Mindset is everywhere at the moment and there is so much advice out there over what mindset you need to be adopting, what is a bad, unhelpful mindset to have and how to change your mindset. In my opinion it can be pretty overwhelming and confusing. It certainly led to me question; “ yes I know I need to work on my mindset, but where on earth do I start?”. We all know that getting started can be the hardest thing!
In my article, mastering your mind part 1. I delved into the brain and the science behind the way we think before focusing on emotions, which we tend to pay a lot of attention to as it takes up most of our time.
So just to recap on the brain:
The mind can be seen as three teams, each with their own agenda and way of working:
- The Human- frontal (you), is mainly based in the frontal lobe, is associated with logical thinking and works with facts and truth.
- The Chimp- limbic, mainly based in the limbic system, is an independent emotional thinking machine and works with feelings and impressions.
- The Computer- parietal, spread throughout the brain, is a storage area for programmed thoughts and behaviours. The Human and the Chimp can both put information into the Computer.
The Human and Chimp are two separate thinking machines that independently interpret our experiences. Either of them can take control, but they can work together.
The key thing to note here is that, although our human and chimp brains are independent thinking machines they can still influence one another and support one another. This means that our human brain, aka our mindset is extremely important in not just helping us to understand and make sense of the world but to also manage our emotions!
Therefore it is highly important that we also give some support to our human brain to help make it as strong as it possibly can be! If we are able to strengthen our human brain and build the right mindset we will be better able to handle our chimp, aka our emotions. Remember from part 1. That our chimp is 5x stronger than our human so it is VITAL that we build up our human strength.
Just to recap from part 1. What is the human brain?
Our human brain is a much more recent evolutionary addition which developed to help us understand the world and thrive in modern day society.
Characteristics of the human brain:
- Evidence-based & rational
- Gathers facts & truths before making a decision
- Self-control & discipline
- Forward thinking- thinks about consequences & long-term thinking
- Slower than the chimp & computer
How do we strengthen the human brain?
We start with developing the right mindset.
Now there is loads of info around at the moment about mindset, which is pretty confusing- so what I’m going to talk about are 2 types, so really simple.
External Locus of Control mindset v Internal Locus of Control Mindset
I spent years and years waiting for something and someone to make me feel better and in the meantime, I would just carry on doing the destructive behaviours I was doing. Yet It was ok as at some point I believed that something would happen to me and I would get better!
But this never happened……..
This attitude I had is known as having an External Locus of Control (ELOC). It’s when we think our lives are shaped by things outside of us, that the world has the power to ‘make us’ feel things. This belief influences us in any number of ways, both large and small.
How many of you have sat and hoped for something to happen to improve your situation, or even negotiated with the universe that if things went a particular way you’d do something in return?
That’s all ELOC!
What is an example of having an ELOC mindset?
We have a tough presentation at work which didn’t go as planned. So, if we have an ELOC mindset we may say to ourselves:
- “Well this was because my boss was asking ridiculous questions to try and catch me out and make me mess up”.
I used to be very much ELOC- I wouldn’t take responsibility for my eating disorder and blamed my stressful day at work or an argument with my parents for making me relapse
Society tends to breed this ELOC perspective- It makes us look outside of ourselves for solutions to things- usually at a price. Life will always throw obstacles in the way of success. It’s how you respond to obstacles that makes the difference.
What we need to be aiming for is developing an ILOC mindset- this puts us back in the driving seat and helps us regain control of situations and better manage our chimp. We choose to focus on our own actions and responses to people and situations and take responsibility for our behaviour.
What is an example of having an ILOC mindset?
Let’s go back to the way we can reflect on that tough work presentation using an ILOC mindset;
- “My boss may have been having a bad day and letting this spill into my presentation”
- “The questions were tough and I answered them the best I could”
- “Anything I didn’t know I will look up and give him my best answer after the presentation”
Step 1. Towards developing an ILOC mindset
Taking action is the mantra that will keep you moving
In any situation where you have a choice or where life is throwing you a curve ball, if you learn to ask yourself; “what is it I can do here?” it opens up the possibility of action. There is nearly always something you can do. Anything more than nothing is something.
SELF- QUESTION 1- WHAT IS IT I CAN DO HERE?
Think of your life as having 2 circles:
- Inner- things I can control- contains the things you can do something about
- Outer- things outside my control- full of the things that bother you that you can’t directly influence
We can waste a lot of time and thought bouncing around in the circle of concern. It tends to increase our anxiety levels. Train yourself to take action about the things within your circle of influence. Let go of the things in your circle of concern. This will massively increase your ability to stay centred.
Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed by life or you face a particular challenge, draw out these circles and write in them the things that are on your mind. See where each challenge, worry or concern belongs.
- Do what you can about whatever is in your influence
- Accept those things you can’t have an effect on and leave them behind.
The key point is to be in charge of what you decide can be done.
This is the heart of ILOC.
- If a thing can be done by you, do it.
- If it can be done by someone else, get them to do it
- If nobody can do anything about it, accept it, let it go and move on.
All three actions you’re taking, rather than passively hoping someone else will do the solving for you.
Example- gaining some negative feedback from your boss at work
If you are worried about your boss’ slightly negative feedback to a task or project, that would go in the outer circle.
You cannot change your boss reactions nor can you force her to act in a certain way.
So though this may deeply concern you, it also does not need to be where your focus lies.
Instead, you can determine what level of influence you can have over the situation, if any. Perhaps you can anticipate their needs in an upcoming meeting and provide her with the information she will seek. Or, if there is truly an unfounded bias, you can still influence what your reaction to her negativity is, choose not to hold on to any hurt or anger, or even look for a new job.
Step 2. Towards developing an ILOC mindset
Imagine something going wrong in your day. Use the ILOC guide below
Questions like; “where’s the opportunity here?” and the core ILOC question’ “what can I do here now?” help you to keep your mind open to other possibilities of meaning. Keep your mind on the search for solutions, don’t let it keep marinating in the problem.
In any situation you see as a problem or a setback ask yourself:
“What can I do here now? Where is the opportunity here?”
The skill I want to help you cultivate through adopting an ILOC mentality is to be more aware of what is actually happening in the moment, not what your brain is trying to reflexively make of it and choose your actions accordingly. See life as it is in that moment, not the disaster your brain is making it out to be nor how you’d like it to be, then take action.
‘It is what it is’ remember!
Now what is the best you can make out of it? Where is the opportunity, what are your choices, what can you do here now?
So, the key to becoming more ILOC is becoming aware of those things that grow your self-esteem and feeding them at every opportunity, taking action rather than waiting for something to happen and inoculating yourself against negative influences.
In any situation where I have a choice or when life throws me a curve ball I now ask myself this core question;
- “What is it I can do here and where is the opportunity?”
This helps you to keep your mind open to other possibilities of meaning. Keep your mind on the search for solutions, don’t let it keep marinating in the problem.
There is nearly always something you can do. Anything more than nothing is something.