What does it take to become successful? Many would agree that success is a combination of sustained high performance and becoming good at something within your chosen profession. While that makes complete sense, have you ever stopped to think about what role your mind plays in how well you perform and how successful you are? Contributor Sara Maude – Managing Director – The Mind Solution
You may have a Masters degree, attended a host of training courses and read endless books on leadership for example, and while all of that will have undoubtedly contributed to how well you perform, the power of the mind has the ability to make or break your success – until you learn to become the master of your own mind.
Under the conscious part of the mind, you have an unconscious neurological network of connections that around 95 percent of the time is dictating the way you think, your emotional responses to people and situations and your behaviours. These are hardwired into the brain. When you feel under any kind of pressure (which is most of the time for many in business!), this unconscious network is running the show. That means that those conditioned ways of thinking and feeling will be your default setting. Now consider this, the vast majority of that programming was formed by the time you were 6 years old.
Lucky for you, the brain is made of neural plasticity, which means that you can mould the brain to fire and wire in new sequences. Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve. A great example of this is when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile. Within a short space of time others started to break the record too.
Creating change and transforming the inner landscape of your mind does require a bit more than positive thinking and simply ‘stop thinking that way’. That’s like saying to someone who has anxiety to ‘stop worrying’.
The power of visualisation
There is a lot we can learn from the world of sport about high performance. Sporting professionals know and understand that skill alone is not enough to keep them at the top of their game or to break records. They need to leverage the power of the mind.
The mind doesn’t know what is real and what’s not real. You can imagine giving a presentation, winning a business contract, even swinging a golf club and your brain would process the experience as if you were actually doing it. This is called visualisation.
Where you place your focus of attention is also where your energy flows. You can use this energy to create a new inner reality where you see and experience you at your best. Equally you can waste that creative energy on worrying, imagining worst-case scenarios and fretting about something that happened last week, which will only serve to hamper your success – and make you unhappy!
Creating a new blue print for success
To start to create a new blue print for success, put aside 15 minutes where you can focus and won’t be disturbed.
Step 1. Calm down the mind
The gateway to the unconscious mind cannot be accessed if your thoughts are racing and your mind is on high alert. You have 6 different brain wave states and when you are living from the hormones of stress the brain is in high range beta, which translates to chaos. In this state, no new information can be absorbed or retained.
Therefore you need to take things down a few notches. To begin the process start by closing your eyes and placing your focus of attention on your breath. Keep your shoulders relaxed and have both feet on the floor. Spend a good few minutes connecting with the breath. When you do this the mind may start to wander off. When this happens, simply keep bringing that focus of attention back to the breath. It’s like training a puppy, you have to teach it to heel. As you begin to relax, allow that outbreath to be slightly longer than the in breath. Breathing in this way moves the central nervous system into the parasympathetic response – the relaxation response, slowing down the brain waves to reach the theta brain wave state, which is akin to hypnosis.
Step 2. Focus on what you DO want and NOT on what you don’t want
When asking people to describe what a high performance state of mind looks like, the initial response is…”not to be anxious when pitching an idea, not to get nervous when speaking in public, not to worry what people think of me, not to second guess myself”. At this point I stop and ask them to reflect back what they have just told their mind. A moment of confusion crosses their face until the penny drops and they recognise that they not given their brain a new reference point for success. Think of the brain as a sat nav, you need to tell it where you do want to go and the route you want to follow.
Step 3. Create the best version of yourself
The mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagination. You have a powerful imagination that’s an incredible inner resource for you to utilise. Stop thinking worst case scenario and instead visualise you at your best. What are you doing that’s different? What do you see that lets you know you are strong, confident and believing in yourself?
When you have a sense or image of that future you in the mind, match the image with an elevated emotion such as satisfaction, confidence, strength or something as equally powerful. When you do this, you will start to create a new state of mind and a new state of body – teaching yourself what it already feels like to be that you.
Step 4. Repitition! Repitition! Repitition!
You are what you repeatedly do! Your mind works in pattern and repetition and in the same way that you didn’t learn the skills you have to drive a car, use a computer or become a marathon runner without repetition, so it is with retraining the mind. Aristotle said excellence is merely a habit. Consistently start each day in this state of mind visualising you at your best, add in those elevated emotions and you will soon notice a shift in the way you think, feel and act.
Step 5. Wholeness = Sustained High Performance
You can reach a level of high performance and therefore success, however remember that to sustain that without burning yourself out is a different game altogether. Fatigue and burnout in one area of your life can and does ripple into other areas of your life. Just as a top athlete focuses on skill, nutrition, sleep, rest and mental agility in equal measures, the same can be applied to your blue print for success.