It’s often said that bad things come in threes, but there’s increasing evidence to suggest that this is just down to our perception. While it’s inevitable that things won’t always go to plan, feeling that the world is conspiring against us is a sign that we’ve gotten into a negative cycle of thinking. Positive thinking is a powerful tool that can help to shape our life and career for the better. If we feel positive, we don’t lose perspective when things go wrong, and the negative impact is reduced. Contracting Wise takes a look at seven powerful mind-hacks that will change your life and career for the better.
- Practice gratitude
Taking time to appreciate the things that we often take for granted, but that are fundamental to our happiness, is key to practicing gratitude. Social measures of success tell us that we have to accumulate more and more, with the effect that we’re always chasing after something in the hope that it will make us happy. In reality, lasting happiness rarely comes from the acquisition of material things. By constantly wishing for the things we don’t have, we often forget to appreciate what really matters, such as our health, friends and family. A key cognitive technique for ‘re-programming’ your thinking is to write down five things you’re grateful for before bedtime each day. Gratitude is also fundamental to practicing mindfulness, which teaches us to take pleasure in the here and now.
- Accept that things aren’t always the way you perceive them to be
A paradigm shift is a concept identified by the American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn in 1962 to identify a fundamental change in the way we think about something. As we apply more knowledge to a situation, an event or even a person, our view can be radically altered. The concept has particular resonance today, as the veneer of social media or corporate culture can present a one-dimensional picture that’s often superficial and inaccurate. In addition to this, we tend to make judgments based on our personal experiences, including our own insecurities, prejudices and preferences, rather than seeing things as they really are. We can’t altogether change this, but being aware that things aren’t always how they first appear keeps our minds open to possibilities.
- Stop comparing yourself to the ‘competition’
If we’re always comparing ourselves to other people, we can find ourselves competing against them without stopping to consider what we really want. By valuing what makes us unique, we’re more likely to stop and think about our own goals. While it’s good to compete for something we personally value, competition for its own sake can be destructive. Without identifying how winning will help us to achieve something personally meaningful, a sense of fulfillment can move further and further away from us.
- Fail, fail again, fail better
Fear of failure is one of the most common human feelings. The fear of failing is also the fear of humiliation, rejection and criticism. This can result in an inability to move forward and achieve our goals. Unrealistic expectations of perfection cause many people to take the easy option, rather than challenging themselves and risking failure. By adjusting our thinking, we can accept that failure is an inevitable part of achieving something that is of real value. This can embolden us to take risks that will lead to progression and growth, rather than sticking with what’s safe and familiar.
- Be creative
Creativity is a valuable commodity in today’s business world, but it can also lead to a greater sense of overall happiness. This is because approaching life creatively lets us break out of set ways of thinking and find new meaning. There’s an element of risk to creativity, an element of surprise and of adventure – which is why creativity sometimes involves challenging the rules. Creativity is intrinsically linked to a feeling of being alive, rather than just existing from day to day. In the business world, creativity is closely linked to innovation and is a powerful generative with the ability to redefine the status quo. Feed your creativity by being curious about the world around you, asking questioning and having the courage to go your own way, rather than following the heard.
- See the funny side
Laughter is good for us – it relieves tension, which makes us feel freer and subsequently allows us to connect more readily with others. Yet we live in a culture that often looks down on having fun. Studies show that being ‘silly’ is closely linked to creativity, as it goes against convention and allows us to reconnect to a part of the imagination that’s connected to childhood. Childhood is connected to freedom and creativity, as it predates many learned modes of behavior that make us self-conscious and conformist. Although we can’t ditch our responsibilities and revert to being kids, there’s nothing to stop us occasionally gatecrashing the playground.
- Say no
Research shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Yet saying no has negative connotations for many people, who equate it with letting others down. In business, saying no to a request can be perceived as unhelpful and risky, especially when there are people queuing up to say yes. However, people who say yes to everything invariably create more problems than they solve, while also contributing to a general lowering of standards. “No” is a powerful word that you shouldn’t be afraid to use when appropriate. Ultimately, saying no helps us to set boundaries, maintain good levels of self-care and uphold professional standards.
Make a pledge to start your positive thinking this World Health Day, Sunday April 7th.
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