Editor’s Note: This post appeared on Positively Positive.
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are usually right.” — Henry Ford
A few years ago I read a book, The Inner Game of Tennis, to help me control the constant stream of thoughts running through my head on the tennis court. I had played competitive tennis at the University of California, Berkeley, and on the Professional Tennis Tour for several years. To perform in the zone and reach your greatest potential, you need to quiet your mind. I realized my ability to concentrate on any given task was completely dependent on my success in minimizing the interference on and off the tennis court. This idea applies to everyone who is focused on sharing his or her greatest potential with the world whether you are an entrepreneur, photographer, college student, parent, musician, or CEO. It’s something I continue to work on and have improved with practice and awareness over the years.
I learned many formulas over the years (and forgot most of them) but am thankful for the following simple equation that has positively impacted my life:
Performance = Potential – Interference
Let me explain: the results we enjoy (aka our performance) on any given day are equal to what we are capable of achieving (aka our potential) less our ability to eliminate distractions (aka interference). So whether you are preparing for an important presentation, changing careers, or planning you next fabulous vacation, the results you enjoy depend on your ability to reduce unwanted noise, both in your mind and your life.
Here are three steps to reduce the interference or noise factor:
1. AWARENESS OF YOUR THOUGHTS
The first step in quieting the mind is to start hearing the words you use throughout the day. The focus in this phase is to listen and thoroughly assess the melody in your head. Do you prefer to tell yourself, “your life is a mess” or “you are talented and creative”?
Recently, I gave a talk at the LA Business Journal lunch to honor Women Making a Difference. There were over 500 people at the event and I had a lot of ideas racing through my head. Before I approached the stage for my talk, I gave myself five minutes of quiet time to regain my focus and purpose for the talk. Whenever you do something that’s important to you, crazy thoughts come into your mind – will the audience resonate with your message, what will people think of your outfit, will you remember your speech? These thoughts come in and out of your mind but you have to make an effort not to give credibility to any of these thoughts. I take a few deep breaths and picture the ideal outcome for the talk and when I see that clear picture, I know I am ready. This is a process that takes time.
Gradually with practice, the random thoughts are reduced and you are left with a quiet mind to guide you forward.
2. PRACTICE CONDITIONING YOUR MIND
Many of us want results without putting in the effort. People want to lose weight without working out or get promoted without working the extra hours. So if you want to improve as a cook, you can take cooking classes, read a cookbook, and practice cooking new dishes. If you want to improve as a speaker, you can listen to ten TED.com talks a day to develop your style. If you want to have a stronger serve on the tennis court, you can go out and serve five buckets of balls everyday. The more you practice, the better the results you will enjoy. This concept of practice applies to how we condition our mind as well. If you want to have a positive and powerful mindset you must practice the thoughts you want to rule your life.
Here are several tips clients find useful: identify negative thought patterns, avoid giving more weight to negative thoughts, and stop a negative conversation rather than let it go on and on. My favorite way to quiet my mind is to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains and be surrounded by nature and the feeling of total expansiveness and potential.
The process of conditioning our mind for success is no different than achieving other results – it just feels less tangible.
3. PRIORITIZE WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU
Your role as the CEO of YOU INC. is to prioritize your day and decide what gets added to your schedule. If you want to condition your mind then make it a ritual in your day to regularly assess your words and substitute empowering thoughts for those that are filled with self-doubt.
We all have busy schedules and could use an extra hour in the day. It’s an a-ha moment for many of my clients to realize that they have the opportunity to make the most of these hours just like every other successful person who redefines what’s possible and remove the “im” from impossible. If you sleep until 10am vs. 8am. vs 6am, it’s a choice. If you invest in yourself for one hour and exercise that’s a choice too. We find a way to do anything when it is both important and a priority in our life.
Developing our best mindset needs to be at the top of the list!
TOP 1% BOTTOM LINE: Life is a series of choices. You make the choice to allow positive thoughts to rule your mind and to give negative thoughts no additional weight. What becomes a can or can’t is highly dependent on the words you use and reinforce in your mind. The practice of quieting your mind and eliminating negative or destructive thoughts is a process that can be learned. The sooner you start the process, the sooner you will become a master. It starts with greater awareness and the desire to improve.
Alissa Finerman is an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, speaker and author of Living in YOUR Top 1%. She works with managers, C-suite executives and teams to leverage strengths, shift beliefs and achieve meaningful goals. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked with Ross Stores, Petco, BNP Paribas, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Brookfield Property Partners, Neutrogena, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Dress for Success. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook