Earlier in the week I went to a great seminar on ‘thinking better’ which included an overview of the neuro-science behind how to do this. It is such a huge topic to discuss and seems to be at the forefront of discussions in the world of coaching, leadership and personal development. So many books and too little time!
The focus for the session was around assumption and judgement – the work our brain does making up narratives and coming to conclusions before our conscious brain even gets a look in. This is such a key moment in our decision making capability but is so quick to pass – the skill here is building in the thinking time and processing the ‘actual’ information before our emotion and assumptions have done this for us….. often leading to a less than ideal outcome!
The moments I refer to are when we find ourselves in a situation; reading an e-mail/ text message that we don’t like and to which we have an instant reaction to without the full facts. The assumptions are quickly formed and we try to fill in the gaps, probably incorrectly. Or being invited to a meeting/ event and already playing it out in our head from start to finish and therefore deciding whether it will good/ bad/ enjoyable or not rather than starting with an open mind.
I am a repeat offender for this; something as simple as do I want to go for a run or not? Before I have finished asking myself the question I have remembered how difficult it was last time, how much I ached the day after, its probably very windy on the beach etc etc and the conclusion is; don’t go. It’s clearly too much hard work! But hang on, actually I do want to go. I need to just get up, put on running shoes and go outside. I am learning to try to not engage with the unhelpful thought process/ dialogue that has jumped in and decided for me and wait and see!
I get outside, start running, focus on the breathing, not the mind talk, and have a great run. It was windy, yes, but it wasn’t that hard and I come home feeling pleased I made it round without stopping and hope it has made an impact on last nights pizza!
For me, the key to being one step ahead of the unhelpful thought process – that happens in an instant – is to try to build in a moment to stop and wait, before responding/ reacting or accepting the first thought/ assumption that pops in to the brain. Allowing a minute to think about the reality of whether we have facts to hand, the full information before making a decision. This takes practice, and more practice…..
Emotional Intelligence, clear thinking and really owning our thoughts is based in a number of areas; coaching, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, NLP and so on. There are a huge number of books/ websites relating to this. Of the ones I have read (or tried to!) some can be quite difficult so depending on how you like to process new ideas and techniques it is worth finding the right book for you….. One which will hopefully have an amazing impact.
Last year I read ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Dr Steve Peters and found this a great way into the world of ‘mind management’ and neuro-science without being too heavy. I am currently reading ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle – this has a very different feel, more of spiritual theme, but still with a focus on quietening the mind and how to practically do this day to day. Happy reading!