Every year about this time, people start thinking about new year resolutions. Researchers tell us that the same three to five ideas surface as the most common; lose weight, save money, get more exercise, read more, and make new friends.
Yet time after time we somehow let these noble goals fade away as our old routines kick back in. Whatever we’ve adopted as “reliable” behaviors have the power to drive us and guide us day by day, often resulting in no real progress whatsoever. At least not progress toward a big step-change in our lives or at work.
The best advice I ever received was to occasionally “renew my mind”. For me, it came first from scripture but then was reinforced by mentors and bosses who knew about the power this little piece of advice holds.
It makes sense
First, because we all become creatures of habit. Regardless of your situation, there are habits that creep into your life. How many of us have a morning routine, getting ready for work, that runs on autopilot? There are days when you really can’t remember getting dressed or putting on your shoes, yet, BOOM! There they are. You just stumble into the bathroom and start the routine. Next thing you know, you’re ready to head out the door to greet the day.
Also, our thinking can get us into trouble. Based on prior experiences, whether actual or perceived, we let ourselves get into a mindset about certain things, people or events. Making generalizations about people is the most severe of bad thinking “Joe is trouble, he ‘always’ does that….”
But internally, we sometimes have self-talk that is neither whole nor healthy. I call this limiting beliefs. You might have been conditioned as a child:
- You’re too small
- You’re too fat
- You’re too slow
- You don’t have a degree
Limiting beliefs can keep us from trying new things. When opportunities come open for something better, we subject ourselves to limiting thoughts that effectively talk us out of doing the new thing.
Renewing Your Mind
What are five ways to truly renew your mind, eliminate “stinking thinking” and set yourself up for greater success?
First, you must dive deep into the central idea of renewing your mind. On the one hand, it’s simple. Think another way. Rather than list the reasons you can’t do something, make a list of what if’s. What if I DID do this? What if the new deal was successful? What would that look like? Simply choose to make a 180. If your habitual thinking is negative, force yourself to think at least one positive thing.
Next, build awareness of your tendency to think lightly or poorly about your options. Regardless of past experience, today is a new day. What happened before doesn’t have to happen now. I love a quote from Mark Twain “My life has been a series of horrible disasters, most of which never happened.” He realized that his mind was capable of building worse case scenarios for things that never actually happen.
Find new influences. Occasionally our friends are the ones with limiting beliefs. If you share a new idea, they will be the ones to talk bad about it. They will be the ones to say “You don’t want to do that.” Misery loves company. If your friends are keeping you back, you need new friends. A great friend will encourage you to stretch your boundaries, find new ways, and make a positive change in your life. A good friend won’t hold you back.
Next, you should try new things to keep your brain clear. Back to the morning routine. I know a neurosurgeon who suggests brushing your teeth with the opposite hand. The simple act of making your brain process a new sequence of events can strengthen your brain’s ability to process new and different ideas. Habits as simple as brushing your teeth can add to the backlog of reasons not to do something new. But if we start with changes like that, our brain and our mind will engage in new and different ways to help us see new possibilities.
Lastly, change your location. The world around us can add to the boring, mundane routines. How often have you driven home from someplace only to realize you were never aware of the drive? You did it automatically. Our minds are powerful. They can permit our bodies to engage in activities without even having a conscious awareness of the event. One way to stimulate awareness is to change circumstances. When your brain must process new inputs, you cannot run on autopilot. Can you recall a trip to a new destination and the sense of heightened awareness you felt while you were there? The first time I visited Lake Zurich in Switzerland, I was mesmerized by the surroundings. The lake itself was gorgeous, but being surrounded by the Alps was spectacular.
Talk to Your Team
Leaders should share these ideas with their team. Teams also have tendencies to get caught up in habit and routine. As their leader, you should be challenging the status quo for process and action. If your team has stagnated a bit, help them renew their minds either individually or as a group.
Use the renewing of the mind as the theme for your next team meeting.