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You Can Change Your Mind – Take 9 Steps

Written by: David Bottomley, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor David Bottomley

Changing our minds is often presented as a bad thing. We have to be decisive. We must stick to our guns. We have to be strong and resolute. No wavering, no wobbling and certainly no “U” turns.

two path ways with nerves

Well, I believe that changing our minds is one of the healthiest and most positive things we can do.


Although, of course, I’m always prepared to be persuaded otherwise!


I’m not primarily talking about making practical or business decisions. Although it’s right to change our minds, if we get more information, are persuaded by a different point of view or simply have more time to think. Sticking stubbornly to a poor or sub-optimal decision is a sign of weakness, not of strength.


However, I’m more interested in a more profound and lasting change of our minds. How we change the way our mind comes to decisions and actions. How we change the way we think and react. And why this can be such a positive and growth experience for us.


Developing a new, positive way of thinking


In many situations, we automatically react in a certain prescribed way, according to our own well-established ways of thinking. It is the way we have been trained or conditioned to think. It is our default mode of operating, our natural mindset. Trigger A always creates reaction B. Situation X causes us to take action Y.


And yet so often we are pre-programmed to react defensively, frequently out of fear, and in a way which turns out to be negative, unhelpful, or even painful and self-destructive. Our actions are driven more by emotion and half-truths, rather than by logic and facts.


When somebody criticises me I feel hurt and resentful and defend myself vehemently. When I have an important meeting I feel anxious and retreat into my shell. When I have an important decision to make, I procrastinate. When I have a report to write it has to be perfect. When someone doesn’t do as they are told I get angry and loud.


Our default reaction to a situation might be fear, anger, envy, guilt or loss of confidence. We might default to imposter syndrome, procrastination or people pleasing. We could be, by nature or by habit, a perfectionist, a workaholic, a cynic, impatient or reckless.


Any one of these responses and behaviours is likely to be damaging to us – and probably to others – in the short or long term.


So how do we change our mindset – not just once, but for good, and for our own good? How do we escape from our learned habits, break free of our default reactions, learn more positive and constructive responses?


Here are seven steps which I have used to successfully coach people towards new, positive and constructive mindsets.


Recognise, reflect and research


1. Examine ourselves – perhaps you recognise yourself in one or two of the examples I have already described? Maybe it is something else. Be honest with yourself and work through recent situations, your actions, reactions, and decisions. How did you react? What was the impact of your actions? Maybe ask a friend, your manager, or your nearest and dearest. What am I like by nature? What would I like to change or be better at doing or being?


2. Pick one area you would like to work on. Write down how it is manifesting itself in your life. What is the impact for you, your success, and how you feel about yourself. How does it affect your business and others around you? For example, if we procrastinate, we may miss opportunities, be seen as unreliable, and be disappointed and frustrated with ourselves. If we are a people-pleaser, we can be seen as inauthentic, and we can build resentment when we feel we are getting little in return.


3. Do a little bit of background research to understand your trait better, find out how others have dealt with it. If possible, identify where it originated from. Maybe it is something you learned from your parents or someone else in authority. Maybe it stems from a specific unpleasant incident or experience. It could be a self-limiting belief which is simply no longer true, and certainly not helpful.


Prepare for action


4. Write down an objective. Be as specific as you can be. For example, not “I will be more confident” but “when speaking in a group or at a meeting, I will find a place of calm where I can relax, feel safe and be ready to contribute”. Put it somewhere you can see it every day.


5. Have a positive, self-affirming mantra ready to say to yourself when you are in that situation. This is a simple statement of fact which will re-centre you. It should bring you away from your old mindset, based on old experiences, to the reality of the present. It will be a truth you believe in and can rely upon when things around you are a little shaky. It should be factual and routed in the present reality. For example “I am safe”, “I am very good at my job”, “I don’t need to be perfect at everything”, “Putting things off does not make them easier” or “Saying “No” is good for me and those around me”.


Living it out


6. Consciously look out for situations in which you would normally react or behave in line with your old mindset. As the situation occurs, and you feel yourself reacting in the usual way, hit “pause.” Take a breath and find a place of calm in your mind, ideally on your own. Repeat your mantra to yourself until it takes over as the occupying truth in your mind. Then take another breath.


Sometimes our old emotional response takes control before our new mindset gets a look in, particularly when we feel threatened, uneasy, or de-stabilised. This is understandable. The question you should ask, is “How long do I want to remain angry, envious, afraid etc?” Maybe 10 minutes, but probably not 10 hours and certainly not 10 days. Allow the emotion to subside, but have it pack its bags, and don’t let it outstay its welcome.


7. You now have a clear choice in the present reality. You are no longer a slave to your old mindset, to that old incident, to what your teachers or parents told you, to your emotional response. Make an informed, calm, and sensible choice. And change your mind.


You will learn to anticipate situations where you may have an emotional reaction. Then you should repeat your mantra in advance. Then, you can put your coat on before it rains, rather than wait until it is pouring down.


Practice makes perfect


8. Wear down a new path. Just like walking across a field, if we do it enough times, we make a new path. The more times we react in the same way, the more our brains take this as the default route. We used to go left, but now we are going right. To start with, it takes a conscious effort. Without thinking, we may still go the old way. But eventually our synaptic pathways re-wire and the better route becomes the default. We will be achieving the objective we started with.


None of this is easy, and it takes time. It does work – I have done it for myself and seen it in others.


9. Consider working all of this through with a coach. They will help you in each one of these steps, providing direction, support, and encouragement.


As a coach, I have worked through this process many times, with a wide range of people with a whole range of different mindsets. I have done it myself.


Over time. we get to a place where we are in control of our own reactions and emotions, and can decide to think, respond, act, and live with a more positive and successful mindset.


As the old saying goes – we cannot change our circumstances, but we can certainly change how we respond to them.


Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

David Bottomley Brainz Magazine
 

David Bottomley, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

David Bottomley coaches leaders and teams. During his career in senior and executive roles, he built, developed and led teams in many organisations. Now he coaches leaders to lead – and not just manage – and helps to build brilliant teams. He helps people to understand the their values and strengths, break through their assumed limitations and embrace what lights them up. The result? Leaders and teams who love what they do, enjoy balanced lives, and are energised to perform to their amazing potential.

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