JenniferTIn the book Hard Optimism, Price Pritchett writes, "The mind is now the main productivity tool. Thinking has become the key competency. People's thought processes are the most important performance factor." This means that all human action begins in the mind - a confluence of our desired outcomes, imagination, and creativity. The best professionals visualize desired outcomes and practice their scenarios thousands of times to solidify the wiring between the brain and the body so that it becomes automatic.
Business school and/or your business experience taught you these mental skills - self-efficacy, perseverance, mental toughness, awareness, focus - to a degree; the business professionals who learn them well and practice them consistently succeed. Whether your main work is leading your business and team - researching, planning, strategizing and setting goals - or taking part personally as a salesperson or active producer, creator or manufacturer - you can use mental skills to enhance your performance.
To become a winner in business and life, you must first become a winner in your mind. But to change your thinking, you must first re-wire your brain.
Re-Wiring Your Brain to Create New Pathways
Brain researcher Dr. Jill Ammon-Wesler, in her book Zap Your Life: Feel the Power! writes that, "Your brain naturally thrives on challenge and change. Modern science now has proof our brains constantly grow and change well into old age. The brain is actually so changeable that the scientific world had to create a new term - "brain plasticity"….our brains automatically re-wire themselves within hours following each new experience." What this means to you is that you have the power to re-create yourself, create new pathways and manifest your desires right there in your brain! Imagine: What would it be like to re-wire your brain into the mental focus of an Olympic athlete, or to experience business clarity like Bill Gates?
Neurologically speaking, our brains have already been shaped by past patterns of thought, emotion, attitude, and mood. In the womb, our genetic DNA begins building our brain and constructing certain neurological pathways. After birth, each of us receives sensory information and different experiences that continue to build our brains. Our reactions and responses to those experiences further build our brains. The earliest, strongest and most repetitive experiences - and our responses - hard-wire our brain.
An example is when young children, who have difficulty in reading comprehension and whose flaws are continually pointed out by authority figures, eventually develop "deep ruts" of poor self-image and self-worth - reflected in negative self-talk - which become a major component of their brain's composition. While they can build new roads via positive thinking - and lay down new pathways and habits to challenge, reduce and even overcome negative ones - the old ruts are never deleted. Neurological pathways remain, and even new experiences can fall into those old negative ruts of thinking.
This is an important concept in understanding how our minds work. One of the overarching laws of the mind is this: Whatever your mind continually thinks about will most often become reality. If, for example, you continually think that your product will not sell, it will not. You have created a mental expectation - your thinking becomes first a rut and then a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To rewire your brain and to change this negative outcome, you must stop the negative thought and train yourself to think differently. Proactively ask, "What must I do or say to influence the prospect to buy?" If you are providing supporting evidence, determine exactly how you want that person to see and feel. What outcome do you want from them? When you describe the outcome you want, your thought processes will not only gravitate toward achieving it, but your brain will begin thinking through the proper steps to make the goal a reality.
Imagine a Wall Street ticker tape. Substitute the stock symbols on the ticker tape for individual thoughts. In the same way, an endless loop of positive and negative thoughts circles in our minds. The truth is that each of us can purposefully, consciously apply effort to change our thoughts, organize them into sound patterns, and then control how we process those thoughts at any moment. In the martial arts we are trained not only to control the quality of our thinking, but also to manage our emotions. This comes from the practice of being constantly aware of what we think andhow we feel.
For example, Carla is a new leader at a telecommunication company who is asked by her boss to present at a company conference. She has presented before to smaller audiences; but this is her first experience with a large crowd. She feels the pressure of wanting to perform well. Rather than dwelling on fear and cluttering her mind with what if's she goes back to a beginner's mind. She prepares herself in her mind's eye she re-experiences her moments of peak performance, when she presented successfully. As she feels the energy in these moments, she imagines applying them in her new presentation. She knew she had to engage her previous habits to help her develop new ones. She knew that if she vividly imagined having a new habit, her brain would naturally begin rewire to make the mental and physical connection.
Everything that Carla did was a product of her mental habits. Regardless of your field of interest, the martial art techniques collectively provide valuable lessons for anyone facing challenges from business, sports, to the fields of art and politics.
The Weak or Undisciplined Mind
An undisciplined or weak mind is like an "internal foe" or an "inner voice" that gives us permission or tempts us to do less. Here are some examples of a business professional's negative thinking (your "inner adversary"):
- When you are tired, this "internal foe" convinces you that two hours of preparation is enough, when you know that four is required.
- You make excuses for your behavior by using your feelings or outside circumstances as a reason to be less productive.
- You complain about the number of hours you are spending on a contract or presentation.
- You plan to test for the bar exam in two months, but you have failed to commit to an intense daily study schedule.
Rewire your brain by substituting every negative thought with an emotionally charged positive one - and immediately act on the positive thought. Eventually, with less effort, your positive thought will become hard-wired, and you will then begin to act in a powerful, focused way - the result of a powerful, focused mind.
Mental toughness is fast becoming the cutting - edge mental power for success in business today. To possess it, you need to train your mind.
There are three mental disciplines - mental toughness, awareness, and focus - that are individual skills but work best when they are integrated. Whatever you do - consult on the telephone, negotiate in your office, write a brief, analyze materials, or respond to someone's emotions - your goal is to call on all of these skills to varying degrees.Mental Toughness
In a contest between two equally talented leaders or business professionals, the mentally stronger one will win. Mental toughness, also known as "mental strength," is the ability to condition your mind so that you can push on and persevere to your highest level of performance, no matter what your "feelings" or circumstances. Building mental strength is a mind game that teaches you to accept and prepare for life's challenges over which you have little or no control. This does not mean that you are indifferent or cold toward someone or something. You work to change the quality of your thinking, which then directs your actions and speech.
Mental strength determines your ability to rebound from mistakes, failures and disappointments. Dwelling on a negative situation digs mental ruts and produces more mistakes. You can re-wire your thinking by mentally focusing on how you will positively approach and change a similar situation the next time. Mental strength is also your ability to remain calm and keep your emotions in check when you begin to feel pressure in any situation. When you recognize your own feelings of pressure, practice deliberately slowing down your thoughts and actions and positively visualizing success.
Read the statements below, and assign a number from 1-10 that best fits how well each statement describes your reaction, with 1 being not at all and 10 being a complete match:Rebounding From the Past
- I frequently worry about making the same mistake I made in a previous case.
- If I start out my day badly, it is hard for me to turn my performance around.
- I constantly talk about the disappointment of losing my last client.
- I easily feel intimidated by and anxious and short-tempered about colleagues who have more experience than I have, and who have more clients.
- I keep re-reading the same information when under time pressure.
- I tend to become agitated when convincing or persuading someone or closing a deal or sale depends on how well I deliver the information.
Usually, people give insufficient attention to what they are actually doing during a specific activity or situation. Awareness or mental alertness means that you are fully aware of your surrounding environment. You are completely engaged in all the dynamics of an activity or situation. All five of your senses are extremely heightened and you know what is affecting your own thoughts, mood and responses. A state of mental alertness also involves using emotional intelligence at that moment in time, understanding the relationships between yourself and other people, and their relationships to each other.
Enhance your awareness by stopping all auto-pilot thinking and multi-tasking without thought. If you're in a meeting with a client, for instance, do you, without thinking, answer the phone and then give divided attention to both parties? Or, when engaged in a phone conversation, do you automatically smile or nod your head when you recognize a colleague in the office?
Practice being "in the present moment." Don't divide your attention; be single-minded. Block out thoughts of the past or the future, and stay centered only in what is happening around you. From this heightened state of awareness, you will feel much more confident, comfortable and in control of the current situation and your responses. When you are fully engaged, mediocre performance fades away.
Focus and Effective Thinking
Reckless thinking is defined as having uncontrolled, unfocused thoughts. This type of thinking occurs when you lack a clearly defined goal or have not completely thought through all the specific steps you must take to accomplish that goal. You are thinking recklessly when you are engaged in a conversation and can't distill its main points, when you delegate tasks to others without having sufficiently thought out the assignments, or when you make a half-hearted commitment.
On the other hand, focus begets effective thinking. It is deliberately organizing and directing your thoughts toward achieving a specific result. Effective thinking means that you target a goal and logically, rationally fill in all the steps and processes to reach it. Effective thinking, however, does not mean that you finish a task in a mechanistic way. Truly effective thinking, in fact, means that you creatively identify and solve problems.
Effective thinking anticipates processes and steps. You have planned and prepared to ask the right questions relevant to a deposition or business meeting. You are able to brainstorm effectively because you know what the end-goal is. When you delegate, you have completely thought through not only what you want an associate to accomplish, but how you will monitor that task and provide constructive feedback along the way.
When you practice these three disciplines habitually, your competitive advantage is "All in your mind." And you're sure to be re-wired to win!
- Rewire your brain by substituting every negative thought with an emotionally charged positive one - and immediately act on the positive thought.
- Train your mind to be mentally fit and alert by staying in the present moment.
- Take full control of your thoughts by paying attention to what you are thinking about so as not to allow others and influences to take control of it.
 P. Pritchett, "Hard Optimism," (McGraw Hill, 2007), p. 1.
 J. Ammon-Wesler, M.D. " Zap Your Life: Feel the Power!" (Solucion Maxima, 2007).