"Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don't count on harvesting Golden Delicious."
As an adult, you have always been in the position to determine what it is you really and truly want to be “when you grow-up.” No matter your current obstacles, bad choices or credit card debt, you can take responsibility right this minute and start turning things around. This is simply true for everyone.
While some of you may be sure that you are going to spend your life in your current role, others may not be so sure. Is your current job the best way to express your abilities? Maybe you like your department, but not your current position; maybe you love your position, but not your co-workers.
Whatever your current situation, it’s imperative to be clear and specific on what you are doing, and why, and to accept that you are exactly where your thinking (the dialogue you have with yourself) got you.
Buddha said, “The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” This is true in all areas of our lives, but certainly where our careers are concerned. What we are thinking regularly is given attention or mental energy. Mental energy (our thoughts) is manifested in the physical realm as action. Regular actions become habits and habits create our lives.
And if you are stressed at work...then your thinking about work is stressed. But don't worry (or get even more stressed) about this fact! You can get control of your thoughts.
First I want to make one thing clear: no one has control of EVERY thought. And that's okay. It's only the ones causing stress that we care about. If your thoughts are creating good feelings and great results, keeping thinking randomly! But when you notice stress creeping in, it's time to back it up and see what thought started the ball rolling.
The more focused and clear our thinking, the more focused and clear the outcome. If the desired end result(s) is not clearly defined and specific then it is likely we will not realize success. At best, we will get a mixed result—sometimes our plans work out; sometimes not.
Spend time this week thinking about what is happening in your career today. If you are getting inconsistent results at work—-sometimes you get recognition, sometimes not; sometimes you get the promotion, sometimes not---then it’s likely your thoughts are also inconsistent. When you notice you are thinking in a way that is contrary to your desires, “erase” that thought with one that more accurately represents your goal.
The Research Proves It
There is a convincing amount of research that confirms that our thoughts create the neurological pathways or "grooves" in our brains. The more frequently we have a specific thought (or hear this thought verbalized through others), the deeper the indentation in the brain becomes. Eventually this "groove" takes the form of instinct, habit, values and becomes a part of who we are.
Researchers, using technology that allowed for taking an image of the brain, focused on verifying this information to attempt to benefit people with mental illness. The studies took three groups of people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Here is the set-up and results of these studies:
1. The first group did nothing different for the 28 day period.
2. The second group took medication known to repair the neurological breakdown causing OCD.
3. The third group participated in talk-therapy and focused on changing their thoughts and behaviors, repeating affirmations or helpful phrases, etc.
A 'photo' was taken of each participant's brain before and after the study. The findings were:
1. The first group had no visible changes to the brain.
2. The second group had positive changes in behavior and new "grooves."
3. The third group had the same positive change as the second group!
The implications of this study certainly offer important information about taking charge of our thoughts and building a more productive and satisfying life. It takes 21-28 days to make a new groove (a new neurological pathway) into the brain.
-No matter how high your enthusiasm may be after taking a training class or reading a new book, there will be no change unless you focus on this material for at least 21 days. That is the purpose of the "action plan" that you see at the end of many workshops.
-You will be fighting your "old groove" for the first three weeks, so expect setbacks. Instead of seeing these setbacks as your failure to change, realize this is part of the organic process.
Remember--you are in charge of making changes in your life (both positive and negative). Luck and fate may play a small role, but this research indicates that for the most part, we are in charge of our "programming" and can decide to seek out improvement or to let things stay as they are.
The Next 28 Days
Pretty exciting stuff, but the real question is : What do you plan to think about for the next 28 days?
I'd recommend you be very precise in your thoughts. If you find yourself thinking of something you don't like, or don’t want, or believe, immediately "erase" this programming by repeating mentally the thoughts you do want to predominate. An example:
“I am so scattered. Why do I always wait until the last minute to get things done?”
Instead of perpetuating this self-image, this person may wish to reframe this observation or trait by thinking something like:
"I like the pressure of getting things done at the last minute. This can be a helpful trait when there is a lot to do. I am also working on getting more organized and doing things before they are due.”
Even simple thoughts like “I’m such a geek” can do damage. Instead, visualize “erasing” this groove or thought pattern by saying, “I sometimes act appropriately and sometimes mess up---just like everyone else. What can I do differently the next time a situation like this comes up?”
Proactively creating statements to counter your subconscious message to yourself are also useful. If you know you spend a lot of time thinking negatively about yourself, your work, or certain circumstances, erase these tapes and program yourself to see things the way your conscious/thinking mind wants to frame them.
Our thoughts create our behavior, not the other way around. The more you focus on your thoughts, the more positive results you will see in your interactions with others.
Oh, and in case it matters---you will also feel much less stress.
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