Becoming aware of your thoughts

When you pay attention to your thoughts, you've started meditating. The second step is to investigate every thought that comes up. For wisdom cannot be reached by a single view.
What we'll cover

If there’s one skill I believe should be taught at school, it’s becoming aware of your own mind and what’s happening inside it.

Your mind lies to you. It does. I’m sorry. Now, that might seem like a crazy statement, but it’s fairly true. I’ll explain.

Firstly, when you consider the past, your memory is stored and bits go missing. Because of this, how you remember things might not be how they really were. This is the first way that your mind lies to you.

The second way is more important to coaching though; it builds visions of the future in order to protect you from situations in your past (which, as we’ve learned, might not be real themselves). A good example of this is how we tell ourselves that “the worst thing that could happen to me is to be sick in the winter”. We do this because any illness lasts longer the worse the weather gets.

This gives us a buffer zone between us and whatever we don’t want to happen, that can protect us from a negative outcome.

Protecting you from your past

Our mind is just one huge learning “computer”. It takes what you tell it, listens, and give you more or less of something, depending on the content. Your mind is not your friend, but it’s not your enemy either. It just does what it does. The main reason I brought all this up is that you have are aware of what you tell yourself about the future and what impact that has on the present.

For example, if you had a childhood with an overbearing and critical parent, you might now be afraid to make mistakes. Your mind as an adult will now remind you with plenty of unpleasant anxiety that you should be careful of situations because you could be in mortal danger!

If over the years you’ve become afraid of more and more situations, your anxiety emotion could be stuck on most of the time. Now, when you’d like to get rid of it, this might seem difficult.

Now this system was great when we were on the plains of Africa and sometimes we might see a lion and our fight, flight or freeze system roared into action and we felt fear.

However, today we aren’t in mortal danger very often and we should feel safe, generally.

Changing what you tell yourself about the future will also change how you behave in the present. This will result in changing how your mind interprets the situation, reducing anxiety and strengthening an optimistic outlook in life.

Your emotions help you, but not always

I’m a big advocate of intuition; using your feelings to guide you on a path that is right for you. However, it’s also important to be aware of what experiences and memories they’re based on. For example, the feeling of anxiety is essentially your “fight, flight or freeze” system screaming at you to be wary.

Often when we feel anxious, we start to feel negative about ourselves and start to beat ourselves up. This often leads our mind into creating even more anxiety for us. For example, if we have a presentation coming up and we talk to our mind about how nervous we are in public, then it might say that the people at the presentation will hate us if we make a fool of ourselves.

If a new potential client walks through the door and you get a feeling they remind you of a problem client, your intuition may be reminding you of that situation. Typically I suggest listening to that feeling and politely pointing them elsewhere.

The past: As I mentioned before, the way we tell ourselves about the future often turns into a negative version of events.

However, if virtually every client coming in the door sends your spidey-sense alarm bells tingling, you may wish to examine on what basis it is doing this; what evidence does it really have? It’s not impossible that your new client is just rude, for example. Sometimes an element of pain is a good teacher.

Disempowering your thinking: So if you talk to yourself in a negative manner, it’s natural that your mind interprets this and gives you more of what you want less of.

Re-addressing difficult emotional states

You might now be thinking .. “well, how can I switch this off when it’s not helping me?”.

A good question, for sure.

You can think of your emotional system as a two or 3-year-old child. It listens to what is repeated to it, or what reactions it sees time and time again. If the child is yelled at and told nothing is ever right and it’s a waste of time, then it will remember that for many years.

So, if every time you get a new client walk in the door you feel anxiety and tell yourself “they’re going to be a problem”, and you slightly cower and procrastinate, not only will you not get the business, but you’ll also struggle through the work you do get.

What are you thinking? How are you reacting?

A part of the job of a holistic business coach is to help you to become aware of this, challenge it, and keep reminding you that “you can”, rather than “you can’t”.

Over time, you’ll stretch yourself and the anxiety you felt will start to lessen as you re-learn how to respond to these situations. You will literally be retraining your mind by challenging your prior assumptions and the automatic reactions that came from them.

Have you ever met someone who’s really good at something? Who can speak in front of crowds and handle questions with ease? Perhaps you’ve seen a public speaker who didn’t seem nervous or experienced any anxiety (just confident). If not, then look at some of the stars on TV. Many are performing in front of huge audiences for millions of pounds; yet they don’t appear to feel anxious or stressed.

They are not preparing themselves for failure and stress.

Challenging your self-talk

The conversations you’re having with yourself are often called your “self-talk”.

It’s essential to understand that this self-talk is just an opinion about a situation or a potential future; it is not true. It will calm quite quickly if you begin to challenge it.

For example, in the above situation, if you feel anxiety, you may find yourself talking to yourself in your mind explaining how this is going to be a problem. You can take the adult position and start to challenge these assumptions.

“No, they’re not going to be a problem. I’ve seen them before and they are a great client. They’ll be easy to work with. Why would I think that? Doesn’t it make sense that if I do my best, they have a good experience and recommend me to friends? And, why should I worry about them thinking I’m not confident? They might be too busy to think about that.”

Think of it a little like a chess game where you’re trying to beat your mind, or as if you’re a detective. How can you uncover thinking that doesn’t stack up?

Does everyone have negative self talk?

This is a perfectly normal human function left over from 50,000 years ago when it was necessary for survival, when seconds really mattered. So, yes, everyone does this.

However, for those who have an anxiety disorder, negative internal words can begin to consume their thoughts completely.

Let’s say, while you are sitting in a chair and everyone is laughing and having a good time; here’s an example of what some people say to themselves.

“I am being watched by everyone. I am sure that they must think I look stupid.”

Your mind has no way of knowing how other people are thinking or feeling about you. The likelihood is that no one is really thinking of you at all. Everyone is having a good time and if they are noticing you, it’s likely because they like what they see.

So, challenge that self talk. Point out that it has no facts to base an opinion on.

Work with a business coach

If you’re struggling with this in your business life, consider working with a business coach who works in confidence. Get in touch if you think this may help.

Create more success

If you’re an entrepreneur, executive, business owner or freelancer who’s feeling lost in a maze, I would be happy to lend a hand.

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