"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character.
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become.” -- Margaret Thatcher
In this series of blogs, I am devoting four weeks to teaching you the tools for basic maintenance of your life.
After all, if you keep yourself tuned-up and running well, you will be your best self and have the strength and power to build the life you want. Of all of my blogs, these four are the most fundamental to your success in life.
This week, we are going to follow Margaret Thatcher’s lead and talk about Mental Maintenance.
What, exactly, is Mental Maintenance?
Let’s start by exploring what it is not. I challenge you to keep a thought log for a week, checking in with yourself throughout each day and noting what you are thinking about.
You likely will find a hodgepodge of ideas and moods floating around in there. When I did this exercise 10 years ago, I found that I spent a lot of time:
being anxious that I wasn’t getting enough done.
thinking of creative solutions to my problems.
worrying what other people thought of me.
being indecisive about mundane decisions.
pondering new things I had learned.
And then I asked myself: is that what I want to be thinking about? Are my thoughts providing me joy, helping me achieve my dreams, and making me the person I want to be? Or are they pulling me down, having me doubt myself, and making me unhappy?
I saw very clearly that some of my thoughts worked well for me, and some did not.
We are what we repeatedly think, and so your job is to cultivate a nourishing mental diet. Spend your mental energy constructively in ways that empower you to believe in yourself and your dreams.
Here are some tips for feeding yourself a positive mental diet:
1. Make a personal manifesto What does your “best self” look like, anyways? Here is your chance to define it for yourself, once and for all. I have each of my clients create a personal manifesto that consists of simple statements like:
I am a loving mother
I see the best in people
My devotion moves mountains
I make order out of chaos
Read it each morning before you start your day. Setting your intention for who you are committed to being will help train your mind to think that way.
2. Check your moods three times each day Oftentimes, we can ruminate on a negative thought or a mood without even knowing we are, like "boy, I'm no good at this," or "uggh, she drives me SO crazy!" Make a practice of checking in with yourself once in the morning, afternoon, and night, and ask yourself “how am I feeling?” If the answer is anything less than “ok,” then your job is to figure out why and see what you can do fix the situation. Sure, sometimes we will feel sad or upset about things that we can’t change. If your grandmother passes away, it’s ok to feel sad. But oftentimes, we sit in misery when there are very real solutions at arm’s length.
3. Identify your favorite Negative Nellies Just as I found patterns in my thought log, you, too, have your own favorite set of thoughts that you return to over and over again. What are yours? Get to know them, and give them a name, like “Anxious Angie” or “Eyore” after the gloom-and-doom donkey in Winnie the Pooh. Giving these thought patterns a name helps you separate yourself from the mood, and see that it really is a choice to “hang out” with these unsavory characters... or not.
4. Know your dreams To get your dream life, your mind needs to create and see opportunities. To do that, you need to be constantly reminded of what the dream is, in the first place. So make sure that you keep your dreams at the forefront of your thinking. Write a dream that you love, and then read it daily. When you daydream, make sure that it’s your dream you are daydreaming of!
5. Hang with the right crowd Yes, I am channeling parents everywhere with this one. But it’s true: what we read, watch, and who we hang out with does influence what we think about, and how. Do you admire the people you spend time with? Do you want to be like the characters in the TV show you are watching? If not, then it’s time to find ones that you do.
There are many more tools that you can use to cultivate a great mindset throughout your day, but these five will get you off to a good start.
And remember: the point is not to always be happy and positive. We are humans, and of course emotions come up. The key is to be able to choose which ones you will dwell on, and which ones you will let go. You get to design your mental experience of your life, and so make sure it is the one you want to be living!
Which practices will you take on to nourish your mind? Write me a note and share.