Train My Mind – A Critical Soft Skill and My Focus for 2018

train my mindHave you made any New Year resolutions yet?  “Eat Healthier” and “Get More Exercise” are 2018’s top 2 New Year resolutions.  It’s interesting how training our body with better nutrition or exercise always seem to garner the most focus.  This year, I have a better one to propose to you – train your mind. Let me tell you a story and you will see why.

Late last year, I was given a great opportunity to present to an impressive audience.

  1. I had two days to do it
  2. My audience was mostly new to me.
  3. I needed to do research and organize a large topic quickly in order to lead an interesting dialogue.

When I volunteered to do this, I knew it was a great opportunity for my career.  If I can impress this audience, all kinds of new possibilities can open up for my career.   Once I got the date of my presentation however, reality set in.   All the thoughts of self doubt rushed to my brain.

  • What if I don’t have anything valuable to say
  • I don’t have time to do this well
  • There is so many ways to approach it, how should I decide
  • ….

Can you related?  Are you surprised?  No one is actually immune to self doubt.  This is part of our human design.  Our brain will constantly present both positive and negative thoughts to us.

In the first day of my preparation, I was all over the place.  I researched and focused a little on major ideas.  I was also quickly overwhelmed by how many different ways I can approach this.  I talked to my husband to get some advice.   He is always helpful and this time was no exception.  He gave me some ideas on how to approach the presentation but more importantly he gave me a pep talk.

  • Just share what you know. Don’t worry about being perfect
  • You have nothing to lose really.  There is only upside here
  • Go with your gut and do your best.

I felt a little better, but as soon as I am alone again, a whole mix of inner dialogue rushed back.  There were mainly two types

  1. Productive thoughts – how I can best address the topic in this presentation.  I wrote initial brainstorming notes to get my ideas on paper.
  2. Distracting thoughts – self doubt types mainly – rushing back to compete for attention between productive thoughts.

On top of this,  I was recovering from a cold that week that got worse with this added stress.  I actually thought about pushing the date out to buy more time.    After all, I was coughing constantly.  I knew however that would have been a cop out.   I can do this!

By next morning, I was mostly ready to rock it. Still I had indecisions about how to approach the presentation.  I spoke to hubby again to bounce some ideas.  He again reminded me to do what I know.    Deep down, I knew all these distracting thoughts stemmed from the common worry that plagues all “over-achievers”… What if they think I don’t know anything?

Have you ever felt that way?  Even after 20 years of experience and career success, that thought still comes up for me in some situations.   I think it happens to all of us.   What matters is what we choose to do with these types of thoughts.

So what happened to this presentation?  I decided to do my best and I rocked it! 🙂  What I realized however was it could have gone the other way if I let myself listen to the useless self-doubting thoughts.  I probably would have found a “reasonable” way to postpone the presentation.  We can convince ourselves of anything.  Unfortunately we seem to be better at convincing ourselves of being unsure or avoid risks than the reverse.

I believe being able to train and empower my mind in any situation is the most important soft skill.  It is the foundation for success.  I may have been able to conquer that one situation, but I know I have much to learn still.    This is not a new concept as many famous people have also shared the same philosophy.

If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.’ Muhammad Ali

If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it” Ronnie Lott

“Whether you say you can’t or you can, you’re right.” – Walt Disney

Achieving control over our mind will take conscious effort and repeated practice.  This is why I am prioritizing it as my focus for 2018.  To me, training my mind means.

  • Think positively about any situation.  Ask myself – what is the silver lining in what just see the positivehappened?  There is always one.
  • Focus on the task at hand.   The mind can only single task.  Once I am in a productive mood, there is no room for self doubting thoughts to surface.
  • Let go of outcome.  This is hard for me.  I know I often want to control the outcome and make sure it’s positive.  But that need for control also distracts me  or can even paralyze me from taking action due to fear of failure.
  • Choose an empowering response to any unexpected situation – it is not what happens that truly affects me.  It is what I think happened that impacts my mental and emotional well being.  It is possible to observe how I interpret unexpected situations and train myself to choose a different interpretation and reaction that serves me vs upset me.

By training my mind,

  • I can better control the nerves so I can do my best in any new situation
  • I can be fearless in taking on new challenges.
  • I can stay calm in any unexpected setbacks to figure out the best next step.
  • … and so much more

Do you want to achieve the same in your career?  If so, stay tuned and we can take this journey together.   I will write much more about this topic throughout the year.  I am excited for us to learn and grow together.   Happy New Year and best wishes in 2018.

Your comments: Do you believe the mind is trainable?  How are you training your mind this year?  Pls add your comments below.

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I am always in your corner,

Lei