Taking control of your mind – post 2 of 2

In this second and last post of the series, I will explain another way that we can use the conscious mind to retrain the other-than-conscious mind; again something I use myself and introduce to my clients. As with the REACT framework™ it is surprisingly simple; I have known clients who ‘got it’ very quickly, applied it diligently and achieved powerful results quickly. On the other hand, I know some clients have struggled, taking weeks and even months to adopt the practice assiduously in order to get the same potent outcomes.

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I once worked with a client who I can best describe as a ‘force of nature’; intense, determined and forceful. Along with these came what I experienced during our first few sessions as an almost constant torrent of negativity, pessimism and, at times, despair. I will not breach client confidentially about the source and nature of what had driven some deeply held beliefs into the client’s other-than-conscious mind, but suffice to say the timing was in childhood. The client seemed to me to naturally experience any situation in a somewhat negative way, identifying problems and obstacles over possibilities and benefits, relating more to pain and worry over joy and harmony.

After considerable persistence on my part (and resistance on hers), I finally managed to persuade her to close her every day by writing down in a journal three positive things from the day. A very simple concept that took her much effort to implement as it seemed so strange and unnatural to her to recognise positives over negatives. In the end, I think I wore her down and she completed daily night-time homework diligently each evening as she went to bed. Once a week, she identified the three best things in her journal. At the end of the month she identified the three most outstanding entries from that month. I detected changes in her behaviour with the negativity gradually decreasing and then a gradual move to equanimity in her demeanour. Towards the end of the second month, she commented spontaneously that she felt she was a lot happier in herself, explaining that a problem at work the day before, which would previously have thrown her into a tail-spin, had seemed to her to be actually rather funny.

I urge you to try out this second method of training the other-than-conscious mind; I know from my clients you have little to lose and much to gain. Find whatever way, mechanism or device works for you and makes it easy for you to do this work every day. Routine is important. Doing this at the same time each day emphasises the routine nature and gets you into the discipline of the daily recording of three positives.

3 good things a day

As you do whatever works well for you, ensure the positives you identify are also expressed in positive terms: ‘I completed the new page for my website’ or ‘I got to speak to the prospect I have been trying to reach for days’ or ‘My new clients just settled my first invoice’. They don’t need to be momentous, ground-breaking or particularly significant. They could include a particularly nice meal, a chat with a friend, or a beautiful sunset. The positives don’t need to be things you have achieved they should be what you have experienced. They just need to be positives that are positively expressed. They should not be expressed as the avoidance of a negative: ‘That meeting could have gone a lot worse’ or ‘We haven’t heard about our bid, so at least we haven’t been thrown out yet’ or ‘We haven’t lost any more customers today’. Remember, this is about training the other-than-conscious mind to recognise positives.

As with the REACT framework™, this is a very simple technique that produces outstanding behavioural changes if you adopt it as a daily habit. I wish you every success; if you want more information or help applying either technique contact me at piw@wttresults.co.uk or call me on 07764 658071 or register for the REACT framework™ workshop here.

WTT Results designs and delivers transformational change, enabling businesses and individuals to be the best that they want to be. To discuss how we can help your business, please get in touch as above. www.wttresults.co.uk

Taking control of your mind – post 1 of 2

Most of the time our behaviours, our thoughts, our feelings are determined by our other-than-conscious minds. The other-than-conscious mind is hugely influenced by what was drilled into us as children, by our early experiences in life, by events we encounter up to our mid-teenage years. I endured too many years of unhappiness because my parents had drilled into me that marriage was for life – ‘til death do us part’. Another favourite homily of theirs was ‘curiosity kills the cat’; it took me months of toil and heartache to inculcate into my persona the ability to replace judgement about right and wrong with inquisitiveness about what might be – a vital component of my modus operandi these days.

So how do we recognise that it is the other-than-conscious mind that is in control, and what can we do to replace the influence of our early-life experiences with something that is more useful to us in the here and now? It’s surprisingly simple but requires a strenuous struggle to master the means and make it habitual. In essence, it is to use the conscious mind to teach the other-than-conscious new ways of thinking. Sounds straightforward – but only if we begin to use our conscious capacity more, to recognise that the sources of our actions, notions and moods are not from the very moment we are experiencing them, but from a time long ago and far away, when we were a different person.

I am a great supporter and practitioner of mindfulness. Note Claire’s Insight 1 in her blog post at the hyperlink in the line above and you will begin to understand why it was so critical for me to win my struggle with ‘curiosity kills the cat’.

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Every day, whenever in the day I am about to start a new task, I use mindfulness as the starting point for running the REACT framework™ to ensure I am in the best state, with the right resources to achieve what I want. This involves my conscious mind taking control decisively to recognise what my current state is and to identify whether my state is appropriate. Our state is made up of a combination of any or all of our physiology, our environment, and our acuity as well as our thoughts, our emotions, and our spiritual condition. If my state is not ideal for what I want to achieve, I consciously identify what resources I think would be appropriate to the task I am about to undertake. These could be physical resources (a cool drink as I am thirsty) or they could be more nebulous, esoteric even (a feeling that I am very creative right now). I then (and this is where the other-than-conscious mind joins in) seek a time when I was really (for example) creative and relive the moment in a very meaningful way. I will repeat this for all the resources I need (for instance curiosity might be a useful addition to creativity). Having claimed my resources, I then take them with me as I undertake the task I want to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do this each time I make a sandwich of a cup of coffee – it’s reserved for the times when I need to be at my best to achieve something important and potentially challenging.

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For help putting this into action, contact me at piw@wttresults.co.uk or call me on 07764 658071 or register for the REACT framework™ workshop here. In the next post, I will give you another very simple technique you can use to reclaim control of your other-than-conscious mind to achieve powerful results.

WTT Results designs and delivers transformational change, enabling businesses and individuals to be the best that they want to be. To discuss how we can help your business, please get in touch as above. www.wttresults.co.uk

Taking mindfulness off the mat: the top five things you should know

I am delighted to share this guest post from my good friend and teacher, Claire Genkai Breeze.

CGB

Taking Mindfulness Off The Mat: The Top Five Things You Should Know

People, who have grown up on a diet of objectives, goals, trying hard and not accepting things as they are, naturally find mindfulness practice strange at first. To lead is to be an agent of change, to practice mindfulness is to be an agent of noticing things simply as they are without trying to change them. You can see the apparent contradiction!

It is exactly this reason that makes the practice so illuminating for people. Doing the opposite of what you normally do actually helps you to see things more clearly. It encourages you to notice more deeply what it is at the root of what you experience and it teaches you to be curious rather than judging. Just this simple but profound shift can over time increase your own learning agility, improve your relationships and reduce your stress. I am always delighted when people tell me that their relationships with their children are improved since they have been practicing mindfulness.

Learning that we can practice mindfulness and not morph into some introspective self indulgent blob who never takes any action is also very liberating. When you are used to being busy and you suddenly stop for ten minutes it can literally feel very uncomfortable, to the point where you don’t want to do it. The first thing people say is that they fear that if they develop a practice they wont be able to accomplish everything they do. My experience is that people with a practice accomplish the same amount or more, with less stress and less people to apologise to. It shapes the way we do things, by allowing who we are to flourish.

In an environment where most of us are materially well resourced, have enough food to eat, shelter, relationships, a sense of purpose or acknowledged contribution and do not live in fear; the key challenges of staying happy, healthy and change adaptive are in our foreground. The world health organisation has predicted that by 2030 the single biggest global burden will be depression.

Learning to shape your mind is as big a necessity as learning to take care of your body. So in an age when everyone is talking about mindfulness, when work is pretty demanding and our bodies are having difficulty keeping pace with technology; here are my top five mindfulness insights:

Insight 1 CURIOSITY GETS YOU FURTHER THAN JUDGEMENT

Learning to be curious about what is happening inside you, as a legitimate data source tends to occupy space that would otherwise be taken up with judging either yourself or others. In other words curiosity reduces the amount of time you spend judging. Becoming curious about why things happen, what is going on and in what sequence or relationship is a really great way for challenger leaders to witness their own inner and outer establishments. It can help you to foster relationships an increase how much self awareness you have.

In mindfulness practice we learn to accomplish this by simply giving intentional attention on what is happening inside us, not what we would like to be happening. So we are cultivating the skills of observation, coming alongside, attention to detail and using clean language to describe what is happening.  Anyone who coaches people knows that all of these skills are really helpful to helping others improve their performance. Thought about more widely as leaders, in the face of judgement people in business tend to either hide or justify. Both of these are resource draining experiences. Curiosity and the skills associated with it keep people leaning in towards each other to solve problems and uncover situations together.

Insight 2 – GET TO KNOW YOURSELF TO INCREASE YOUR EQ

Given the amount of relationships, feedback, coaching and negotiating we have to do in work these days; a key leadership ability resides in our ability to sense into what others are feeling and thinking.  You might think about this as either resonance or empathy.

The research in this area of mindfulness practice is very clear and compelling: individuals who learn how to notice what is going on in their own mental/emotional/physical continuum are actually changing the way their brains are wired for empathy and sensitivity to others.

To put it bluntly the more you notice and understand yourself, the more you can tune into others you are working with. I think this particular aspect of mindfulness is profoundly important and interesting for at least two reasons:

  1. If you tell yourself that taking a short period of time everyday to notice what is going on inside you is actually self indulgent, the opposite is true! The more you do it the better you are at building relationships
  2. Suddenly mindfulness moves from personal stress management, something you do for yourself, towards what I describe as ‘pro social’. In other words tuning into yourself actually improves how you create flow and relationships with others and increases your care and empathy.

I think of this as the second wave of mindfulness practice for leaders. Once you understand that what you are doing has wider implications, we can begin to think of the change possibilities in teams, collaboration, customer service and culture.

Insight 3 – MINDFULNESS AND LEARNING AGILITY HAVE A RELATIONSHIP

Over twenty years ago Gendlin and his team did some interesting research to try to understand what made some counselling type interventions more successful than others. They had two working assumptions. The first was an inquiry into certain types of therapy models as being more preferable over others, and the second was an assumption that it might be something to do with the quality of the relationship between the client and the therapist. Not so! What they discovered was that clients who were able to go on and make successful changes as a result of their therapy were all doing something very similar. They were displaying an ability to notice what was happening in their mental emotional continuum when they were in therapy and they paid attention to subtle changes in themselves and their bodies as the conversations progressed.

Given what we now know about mindfulness, we can say that the skills of focussing (as Gendlin termed them) are very similar. So if you are being coached right now, some mindfulness practices in your coaching could actually help you to notice patterns and changes more rapidly and help you to integrate and embed new attitudes or approaches.

Extraordinarily whenever we bring intentional attention to ourselves a chemical is produced in our brain, which actually speed up the connectivity of new neural pathways. Mindfulness and learning are natural bed fellows.

Insight 4 – CHANGING IN THE MOMENT

Another ‘second wave’ possibility arises when we are able to use a mindful approach to situations and change something in the moment it is happening. So we are beginning to use mindful approaches to causing change in the now moment rather than waiting until we have time to sit and reflect on what happened. Reducing the time between insight (or felt sense) and action takes mindfulness from the space of personal wellbeing and plonks it firmly into the zone of effective leadership under pressure.

With some practice in the skill of noticing what is arising NOW in yourself helps you to develop an additional level of awareness that sits with you as you go through your day. On the one hand you are fully engaged with everything the job is throwing at you; on the other hand you seem to develop a capacity for seeing really clearly what is going on while it is happening, not several hours or days after it has passed.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that a skill like that can be profoundly useful in the heat of conflicts, indecision, complex choices or when things start to go adrift.

Insight 5 – MINDFULNESS HUMOUR AND RESILIENCE

After you have been playing with mindfulness for a while, you may begin to realise that some of the things you do and think and are attached to are just funny. That is not a bad lesson in life. Learn to take yourself a little less seriously. I don’t mean avoidance or hysteria, I mean a gentle sort of humour that arises because we know that wherever we go we have to take ourselves with us, that we can be determined to stressed or miserable in the most beautiful or luxurious environment, and equally happy with nothing very special at all.

So leaders who develop some sort of mindfulness practice often report that they have a better sense of perspective, that they can tap into a sense of personal happiness more frequently and that their resilience is increased, by moving from judgement to curiosity.

There is a great mindfulness practice that simply involves smiling. It often ends in our groups having a really good liberating laugh out loud.  Somehow when you make contact with your authentic ability to laugh your personal resilience is increased.

Genkai