“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” – Lao Tzu
Those ancient Chinese philosophers were certainly onto something. Human potential is boundless, our ability to create success limitless, but it all hinges on mastering your mind. Do that, and as Lao says, everything else will fall into place!
To get some perspective on how powerful your thoughts are, lets firstly quantify the thought process a little.
During the time it takes to read this post you will have approximately 2500 thoughts.
That is a huge number however you look at it. Now, consider how many thoughts must cross your mind during a whole day. Scientists estimate it will be in the region of 50 to 70,000 per day. That’s about 350-450 per minute. Is it any wonder that 74% of UK adults say they’ve been so stressed in the last year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope?
It is so widely publicised that our bodies need regular exercise and a supply of healthy fuel to maintain itself, however the health of our minds is addressed much less often. Consistently working on the mind and body as a whole will equate to higher energy, more productivity, better mental health and increased capacity to combat negative or destructive thoughts.
What Are Thoughts, Really?
Thoughts consist of a lot of different elements, the most common ones being:
- Repetitive thoughts – intended to reinforce your daily routine, these involve thinking about things like when you have to get up for work, the order you complete tasks, and the route you take when you travel.
- The boring bits – all of that unexciting inner dialogue everyone has about how your day is going, your appearance, traffic, and what you’re going to watch on television this evening.
- Self judgements – weighing up your ability to manage or handle situations you find yourself in.
- Emotional thoughts – these form your understanding of reality, your attitudes, and your reactions to yourself and other people.
- Self-talk – this refers to your underlying beliefs.
- Environmentally absorbed thoughts – what you digest from what you’re reading, listening to, or watching.
As you can probably guess, these six areas overlap, but collectively cover all of the multiple layers of thought you may have each day. In addition to the mindblowing figures we gave you earlier, if you have a business partner, spouse, or children you can multiply the thoughts per minute (350-450) by the number of people in any conversation.
It’s no wonder we could all do with some help navigating the mental fog and learning to see things more positively and less judgmentally.
Thoughts are powerful, we know this.
They’re so powerful that thoughts alone can drastically change your mood, scenarios you find yourself in, or your memory of an event. Thoughts affect us all, often negatively. Even if we are naturally positive people, there are always improvements we can make to ensure we are reaching our full potential and not holding ourselves back.
Harnessing the power of your mind is intrinsic to maximising your success and happiness, in both your personal and professional life. Here’s exactly how to harness your mind power to achieve greater success…
How To Harness Your Mind Power…
When you think about it (pun intended), everything in your life first existed in your mind.
For example, your job. You either read about it, were made aware by word of mouth, or found it online. These are all environmental factors that cued you into the position. You then had an emotional response when you applied for the role, either because it appealed to you, or because you had an immediate need you felt the new position could meet.
Every person you know, every day you have ever lived, every hope and fear you have ever had is steeped in your thoughts. When you dissect individual actions or events in this way you see just how sizeable and complex your thought processes are.
There’s a quick and easy activity you can try which will give you an insight into the overall health of your mind.
Take one minute to just stop and think. It’s that easy.
No scrolling, no background music.
Just sit, eyes open or closed (it’s up to you). Just pay attention to your thinking during this time.
Once you’ve done this, consider: what surprised you?
Note down your thoughts and whether they were positive, negative, or indifferent. Were they aspirational? Or were they stressful thoughts about how much you have on your plate right now?
Although this sixty seconds is only a snapshot of what’s whizzing around your brain it’s a great starting point for improvement. Changing your thoughts is a learnt behaviour. It takes time and practice to improve. Try to start by being more aware of your thoughts and taking small steps. For example, after you have a negative thought, think about how you can alter that thought pattern to put a positive slant on it.
Can you make a difference to the topic of that thought?
If you can, then set yourself small goals which can improve your situation. The ability to problem solve and find solutions is valuable in every area of life. Those that are good at this skill are usually those who have control over their thoughts.
Accept That Your Mind Will Wander, This Is Good!
Let’s give thinking some thought.
That sounds more complicated than it is, but when you’re trying to improve your thinking, or practice mindfulness techniques, there are certain thoughts that make you percieve your efforts as failures when in fact, they’re perfectly normal! Here are a few things to bear in mind before you start working on improving that mind power:
- Everything that happens in life will evoke thoughts. Just accept it.
- Your mind will often wander, that’s the nature of how thoughts work.
- Thoughts and actions are one and the same thing and heavily influence each other. Your thoughts are present before, during and after you complete an action.
- You can become obsessed with particular thoughts that circle round and round your mind. You can overthink them, preventing you from acting or addressing the issue.
- Thoughts can revolve around the past, present and the future… all at the same time. Our brains are able to handle complex thoughts that straddle time in this way.
- You can allow your thoughts to flow through your mind; as the saying goes, ‘in one ear and out of the other’. Alternatively you can fight against them, and trap them in your mind.
- You can never entirely quieten your mind, but you can feel calmer by letting the flow of your thoughts pass without resisting them.
- Your thoughts are like a stream of water and if you wish, you can control their direction. One of the best methods of doing this is to ask yourself questions that lead your thoughts, rather than scolding yourself for thinking about something.
- Making changes to yourself is not just a mental game, it involves thinking and taking subsequent action. But any change begins in your mind.
- Sometimes your thoughts will race, become intrusive, and bother you. Try not to panic and just let them go.
- Thoughts about yourself and your responses to life can be self-deprecating. You’re only human and we all suffer imposter syndrome (the notion that we don’t really belong or deserve something) sometimes.
- Thoughts will only change when you take action, exercise, or talk. They will never change by trying to force them or by regularly berating yourself for them.
Those Successful In Life Are First Successful In Thought…
Arianna Huffington, Steve Jobs, and Bill Ford. All successful business people in their own right, but another factor they all have in common is their commitment to meditation and thought control. Meditation is a branch of thought control that often results in less rumination, reduced stress, improved memory, better focus, greater emotional control, and higher relationship satisfaction.
The ability to envision in your mind what you can’t see with your eyes (similar to the concept of the law of attraction) it is based on the principle that all things are created twice: first there is the mental creation of a thing in thought, then there is the physical creation of what you envisioned in reality.
Those who speak publicly about how they achieved great success state that visualising themselves, and what they want to achieve in life, helps them to create a path to being the best version of themselves, whilst meeting the aspirations they envisaged.
Steve Jobs used to reportedly recommend to friends that they “be mindful and project the future”, which is exactly the right approach.
A method used by other outstanding leaders is to tackle tasks by beginning with the end in mind. For example, beginning each task or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination makes the journey more positive and enables you to be productive en route.
Here are six simple actions that can improve how you think and change your life:
- Invest time each day in thinking better. It will take a little effort, every day of your life. But your mind will repay you dividends.
- Give your mind something to focus on or it will give you something to focus on, and you probably won’t like what you end up with!
- Exercise daily. Even if it is just walking, it will clear your mind and help with racing and intrusive, unwanted thoughts.
- Don’t try to stop thinking. You can’t. Nobody can. Instead, guide your thoughts by asking yourself questions.
- Write down your life goals in the form of a ‘mission statement’ and review it often. What you think about most often can change your life.
- Immerse yourself in content that takes you in the direction you want to travel. In particular, what are you reading that is new to you, or challenges you? This exploration will do more to generate new thoughts than anything else.
Start The Day As You Mean To Go On…
Everyday, when you wake up, you have the power to shape your day through your mood. Early in the morning, your mind is coming out of a slower brain wave state, which means it’s susceptible and receptive to your ideas and thoughts. So, before you get out of bed, decide what sort of day you are going to have.
You can create your mindset for the whole day while you are still in this slower brain state, quite simply by making a choice.
Similarly, those last few minutes before you fall asleep are just as important as your first few waking moments. Create a routine that ensure that, every night, you focus on all that is right with your world, while letting go of what’s not.
As you drift off to sleep, flood your mind with positive thoughts.
So, when you wake up tomorrow, instead of hitting snooze on your alarm for an extra few minutes of sleep, spend the time focussing on all the things that you are grateful for in your life. Gratitude journals are a great tool to keep by your bed to remind you to focus on the positive before you fall asleep and/or when you first wake up. Using a journaling app like Zen Buddy is an even easier way to develop this habit, as you can carry your journal wherever you go without needing to carry anything more than your phone.
When you fill your mind with all the fabulous things in your life, you may realise quite how good it is.
Learn How To Switch Off…
Social media, the internet, phones, emails and texting all mean we are continuously available to the whole world. Anyone can connect with us, any time, anywhere.
Set realistic boundaries for yourself, friends and colleagues when it comes to connecting after hours. Try to commit to being present with your family and loved ones. This is a great step towards investing in your own life, rather than reading status updates from numerous acquaintances.
Remember, other people can take control of your thoughts if you don’t.
We’ve mentioned meditation a few times within this post. If you’re unfamiliar, meditation is a brilliant way to still the mind and stop relentless mind chatter. Quite simply, meditation gives you a bit of space, contentment, and peace of mind. There are enormous other benefits from meditation. It helps to alleviate stress; it energises you and improves your focus as well as your attention span, so find time to do this daily.
There’s an old Zen saying that epitomises the importance of meditation: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy and then you should sit for an hour.”
Go Forth And Conquer.
Hopefully you now have an insight into just how powerful harnessing your mind power can be in furthering your happiness and overall success.
Finally, bear in mind, the quickest way to drain your mental energy is to focus on things you don’t have control over. The more you focus on a problem that really isn’t your issue, the less mental energy you’ll have. Try and create yourself a set of mantras or affirmations that you can say to yourself out loud or mentally, to keep you focussed. And don’t forget you can use Zen Buddy as a tool to keep you on track as well – signup below to be first in line to receive a free trial of the new Zen Buddy meditation app when it launches later this year…