5 Steps to reprogram your mind
Part 3 of the series “The key to being who you want to be - understand who you are and why you do what you do.”
Michael was not exposed to trauma when he was young. His parents were as you would expect and lived what seemed an everyday life. He also lives a “regular” life today. Still, Michael is not as happy and satisfied in life as he would like to be. He also experiences short phases that feel like depression, and whilst he is progressing professionally, he feels undervalued in his job. Sometimes he is worried about what the new day brings. Then he does not find rest during the night, and during the day, he finds himself procrastinating. He does not understand why he feels like that, and he cannot do anything about it. There was no particular event or person that did something terrible to him. This seems to represent who he is, and he thinks he probably needs to make peace with this. Doing regular sports helps to keep going, and also, the breathing exercises and the leadership courses he had at work contribute positively to this. But he feels that there is something inside that he wants to change to feel more satisfied in life. He is more than ready for this change. Still, as time goes by without a real breakthrough, he finds himself accepting the situation, working around it, adjusting dreams, and hoping relationships will be able to endure his emotions.
Michael has seemingly mechanisms driving his decisions that define his emotions and behaviors. But he does not know how to change that. He might not even be aware that there is something to change and thinks that things are like that; maybe, over time, he will try to change outside factors just to be able to do something about this.
You might find some aspects of Michael in you. It can feel like something is driving you that is not always in line with your conscious thinking. You do not understand where it comes from, nor do you always agree with it, but at the same time, it seems to be part of your personality. For some, it is like the little voices that influence you. You feel that you cannot consciously decide on your emotions; they seem triggered somewhere inside you. But that is not what you want. Perhaps you hope for something external, an event, a person that enters your life or a new relaxation technique that will change it all. After some time, the latest addition will probably go in the long line of things you tried already that are good but do not help to breakthrough.
This is because the key to your life is inside you, and only you can unlock it. Nobody and nothing can give it to you. Though you might not know how to unlock it 😃 Keep reading.
Strengthening activities like sports, relaxation techniques, mindfulness or more compensation activities like smoking, not paying attention to what you eat etc., give you some control you are looking for and temporary relief. Strengthening activities are important and impactful. For most people, they help to build the resilience that gets them going when their regular engine overheats and they cannot operate as usual anymore. When also the batteries are empty, you are burned out. To rebuild from here is hard and takes time and there is no need to get to this point: if you know what defines you, this will not happen.
If you can unlock yourself, if you understand which mechanisms you choose every day and why (yes, you choose them, they do not choose you), you move from hoping for luck that things work out to taking control. This is about you, who you are, and what you do; this is your life. Why leave it up to luck how it goes?
In an earlier article, I explained the mechanisms that helped you earlier in life and which you should check if they still help you today. If yes, you keep them; if not, you replace them. You can find this simple concept here, and just here below is the visual of the concept again.
Another useful concept to explain things is the spiral shown below. It sounds a bit drastic to some, but you’re oscillating somewhere between fulfilment and death. Death is stigmatised in most cultures, though it is the antipole of life and helps to get meaning to our lives as it is linked to a limited resource: our lifetime. The important thing is, though, where do you oscillate, and where do you want to oscillate?
- when I was younger, where did I oscillate in this spiral?
- where am I today
- where do I want to oscillate?
There is an additional logic: spirals are reinforcing. You experienced that already: when life is good, you are not easily derailed; you might let things go their own way. Things sometimes clear themselves out on their own in a virtuous spiral. Unfortunately, some of us know the devastating effects of a vicious spiral and the stress an accumulation of multiple negative things can create. It gets you even further down when you turn like a hamster on the wheel and repeat what does not help you.
So: how? --> Replace mechanisms that make you oscillate lower with those that make you go higher up in the spiral and reinforce those.
1. Identify and understand what mechanisms you choose today and why. Please see my previous articles if you do not know what that means.
2. Understand their impact on your life, on the people around and on the results they achieve
3. Reinstate what you are dreaming of and why so you have a vision worthwhile fighting for
4. Decide which mechanisms you would like to keep and how you replace those that are not good.
5. Put this in action, fail, learn, adjust, try again, etc. This is the hardest part, and I strongly recommend getting some cheerleaders. Someone who will get you going and who reinforces your positive beliefs and dream (a friend, a coach, etc.).
Very important: track progress and celebrate small wins!
With my company, 37°, I work with individuals to help them work this through. I achieve this with very simple and intuitive exercises. No extended digging into the past is required and typically, in the first session, real insights happen. After 3-5 sessions, a plan can be put in place. This concept works surprisingly well with teams, which will be part of another article.