“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” ~ Abraham Lincoln.
The mind is an amazing system, designed to be highly efficient. The phrase “practice makes perfect” is directly linked to the power of our mind to be as efficient as possible. To illustrate this, think of when you learned to drive a car or ride a bike. At first, you had to think about every move that you made. After some time and lots of practice, what once involved a ton of conscious thinking became natural. This is extremely evident after arriving at home and not even remembering the drive!
Although our natural efficiency-focused mind is a blessing, (you don’t have to think to breath or the myriad of other bodily functions or automatic tasks throughout the day ) it can also create conflict for us, especially when we are in auto-pilot in areas we’d like different results.
Think about all the things that you can do at one time. For example, simultaneously my heart is beating, my blood is pumping, breathing, thinking of what to write, typing, and watching what is going on around me. There are so many auto-processes happening at once in our bodies – it is a highly efficient machine! What happens however when your brain learns things too efficiently that don’t serve you?
Habits, anything that you do over an over, or things that bring you comfort or pleasure can be learned and accepted by the mind rather quickly.
The reason that things that bring pleasure and comfort are so readily accepted by your mind is that our brains identify pain and discomfort with something that should be avoided. We are meant to be whole and free from disease and injury. Our bodies have natural healing mechanisms, your immune system for one, that goes to work to attack invaders and anything that contradicts wellness. If eating fatty foods that taste yummy bring you comfort, your mind will quickly accept that this is good. You have cravings in part because of chemicals from sugar or fats, but in great part from the pleasure they bring and the acceptance and desire within our minds to not feel pain.
Habits form because you practice them. Overeating, procrastination, smoking, lying, sloppiness, these are all practiced acts. If it’s easy for your mind to learn, the quicker and deeper the habit sets in. If you have to make yourself get up an hour early to go to the gym, that takes much greater effort than sleeping in. Hitting the snooze is an easy habit to form. The brain loves easy! The less work it needs to do to accomplish a task – job done! Efficient!
Congratulations, if you repeatedly have negative thoughts, insecurities, and fears, you may have a habit to break. Don’t worry, many of us do. I say congratulations because exercising control over your thinking will help you take back your amazing power within.
The conditioning of our minds through environmental influences such as family, friends, work, and school over the course of our lives leaves us with quite a bit of unproductive thinking – but the good news is – you have the power to change that!
We are what we repeated think about because this will lead to what we repeatedly do. Again, efficiency!
What do you want your brain to be efficient at? Negative thinking or positive thinking? Wouldn’t you rather automatically make good food choices, dating choices, choices that get you ahead, or ones that you regret and beat yourself up over?
If you allow your thoughts to run around unsupervised in your brain, on auto-pilot, it is the equivalent of a toddler running around the house with kitchen knives- dangerous. Supervising your thoughts and choosing to eliminate the ones that harm you is the first step to retraining your brain.
Retraining your brain takes repetition and perseverance. Your breakthrough will usually follow the greatest displeasure. When repeating your new habit and new thoughts, keep this in mind - the more you feel like giving up, the closer you are to a breakthrough into your new thinking. A breakthrough is a moment in time when the impossible becomes the possible.
It doesn’t matter how your day, your week, your month, your year, or your life started, right now is the time to decide how you want to be, what thoughts you want to have, what believes that you want to hold, and what actions you want to become automatic.
Decide to think today in a way that will better serve your tomorrow. You can choose, on purpose, to not focus on not feeling well, your boring job, or your miserable relationship. Instead practice thoughts that you can accept as a new belief (the key is that you feed thoughts into your brain that you believe). For example, if your job is boring or you are upset because you have been passed over for a job, focus on the task (yep, the boring one) that you have mastered. The new thought becomes, “I’m a master at my job. I am a valuable employee.” This thought will help you to see your positive skills and traits as you put together a resume for a new position. If you don’t feel like you can get ahead, your new thought is, “I’m not a quitter. I know that my breakthrough will only come if I keep trying.”
Practice throughout your day, every day, replacement thoughts for the ones that do not serve you.
You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. Ride the tides on purpose and effectively. Today, right now, you are in control. You get to choose what you will be incredibly efficient at – choose the thoughts that will make you feel who you are- incredible.
Jolene holds Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership and is a certified master success coach. Jolene's writing is continually inspired by the challenges that her clients are facing. She finds constant inspiration in the world around her and is profoundly honored to be living her purpose helping others turn impossible into possible.