Last month my tip was about how we are influenced by our thoughts. If you have not yet read it, I urge you to do so because it provides a nice foundation for this article. Click here to read last month’s Contractor Tip.
Some of the biggest battles in people’s lives cannot be seen because they are happening in their minds.
The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Included in its very demanding role, the brain serves as the battlefield where we play out our thoughts—both good and bad. Those suffering from low self-esteem, addiction, depression, pain, and suffering endure their biggest battles in the confines of this little three-pound organ sitting on their shoulders. Their fight is perpetual because their brain is always working and thinking.
Obviously, I am not a medical professional and this article, by no means, discounts seeking medical assistance in dealing with any mental issue. Instead, I am going to focus on mental exercises that you can use alone or in tandem with medical treatment. I am talking about controlling your internal narrative.
I recently encountered a person who was intentionally and repeatedly burning himself with a cigarette lighter. I learned that he was mentally linking the sensation of pain with pleasure.
I share that story because it is one with which I identify. I too, during stressful times, have caught myself fantasizing about inflicting pain on myself and associating it with pleasure.
I remember walking across a bridge, staring at the water far below, and allowing my mind to wander. I thought about how great it would feel to leap from the bridge and glide through the air. In my mind, the jump would release me from the weight of my heavy burden and allow me to enjoy feeling weightless for a few seconds. I envisioned myself landing quietly in the water below. Of course, I did not jump. However, had I nourished those thoughts over time, it could have led to me fulfilling that fantasy.
The truth is that if had jumped off that bridge, within seconds I would have smacked the water and plummeted to the bottom. My body would have probably responded to the shock of the cold water and attempted to gasp for air, which would have resulted in water filling my lungs. This situation would have been catastrophic for both me and my family. I could have either died or been permanently disabled. Either way, it would have changed my future forever.
When the thought of jumping crosses my mind these days, I link it to the truth and relate it to the pain and suffering it would cause. Therefore, it hurts to even consider jumping, and I can escape those thoughts and move on to more productive and positive thinking.
When you change your thoughts, actions follow. Changing your thought process requires training and dedication. Here are a couple of steps to practice daily:
Be mindful of your thoughts. You must be vigilant in guarding your mind against negative thoughts because you can manifest them into reality. When negative thoughts creep into your head, link those thoughts to pain instead of pleasure, and they will eventually fade away.
Surround yourself with positive people. You cannot be strong all the time, so it is okay to lean on others. It is essential to have a strong support system.
Look for good things in your life every day. Good things happen to all of us every day. Be thankful for even the small gifts. Did you wake up this morning? That’s an opportunity to express gratitude.
Help others and acknowledge their success. If you want to feel good about yourself, try uplifting others. You will find you benefit as much as the other person.
I often reflect on three specific pieces of his wisdom I have hanging on my office wall:
- “Everything happens for a reason. You don’t have to know the reason; you just need to know how to deal with it.”
- “You can’t speed up the river and you can’t slow it down. At some point, you have to have some faith in the direction it is going.”
- “Everything affects everything.”
These inspirations were shared with me from contractor friends. When I am dealing with stress, or things just are not going the way I think they should, these sage words always help shift my perspective. Rather than getting down and mired in the negative, the words inspire me to shift my thought process and look for the potential benefits of my current situation.
Another valuable piece of advice comes from my business coach. He likes to remind me that nothing clears the mind like the absence of options. That question forces me to ask myself, “What did you do in the past when your back was against the wall?” I reflect on the hard times I have had in the past and how I overcame them.
Everything you do matters in one way or another. Do not be naïve in believing that your actions make no difference. Some things matter more than others, but everything matters. That is why positive thoughts are so important.
Friendship is about nurturing relationships that sustain us and build us up. There is great value in surrounding yourself with friends, but the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. You have to love the person you see in the mirror each morning. If you are not your own best friend, no one else will be. So, be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself the same way you would speak to someone you love. If you focus on the right thoughts, you can have a better life.
Like friendship, leadership is all about relationships—the connections we make and the bonds we create. Great leaders are influential because they first had to influence themselves. Has your role as a leader stalled? Is there an opportunity before you that you have found unattainable? I urge you to make an introspective evaluation of your leadership. Is the message you are telling yourself serving as a stumbling block or as a catapult?
The next time you are in a difficult situation, remember, this is what you trained your mind to manage. Take a deep breath, relax, and give yourself a good motivational speech. Cheer for yourself because every thought matters.