How to Manage Your Mind to Create Any Result You Want
You life would have been so much easier if they taught this at school.
I was raised by wonderful women who constantly told me that my thoughts create my reality. It kind of made sense. I believed this when I got what I wanted from life. Other times, nah. It was so much easier to blame life for bringing me what I didn’t want.
This went on through various life experiences; some great success, some great suffering. I danced around the concepts like “law of attraction” as well as purely statistical explanations of why and how things happen. One day after reading both Michael Singer’s “Untethered Soul” and Dan Siegel’s “Mindsight”, it finally clicked for me: I understood what created any result in my life.
It was my ability to understand and command my mind.
It is bizarre that we have been never taught how to use the only device that allows us to interact with life — our brain. There is no user manual. We all sit in a puzzling soup of information that we call emotions and thoughts. We all act from this mess in our minds.
With a few exceptions, we don’t even teach kids about emotional intelligence or how to best use their minds. By the time you’re an adult you are supposed to make sense of all the stimulus coming at you (what others think of you, social media, responsibilities, goals, relationships — the list is endless) and figure out a way to live successfully and peacefully. If you were mildly lucky, you were born into a stable family and learned some tools to manage your mind. But, even they didn’t talk about this “mumbo jumbo” openly. You are just supposed to make do.
If you don’t think this is a big deal, look around you. There are so many people acting on emotion and creating violence, pain, greed, etc. Now, look within you. How many times have you done something and you didn’t know why? How many times you couldn’t stop thinking about something that bothered you? Hello, anxiety!
It dawned on me that I was modeling what I saw from others: treating my brain like a black box, hoping that I could understand the outcome. I started putting the pieces together from psychology and eastern philosophy to decode how our minds work and how to best utilize them.
Ever since my life hasn’t been the same. I am a happier and more fulfilled individual. I feel a sense of ownership and freedom. I started going after my dreams. None of this would happen if I wasn’t aware of the following principles:
Understand your mind: the link between thoughts and actions
When we are born, we are like a blank slate. We are full of love and joy. We don’t have any labels about anything. As we go through life, we have various experiences, and people around us tell us what the experiences mean.
As a result, we start having thoughts about our experiences. If we repeat these thoughts, they turn into beliefs and convictions and then into mental models. Mental models become habits and patterns and eventually our identities. I call this “habitual mind”. It is pretty much programmed and acts without conscious awareness.
When we have a new experience, we can only interpret it with our habitual mind. This means, your mind will look for patterns that it recognizes and it will label the experience accordingly. This serves you if the labeling is helpful. In fact, you need labeling to orient yourself to your surroundings. However, it will limit you if you want to open up to new experiences.
Let’s say you want to be an entrepreneur. You are excited and full of ideas. You even made an action plan for a year. Finally, you took a step towards creating your business, but you encountered an obstacle.
Imagine that your mental models have scripts such as: “You don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.” “You have bad luck.” “No one wants to do business with you.” “This is too difficult.”
Once you start hearing these thoughts in your brain, you will lose your courage. You will find yourself believing these thoughts because that’s what your brain is programmed to do — follow the mental pattern.
Next, you will slack and try to avoid these thoughts by procrastinating or doing something else at best. You will feel tired. Each time you attempt to take action for your business, negative thoughts will creep in, justifying the need for watching TV.
By the end of the year, guess what will happen. Nothing.
You believed in your thoughts/mental patterns (which came from past experiences, society, etc…). Those thoughts triggered crappy emotions (feeling inadequate, anxious, etc.), affected your physiology and you took zero action towards your goal. As a result, no favorable people/conditions came to your way to make your business successful.
Your dream was swallowed by the shadow of the past.
This is exactly what Cognitive Behaviour Therapy tells us.
This is why you fail to apply any plan, manage anxiety, or break a habit.
So, are we doomed to follow these patterns? Not if you start seeing them.
Observe your thoughts
Think of your thoughts as a voice in your head. If you start paying attention to the voice, you will see it sounds like a crazy person; constantly comments on things and people, worries, fears, judges, yells, etc. This voice is the culmination of mental patterns. It reflects everything you unconsciously and automatically absorbed from society, family, and friends.
Most importantly, this voice is not you. You are the one who is noticing the voice.You are the conscious being who has a choice to believe or disregard the voice.
The more you start observing your thoughts, the more you will recognize the madness in the human mind. Eventually, you will enjoy the freedom by not participating in this madness, but just observing and relaxing. Your mental patterns, since they are not repeated, will lose their power over you.
Name/personify the most challenging patterns
Think about a situation where the voice in you comes out loud and ugly. You regret what you did or said. Now, reflect on how the voice pushed you to act. What are the characteristics?
Did you become controlling, nasty, or bitter?
Did you complain or shut down?
Once you identify that, name it.
For example, my partner and I have a joke that I have a “Poopy Gizem” in me. The Poopy Gizem is irritable and prone to snapping. She comes out when I don’t sleep or eat enough, and sometimes when I am stressed.
Identifying this pattern did a few wonderful things:
I can separate my identity from it so that I can manage it. If I believed that I AM an irritable, snappy person, it is much harder for me to let go of this belief. Plus, it creates shame.
I can easily identify this pattern so that when it comes out I don’t entertain it long.
Miraculously, when I call it out, it loses its power over me. I let go of her and ask myself what I can do instead to feel better.
My partner doesn’t take the situation personally. He understands it is just a pattern that comes out every now and then
Give all your energy to helpful patterns
Now that you can see your patterns, instead of battling with the unhelpful ones, give all your attention to the ones that serve you.
“Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.” — Eckhart Tolle
Let’s go back to the entrepreneurship example. When you encounter an obstacle and the negative thoughts come up, you can just notice and name it. Then ask yourself, what new beliefs would be helpful. For example; “I am new to this, I will figure it out” or “Obstacles are needed to grow.”
Scientifically, the neuropathways that are not used frequently disappear. As you repeat and act on the helpful ideas, you will literally rewire your brain to create new mental models — this time consciously. These new models will lift you up in the face of a new experience and you will go after what you want.
Most importantly, understand that learning to manage your mind is a practice. You have been conditioned to think and act in certain ways and now you are undoing them — of course, it will take time.
What matters is that you are dedicated to figuring out the user manual to your own brain, no matter how many attempts it takes. If you think this is too hard remember the alternative is a life you haven’t chosen, but was created by the crazy voice that you don’t know how to control.