl – an Austrian Psychiatrist, was taken prisoner and sent to several concentration camps, including Auschwitz. It is during this time that he was inspired to write the book Man’s Search for Meaning. It was an exploration of how we might find meaning in the most unusual places, even in the horrendous environment of a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl later founded Logotherapy - a school of psychotherapy that describes a search for a life's meaning as the central human motivational force. Frankl's purpose whilst held prisoner was to survive, reunite with his loved ones, and tell people what had happened and what he had learned. This is what willed him through to be a holocaust survivor. One of his most powerful quotes in my opinion is:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The reason I find this quote so powerful is that it puts the control back with us – that no matter what is happening, we get to choose how we respond. And when you consider the dire circumstances in which Frankl survived, that quote is all the more powerful.

Gaining control when nothing seems within your control

At the moment, reading, hearing and listening to the news can perhaps lead to thoughts spiralling downwards in terms of worry and concern for how these troubling economic times are going to pan out. We see it in real time too – the price of food increasing, higher energy bills, changes in what tax we’re going to pay, whether businesses can survive this economic downturn. It feels out of our control and by and large, it is. So, what do we do if we cannot influence these outcomes- if we cannot change the decisions that politicians are making? And this is where positive thinking does not help. It’s about conscious thinking- ensuring that we are consciously aware of the nature of our thoughts and where we are allowing them to take us. The way we think about what we think about, is far more important than what we think about.  

The one thing we get to control is how we manage our thoughts – to choose to run our brain rather than allow it to run us. Easy? No. It can take time. It’s a work in progress, for us all.

Thinking to create our results

On the Winning Edge Programme, the foundation of our mindset teachings is the Thinking to Results® model – we explain how what we think about, we become; we create our results and circumstances in life because of the nature of our thoughts, including the thoughts about things we have no control over.

If we constantly have thoughts whereby we believe we’re not capable of coping in challenging circumstances, that we cannot be resourceful or resilient, what are the chances that we’re going to be able to cope? Not very high. However, if our thoughts centre on believing we have the resilience, that we can make choices to help ourselves, that we can be creative and resourceful, whilst of course it doesn’t 100% guarantee everything will go as we want it to, it does mean we are being open-minded to the fact that it is possible to get through incredibly challenging time. Optimists accept things can go wrong but expect to cope.

What you can do with the Thinking to Results® model is not only think long-term by addressing your thoughts and how these influence your emotions, thus behaviours and the habits you practice every single day, but you can also use it to change a thought pattern that isn’t serving you well in the here and now. You can flip the narrative when you feel like you're that squash ball being continuously pinged off the walls.

I cannot personally change the outcome of what lies ahead economically for us in the coming months; to worry extensively means I am ensuring my brain is in a negative state and therefore not a resourceful one. And so, I consciously catch myself when I know I am allowing my thoughts to take me down a rabbit hole. I recognise it and know the nature of my thinking needs to change to break this cycle.

By changing the worrywart thought to one of feeling emboldened and resilient, this creates a different and more helpful emotion. More helpful emotions result in different behaviours. When the squash ball reappears, I leave the squash court. I am not playing that game anymore. It does not serve me well and I am therefore creating different results for myself. I am taking responsibility for my thoughts and thus taking back control.

Mind control

I quote The Serenity Prayer regularly because it so aptly captures mindset work:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

What can we change in this situation? Nothing. And it’s knowing that and intelligently navigating thoughts around the situation.

For now, it’s about accepting there’s nothing we can do and rather than waste time, thought and energy on this, we can be focusing on something else we can take action on.

For that’s what we do don’t we? We fret and worry, or get angry and frustrated, or disappointed and upset about things which we can do nothing about, things we can in no way change. Whether it be global events, another person’s words or actions, or decisions made beyond our field of knowledge, experience or influence.

It’s not about accepting our fate, or lowering our standards, because we can fight the good fight; it’s recognising the point where we can do no more, except to manage our thoughts.

Driver’s seat

When we consciously decide to run our brain, we are firmly in the driver’s seat. We are the ones who allow the thoughts in our head and if those thoughts are holding us back and stopping us from moving forwards, we recognise that and regain the control.

What result would you like to create for yourself? What are your current thoughts which are hindering this? How can you reframe them to flip the narrative to work towards your desired result? Think about what kind of thoughts someone might be having if they were creating the results you want. What emotions might they be feeling, and what would their behaviour be to achieve that result? 

When you are in a situation where you feel helpless and cannot alter the course of events, think about what you can control – the nature of your thoughts. This is a powerful position to be in because you get to choose the direction your story takes from that point, even if you don’t have full control of the narrative, you can consciously play your part with resilience and resourcefulness.

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Do you feel like your brain runs you, rather than you run your brain? Would you like to feel more in control of the nature of your thoughts?

The Mindset Coaching Membership can help you understand the tools and strategies needed. With Masterclass Teachings + Coaching + Accountability, we will help you to create the future you want. Find out more here.

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