Executive Coach Jenny McKay asks, how much of an impact do our thinking habits have on us and how can we take back control of our own internal thought processes?
How much happier would you be if you were to imagine that everything you were confronted with was the very thing you were looking for-or needed? The cancellation of a meeting might be comfortably greeted as an opportunity to put your time and attention into something else that is pressing.
But what if that meeting is the linchpin for the proposal you are working on? What if your chance to move forward on a significant piece of work was dependent on that meeting taking place? How might you see such a moment as the very thing you were looking for? Or how might you see missing a plane that would have got you to our daughter’s concert on time as the very thing? That’s much harder to swallow. Clearly, there are significant issues, events and times when seeing a situation as a more positive thing is not appropriate or supportive. There are, however, a huge number of occasions when we would benefit from changing our mindset.
There are plenty of opportunities during the day when you find yourself thinking in ways that are far from constructive. These include delays in traffic, people being late for your meetings, people forgetting to attend to issues on which you depend, situations which are unplanned, times when you are ill prepared, and so on. The way you think about these moments can have a tremendous impact on how you then experience the rest of your life. If attended to with awareness, these could change from being a pain and a downer to an opportunity - and even a gift.
At the mercy of the wrong guys
Your thinking habits accompany you everywhere. If they go unchecked, they cause untold damage to the quality of your days, the quality of your connections, even your relationships. We can ascribe a whole set of interpretations to otherwise innocuous events. A delay in getting into the preferred lane in traffic becomes a deliberate ploy on the part of each and every one of the drivers around us to not let us in. They are doing it on purpose. Their behaviour, we believe, is intentional. They are trying to make us late. Or we assign intention to the guy who didn’t complete his part of the project. He knew we needed to have it completed in order to progress. We continue, unhelpfully, with the thought that he chose not do it – on purpose.
This thinking habit makes you feel lousy. And it is our ‘take’, our interpretation of the event that makes us feel lousy, not the event itself. In this way the wrong intent is assigned to others’ behaviours when those behaviours – or words – have an adverse impact on you. At the same time, when you stuff up, it’s easy to assume that others are reading your stuff-ups as an oversight, an innocent mistake. Not a vindictive ploy.
We judge ourselves by our intentions, and others by their behaviours. For example, it wasn’t my intention to be late for that meeting, but it sure as hell was Sue’s intent to be late to my meeting, because she just wants to make sure I know how much more important she is, than me. Too much? Too far? Maybe. Maybe not.
Unconsciously accepting a habitual way of thinking impacts the quality of your life, moment to moment. If I continue with my view that all the drivers are conspiring against me, it affects my driving. I become angry. I drive more aggressively. I put myself and others at risk by driving with this preconceived idea that everyone on the road is out to get me.
If you continue with the view that your colleagues are deliberately trying to sabotage your work or put you down, how easy is it going to be to engage with them? How helpful is this view in supporting, constructive relationships in the future. You might be vaguely aware that you need to be at least pleasant to them, but your resentment will be steaming out of your pores.
Our bodies and our way of being tell the world far more than we ever want the world to know. Our colleagues will get covert messages that they are not our favourite people. The way we behave towards them will tell them something is up. However, they won’t know exactly why. They will try and guess, but they don’t have access to our heads and what stories we have constructed about them – which is probably lucky. But on the other hand, they will be left to draw their own conclusions as to why we are angry and distant. And their stories, weirdly, may not be accurate.
Open up to a fresh view
So, getting back to that “gift”. The moment of making yourself aware of what stories you are spinning is an important one. We have the opportunity to check out what we have said to ourselves, and then determine if it is correct, the only possibility, potentially constructed under the influence of another bad moment, or just an interesting, amusing path our mind has chosen to go down. And open ourselves up to a fresh view – one that is more supportive, and enables us to feel more positive about a situation, rather than choosing a negative spin.
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