This is the fourth piece in an essay series on bringing humanity back to life and positively transforming the way we live, work, and operate in our always-connected 21st-century environment. You can explore the rest of the series here!
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the noise of modern life. Whether technology-driven communications (IM, Slack, email, social, etc) or self-comparisons with other people we discover who have/work/live in a manner desirable to us, outside noise often has negative impacts on our moods and our minds, as our lizard brain acts up and tells us “no you can’t” or “that’s impossible, you’ll never do that!”. Occasionally we may even become paralyzed by all our comparisons and desires that we think “I’ll never catch up to them!” and run away in fear. No bueño!
This piece will explore how our mindsets can be key to creating our best work, and offer up a practice you can explore that may help shift your thinking and get out of those ruts.
As a starting point, let’s explore two modes of mindset — positive and negative — and how I’ve found them to affect our thoughts, our perspectives, and the work we produce.
Recognizing Our Mental Modes
Negative thoughts have a way of taking over everything. They make us dread our to do lists, tell ourselves we have no idea how to do something, and can generally ruin whatever mood we’re in. If unchecked, they can consume the entirety of our lives and make even the smallest of tasks seem like insurmountable missions where the odds are stacked unfavorably against us, regardless of what skill, experience, and tenacity we possess.
They can be triggered by the tiniest of things, throwing us off course from whatever semblance of confidence and excitement we typically operate with. They creep up out of nowhere and negatively impact our moments, causing feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and debilitation. The struggle with self doubt, insecurity, stress and anxiety is real, is a part of life, and must be recognized and talked about.
But amidst all this negativity, there’s a better way. A way that empowers us to prevent those negative emotions from impacting our moods, our minds, and our work.
For me, I recognized it when I became aware of past moments when I felt empowered, excited, and ambitious. When I had a vision and felt confident in where I was going.
I noticed this came about when I was surrounded by people who supported me and constructively challenged me, and I realized that in those moments of feeling unstoppable, none of the fear was there, none of the comparisons got in my way, and none of the challenges felt too big or insurmountable. In fact, everything felt fully achievable and completely within reach — and that’s how I want to feel as I move through my day!
So, I started thinking about the difference in mindset and realized it was simply a matter of positive against negative. When I was negative, I would tell myself “no you can’t” and would be unable to find my way into a groove of work, which would lead to more self doubt, mental self-abuse, and mental paralysis when approaching my work.
On the flip side, when I was feeling positive and excited, I noticed I was able to be my most creative, feel my most confident, and be my most optimistic, which further perpetuated positive feelings about the moves I was making and the work I was doing — which in turn led to my best creative output! Voilà!
Shifting From Negative to Positive
This recognition has completely changed the way I approach my work and the moments I experience throughout each day.
It’s easy to look at all the work we have in front of us and see the patterns of negative mindsets contrasted with positive mindsets. Whether creating a new client presentation, designing a workshop, or simply approaching a prospect in conversation, regularly making note of the mindset you’re operating with can actually go a long way. As an example, if you’re feeling positive and confident, great! Roll with it and all will work out for the best. If you’re feeling negative and grumpy, and berating yourself mentally, however, recognize you have some work to do and that you may perhaps benefit from a shift in mindset.
And how can you do that?
As humans, by searching for — and making note of — the things we’re happy about, and expressing it in any way (verbal, written, mental, etc), we can attempt to take control of our mood and mindset, and shift how we approach the present moment. The outcome of this practice can be increased happiness and a more positive mindset, which in turn can lead to more confidence, heightened creativity, and a more fulfilling in-the-moment experience. Of course, there will be times when this does not work, but for most points throughout our days, gratitude is an excellent way to move from negative to positive.
So, I’ve put together a quick practice for you to keep on the forefront of your mind, with the intention of finding more joy throughout your days and feeling senses of accomplishment amidst crazy, hectic work environments:
- Whatever the task, choose positivity!
- Be aware of your mindset and mood, and recognize when you’re operating from a negative place.
- Experiment with various gratitude practices to see if/how you can bring yourself into a positive mindset:
- Try writing down the three things you find joy in right now
- If you don’t want to write, take a moment to think about what brings you joy and let your mind wander on that person/thing/place/etc for a bit
- These could be anything from “I’m grateful for my client because they continually challenge me” to “I’m grateful Mary was willing to get lunch and talk about our team struggles” to “I’m grateful it’s sunny out!”
Now go enjoy the perks that come from approaching your work with a positive mindset!