Taking Charge of Your Mental Energy
Here is an interesting statistic… the average person has about 50,000 thoughts each day. Wow! We are much busier than even I imagined!
Every day each of us are called upon to deal with issues:
- health worries
- heavy traffic
- conflict at home or work
- meeting this month’s rent.
Not to mention making sure that the 50,000 thoughts popping into our heads don’t derail our forward progress.
So, how are you spending your mental energy? Are you in control of your thoughts, or are your thoughts controlling you?
Mindfulness is the Key to Building Resilience
Being mindful of where we direct our mental energy can help us direct our attention to productive thoughts and ideas, which will make all the difference in building our resilience and enhancing our state of mind. This is particularly important in today’s hyper connected, always on world.
The Power of Positive Thinking
Just be positive. Seems simple, right? Well, no.
Life is not so simple that turning on the flow of positive thoughts will make all our daily challenges disappear. We need something more. This brings me to habit number one from Steven Covey’s the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Be Proactive.
Proactive people take responsibility for their life – and choose to focus their attention on ALL the things they do have influence over. Reactive people, on the other hand, focus more of their time and mental energy on things they can’t control or influence. I think Covey really brought this concept home when he described the habit of being proactive, with what he calls the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.
Circle of Control vs. Circle of Influence
We have a choice! We can let things within our Circle of Concern dominate our thinking:
- I am so bored these days!
- My pants don’t fit anymore!
- Why is traffic so bad?
- How am I going to make ends meet?
- How will I ever meet the project deadline?
- My partner is surly! What is their problem?
All these concerns sap our mental energy. But no matter how much we worry, worry itself won’t make them go away.
Or we can let things within our Circle of Influence dominate our behavior:
- I’m going to learn a new skill.
- I’m going to commit to exercise 5 days a week.
- I’m going to start listening to talking books on my commute.
- I am going to do a personal budget.
- I’m going to ask my associate to help me with the project.
- I’m going to schedule time to have a heart to heart with my partner.
So, if we accept those things in our Circle of Concern as fact and decide to bring a mindset of action, rather than worry, our Circle of Influence will get larger while our Circle of Concern will get smaller!
I often catch myself drifting off into the Circle of Concern and spending my mental energy on things that are out of my control. I remind myself to step back into my Circle of Influence.
Focus Your Attention of What You Have Control Over
We can choose to bolster our resilience by focusing our attention on all the things we do have control over, rather than dwelling on what we don’t.
Be mindful of which circle you are focusing your attention on. Catch yourself when you get stuck worrying about things you cannot control. Think about what you can do to build your resilience.
Here are some strategies to stay within your Circle of Influence:
- Take Your 30 Minutes Every Day.
- Take 1 or 2 minute breaks at work every hour or two to deep breathe and become present. Stand up, pull your shoulders back and stretch out your neck muscles. You can even do this behind the wheel.
- Shut off all devices at least an hour before bed and clear those daytime thoughts away with daytime clothes. Remember that what you think about right before bed you will marinade in for the course of the night.
- Set yourself up for the big sleep by avoiding caffeine or alcohol long before bedtime.
Finally, when you find yourself getting wound up with worry, ask yourself: “Am I in my Circle of Concern right now?”
If the answer is yes, decide what you can do to shut down that thought loop and replace it with an action that will move you back into your Circle of Influence.
More posts? Bring it on!