The Mind As A Roadmap
James Hayes, an Executive Leadership and Management Coach, tells us the mind is like a roadmap. Where the job of a roadmap is to direct you to where you want to go, your mind has a similar job to help guide you on the path called life. So, the question is, if your mind is like a roadmap, then where is yours leading you?
Your mind controls your emotions, your behaviors, and your relationships. The first step in mastering your mindset is understanding what direction your mindset it taking you. Ask yourself, is your mind leading you to the kind of life you want to live? Or, like a poorly written map, is it leading you astray? Is it leading you away from what you want by sabotaging your behaviors and your relationships? Is it creating the kind of emotional unresourcefulness that’s taking you away from being your best in the areas of life that are really important to you? As you answer these questions, you can liken your beliefs and thoughts to the signposts on a roadmap telling you which direction to go.
Thoughts Influence Feelings and Feelings Influence Actions
What you think influences how you feel and how you feel greatly influences what you do. You’re more likely to do the things that you associate with positively. Conversely, if you feel demotivated by an action, then the chances of you doing it are substantially reduced. Therefore, if what you think influences how you feel and how you feel influences what you do, then everything is connected and what you think influences what you do.
The things you are thinking, the way you are looking at situations, and the kinds of questions you ask yourself all play a role in how you feel. This creates your emotional reality which determines the actions you take. If all you see on your roadmap are challenges, risks, and problems, but you don’t have anywhere marked out for opportunities, triumphs, and possibilities, then you aren’t going to head in a healthy direction. You’ll go in the direction of damage control and risk management, reviewing endless scenarios of what could go wrong.
Take, for example, a scenario that many people dread, public speaking. If you had to make a speech, what would your map look like? Is it one that allows you to navigate the terrain of public speaking in a successful, confident, and articulate way? Or will it do the opposite, making you nervous and causing you to see the audience as a threat rather than an opportunity?
What You Think Isn’t Real
The German translation for ‘meaning’ literally translates to “hold in mind”. The meaning we give to our thoughts and concerns is what we “hold in mind”. This begs the question, what are you holding in mind in the areas that are important to you?
Before you can start adjusting what think, you need to understand and realize that what you think isn’t real. Imagine your favorite food in great detail, including the aroma, the appearance, and the feel on your tongue as you eat it. You can see it in your mind and even imagine eating it, but are you full? No, because it’s a concept not reality. Your thoughts are concepts and concepts aren’t reality.
There are two impressions you have at any time when you experience reality. The first impression is the truth or the reality of what is actually there. The second impression is the story you tell yourself about what is there. That story is what you are holding in mind. While you can’t change the first impression because it is reality, the second impression is malleable and can change at any time.
Let’s go back to our example of public speaking. You might know rationally and logically that you have nothing to fear, but we are not logical creatures - we are psychological creatures. If what you hold in your mind is a vision of people judging you, that is what your body and emotional system are going to respond to, likely causing a state of panic. The first step to mastering your mindset is acknowledging that the story is not real, so change can begin.
Changing Your Mindset In The Moment
If you want to change your mindset in the moment, begin by changing the questions that you are asking yourself. When you ask the brain a question, it is programmed give you an answer, good or bad. If you ask yourself a really disempowering question, you will get a really disempowering answer. If you are asking yourself questions like, “Why does this always happen to me, why did I screw up, and what’s wrong with me,” your brain is going to come back with answers like, “You’re a screw up, what were you thinking in the first place, and obviously, there’s something wrong with you.” If those are the kinds of thoughts going through your mind, you’re going to be in a disempowered state because you are asking yourself disempowering questions. You may not even realize you are having these thoughts.
The easiest way to change a negative mindset is to ask yourself an empowering, solution-oriented question. When you’re feeling nervous, about doing something outside of your comfort zone, ask yourself this question from Cesar Rodriguez, “What would I do if I was ten times bolder?” This will change your focus because your emotions will respond with confidence as your mind pictures what you would actually do.
With this simple question, you can change your state of mind, your direction, and your focus. Leveraging your creativity and intelligence to paint a positive picture in your mind, you can change your mindset from one of negativity to one of empowerment.