The Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California has begun studies and found that the average human being has upwards of 70,000 thoughts each day.
This calculation not only includes the thoughts we consciously process, but also includes the subconscious decisions and motivations that help us navigate through our lives.
From thinking about what to have for lunch to thinking about who should be CC’d on an email, our minds are the force behind our most indistinguishable reactions and our greatest successes.
So, would it not stand to reason that having direct control of our thoughts and being able to actively manage our minds would mean we are able to improve our chances of success significantly and increase our productivity?
I mean, 70,000 is a massive amount of thoughts. What if we could use each thought to pursue a singular purpose? What if we could use real, effective techniques to unify those thoughts, rather than have them in dissonance?
So, below I will discuss four highly effective techniques to help you manage your mind.
To get a handle on managing your mind, you need to be able to improve your awareness of how it works. Meditation, even in short intervals, will help you considerably to become more sensitive to your thoughts and emotions.
In fact, the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, including Oprah Winfrey, Marc Benihoff, and Arianna Huffington, meditate regularly.
Several studies, such as in Oxford Journals and the U.S National Library of Medicine, have found that only 20 minutes will make a significant impact on your anxiety levels, overall awareness of your emotions, and reactions to your environment.
When I began meditating regularly, I used a simple app with guided meditations. By taking 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes at lunch each day, I started recognizing subtle changes in my mood that had surprising impacts on my thoughts.
And, this is not an uncommon result of meditation. In a recent study, after only four weeks of meditation (twice daily for 15 minutes each time) the average reduction in anxiety experienced by the 31 participants was nearly 15%.
Also, before I started meditating, I had difficult days and felt stressed or exhausted, often taking that stress home.
But when I began meditating daily, I became able to consciously point out what made me stressed as well as when and how that stress changed my thinking.
Once I was able to identify those triggers at work, I could take action to manage how I responded to the stress.
Think of it as being under gunfire. You cannot do much just knowing that you are being shot at. But, as soon as you know where the bullets are coming from, you can find better cover and respond directly to the issue.
So, meditation not only increases your awareness of your emotions and reactions to what is going on around you, but also queues you in on the narrative playing in your head. Thoughts that were subconscious before come to the front and center, giving you more control over how those thoughts impact your actions.
I particularly enjoy these apps because they have short tracks that can help even the most time-restricted among us find time for peace. You can try any or all of them for free.
#2 Thought Replacement
I do not care if you are the Dalai Lama himself, you will have some negative thoughts and some will be more gnarly than others.
Your coworkers will get on your nerves and you will second guess some of your choices. Just accept that you have such thoughts and respond to them; do not pretend that they are not real.
Moreover, such negatives thoughts are not just time wasters; negative thought patterns have been connected to increased stress, digestive issues, and even cardiac issues. So, just for your body’s sake, managing negative thoughts is incredibly important.
Would you like a 25% reduction in your risk for heart disease? I thought so. Now pay attention!
Often, these thoughts are reactionary (i.e., they occur without you even realizing it). And, after a lifetime of having a subconscious negative nancy in your ear, you develop a habit of looking at the world through negative lenses. This lowers your self-esteem, confidence, creativity, and willingness to grow.
But, once you start to experience the benefits of regular meditation, it will become easier for you to identify negative thoughts. And, each time you find a negative thought pop in your head, grab a notepad and write it down. Once you have it on paper, go to work on writing a positive statement that erases the negative one.
This process is part of a bigger practice called cognitive restructuring which is a component of the philosophy of Aaron Beck, founder of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
The theory of CBT has been found to significantly improve (as in a 40% improvement) depression, anxiety, and even PTSD, OCD and other serious, persistent mental illnesses. With cognitive restructuring, you practice replacing habits and thought processes in order to literally change your brain’s wiring.
Let us look at an example. Say you are getting ready for a meeting with an investor to raise funding. Then, this little nugget of joy enters your mind with a foghorn:
“This investor is going to see right through me.”
Hit pause on whatever you are doing, grab a notepad, and jot down that nonsense. Then, get to work by writing the following to yourself:
“This idea is worth spreading.” “Whatever they say, I can learn from it.” “This is worth my time, so it is worth their time.”
Remember to also say these positive statements out loud. Verbalizing the statements have a more intimate impact on your mind. That is why mantras are so powerful.
This is not a tool for ignoring your negative thoughts. For this practice to work, you need to acknowledge each thought, experience the emotions they bring, and then respond accordingly to come to a positive result.
In following this practice, whenever a negative thought creeps up again, you have your toolbox ready to go to work.
While everyone can benefit from this practice, it can be especially helpful for the budding entrepreneur, as the first time they raise money can be especially daunting.
#3 Mind Mapping
As an entrepreneur, you often have more ideas than you know what to do with. But, when you set out to make an idea a reality, just getting the process straight can be overwhelming. Enter mind mapping.
[Image source: Flickr]
Created by British author and educational consultant, Tony Buzan, mind mapping is a process of taking complex, multi-variable ideas and breaking them down into visual descriptions that are incredibly easy to understand for the creator and easy to explain to observers.
For mind mapping, do the following: First, take the main theme of whatever idea or concept you are trying to break down and draw it in the center of a piece of paper. Then, while thinking about that idea, write down the thoughts that come to mind and connect those thoughts to the original idea with a line.
Repeat the process with each thought and expand the map until the entire concept is mapped out. (I know this sounds complicated, but here is an article that explains it brilliantly.)
Mind mapping has been used to break down research, marketing strategies, and tasks for delegation. Also in a study of students in a science class, students who were taught through mind mapping learned the material 26.13% more effectively.
By using mind mapping, they were able to recall and use the information more than 26% better than their counterparts.
So, if you have an idea, start by mapping it out.
It will help streamline your thinking and make it a breeze to explain it to others. You can use paper and a pencil or a whiteboard or get yourself some software, such as XMind or Bubbl, and go to town.
#4 Act “As If”
This last tool, simply titled “As If”, is used widely in the mental health and executive coaching fields.
The practice of acting “as if” is simple, yet powerful for creating a tangible change in behavior and productivity.
All you have to do is think about what the world would have been like and how you would have behaved, if the desired outcome were already in place. Then, act that way.
Put simply, acting as if is just taking the positive statements from the thought replacement technique and putting them into action.
So, when you are stressed about a meeting with an investor, act as if you believe you already have their money. Ask yourself how you would have talked to them, if it were a sure thing or, better yet, if you did not need the money in the first place and only wanted to help them out.
It is amazing how quickly the act you put on becomes reality.
This process is not just for those with whom you come in contact. It also gives you the opportunity to prove to yourself how capable you actually are.
When you pretend you have the confidence to solve a problem, where do you think that confidence comes from? You just need to get out of your own way.
Mind management is a constant practice. The more you invest, the more you receive. So, use these four techniques daily to see your productivity improve and thinking become more streamlined.
Do you use any other mind management techniques to excel in your business and life? Please let us know in the comments below.
Also, if you like the article, please share and spread the knowledge.