So you want to change your mindset and change the way you go after goals? The way that you react under pressure? And the way you feel when you’re relaxing?
Making change in your life all starts from within and the very first thing you need to do is to change your mindset. Once you can do that, everything else will follow.
And guess what? It’s easier than you think! Just like anything else, your mindset can be changed with exercise and you can get better at controlling it with practice and training.
With the right understanding and the right willpower, you can eventually take total control of your emotions, your reactions and your stress.
Let’s take a look then at how you can transform your mindset and start getting more of what you want out of life…
Why We Are All Afraid
The first thing to recognize, is that your perception and focus are what really matter in life.
There is no concrete reality other than the one inside your head. That is to say, that your happiness and your sense of accomplishment has little to do with what goes on outside of your body and everything to do with the way you internalize that.
And the way we perceive and focus on the world around us is all to do with our evolution. We are naturally inclined to have anxious, frightened, knee-jerk reactions and to assume the worst in a lot of cases. It’s even thanks to evolution that we can find ourselves ‘frozen’ with fear or stress. It’s called the ‘Fight, flight or freeze’ response, to use its full name!
Why are we wired that way?
Simple: when we were evolving out on the African planes, we would have been on the constant lookout for predators and making the best decisions we could to avoid them. If there was an ambiguous threat, then we would assume the worst and run anyway – because ultimately that allowed us to survive better and pass on our genes.
In today’s world though, we are not in constant peril. In fact, most stress is the low-level and ‘chronic’ kind. We don’t have as many moments where our heart starts pounding because we’re faced with potential, sudden death; but instead we have lots of prolonged periods of debt or of angry bosses. This keeps our body constantly physiologically aroused and means we’re much more likely to suffer heart problems or to find it difficult getting to sleep.
We are ‘risk averse’ and pessimistic because it helped us survive this long. But now the world is safe and all that fear and pessimism is doing is making you far less effective at getting what you want in life.
It’s Your Focus and Perception That Matter
But like I said, it’s your focus and perception that really matters and this is the key to preventing yourself from panicking or from freezing up. It’s also the key to being far more driven and productive – and to getting what you want from life more often.
Because let’s imagine that ambiguous threat was the silhouette of what appeared to be a lion on the horizon. You can’t tell if it’s a lion but being risk averse and naturally pessimistic, you in all likelihood will assume it’s a lion. As such, your body will release excitatory neurotransmitters and hormones including the likes of cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. This will increase your heart-rate, cause you to think scared thoughts, trigger tunnel vision, contract your muscles, constrict your blood vessels, thicken blood viscosity and more.
And if you see the silhouette more clearly and realize it is definitely a lion, then that response is only going to increase further.
But now let’s imagine that you are someone who is a little more positive and optimistic.
Let’s imagine that you take the assumption that this is not a lion: it’s a harmless house cat! If you really believe this, then regardless of whether it’s true or not, you will respond differently and remain calm. You’ve reinterpreted the situation and your happiness and physiology at this point is thus entirely tied to your perception.
Turning Lions Into Cats
The problem is that your body also thinks of your angry boss in the same way it thinks of a lion. And it thinks the same way about speaking in public.
In other words? Your brain is ‘seeing’ lions everywhere. Your job is to reinterpret those lions where necessary and to see them for the little kittens that they really are.
You can do this using a technique called ‘thought challenging’. This simply means that you’re looking at the different thoughts you have when you’re feeling stressed and then you’re trying to deconstruct those thoughts and prove to yourself that they’re unfounded and not helpful. Of course you need to then really believe this to be the case for it to work though.
So for example, let’s take that example of public speaking. For many people, this might seem like a very big ‘lion’ metaphorically.
So how do we turn it into a tame little kitty?
First of all, we need to look at exactly what it is we’re afraid of. For most of us, it’s the idea that we might stutter or ‘choke’ and that people in the audience will then laugh at us or stop listening. This is a frightening concept because it’s embarrassing and could end up having negative consequences for our careers etc.
However, when you break this down, the fear is really actually unfounded. That’s because most people are actually very kind and forgiving – so much so that if you were to crack under pressure they would likely just politely wait for you to regain composure. People are compassionate and it’s very rare to be speaking to a group so cruel that they’d outright laugh at your misfortune!
The other reason it doesn’t matter is that you most likely will never have to see these people again. So why should be it be an issue if you’re a little embarrassed by what happens?
The same goes for the kind of crippling, constant stress we have regarding our work or regarding our finances. You might find yourself constantly scared that you’re not going to meet your deadlines, or that your cash will run out and you’ll be evicted/your house will be repossessed.
But now assess
a) how likely this is and
b) what contingency plans you could put in place.
For starters, most of us can live for a while with little income. If you run out of cash, then you can probably ask your bank for a free overdraft, take out a loan, or get a credit card. Likely you have things you could sell, or you could ask your parents for a small bit of cash. If that doesn’t work out, then you’re going to have to miss a few months’ rent before you’ll get thrown out – you are protected by law. What’s more, there is no reason that you can’t get a small part time job to work in the evenings or at the weekends.
Or how about working on a business of your own in your free time?
Or you could rent out a room to a foreign student over the summer.
Or cut the neighbors’ hair!
In other words, there are plenty of ways you could cope and it’s relatively unlikely that any of these eventualities would come to pass in the first place. And seeing as worrying and being stressed won’t help you anyway… you might as well relax and be happy while trying your best to make sure ends keep meeting!
More Ways to Focus Up and Control Your Mindset
There are more ways to focus up and control your mindset too.
The key thing to recognize here is just how important it is to not only tell yourself this new reality but also to visualize it. Actually picture yourself giving the speech and it going well, or visualize yourself not worrying about the finances. This is important because when we picture something, our brain acts as though it is real: literally causing the very same brain areas to light up as though that thing were really happening.
When you visualize things going well then, you can remove anxiety and you can instead encourage the flow of positive neurotransmitters and hormones that will put you in a good mood and help you to stay calm and relaxed.
So it’s crucial to really feel the emotion of what you’re picturing if it’s going to have proper effect. And this can also work in reverse when you’re trying to make yourself more psyched up, more determined and more driven.
For example, if you’re trying to control your mindset in order to feel more motivated and determined, then you need to focus on why it is you’re doing something. Very often, the steps we need to take to get to where we want to be can seem dull and unpleasant and it’s easy to just put them off.
Say you want to get into great shape, waking up early every morning to do a workout is something that most people don’t exactly enjoy and it’s thus all too easy to simply start skipping those workouts.
Likewise, staying that extra half hour at work to try and work toward that amazing promotion can also seem dull, making it hard to stay committed.
So the key here is to change your perception again. How? By remembering the reason that you’re doing something and then really focusing on it hard and making that link in your brain.
Remember the emotion behind what you want to do – if it’s working out then this means picturing yourself looking and feeling amazing and having the confidence to get whatever you want in life. Really picture that and feel the emotion and try to think about it while you train. This can have all the difference when it comes to having the motivation to keep going after whatever it is you want.
Another tool you can use to overcome fear meanwhile is something called ‘hypothesis testing’. This takes the basic concept of thought challenging one step further by actually testing the thought to see if it’s real and if it holds water.
So to do this, you need to just face that fear and actually try and make it go wrong on purpose. Afraid of speaking in public because you might stutter and get laughed at? Then hypothesis testing means actually stuttering on purpose and seeing how this goes down with your audience. Nine times out of ten, what you’ll find is that no one reacts and they wait patiently. You’ve now seen first hand that the thing you were afraid of really isn’t that bad. This can make all the difference to the way you feel and help you to completely eradicate those fears and concerns!
Finally, another way to change your perception is just to change what you focus on. If you have something good going on in your life and something bad, the way you feel will largely come down to which you place the most stock in and which you think about the most.
This is where the ‘gratitude attitude’ can come in and it’s what makes it so powerful and beneficial.
Just try focusing on the things that make you happy and that you’re grateful for – even writing them down at the end of the day. You’ll find that this exercise alone results in a much happier and more positive you!
Now, your turn, what do you think about that and How to change your mindset and the way to go after your goals?