This article first appeared in The CEO Magazine 2019.
A number of clients have recently shared that last year turned out to one of the hardest. Whether their situation involved a merger, an acquisition, a significant restructure, a new (and much bigger) job, and/or a significant family illness or loss, it seems that many today feel that life is becoming more challenging and complex, and that fulfillment and success are more elusive than ever before which impacts your mental game.
I feel so anxious on Sundays.
Why did I spend my entire weekend ruminating over that conversation?
Why do I struggle so much in being present at home?
I am not sure I am having fun anymore.
During the course of a single day, we each handle countless relationships and tasks, and then judge ourselves ad nauseam. We might feel grateful for a special moment we enjoyed with our partner, be excited we won the big deal, and feel on top of our game after an important negotiation. But the next minute, we are angered by an email, upset we lost expected funding, feel deflated after reading the news or looking at social media, and a simple glance in the mirror brings shame that we have not taken better care of ourselves. And, we always live with the disappointment we feel in ourselves whenever we react in immature, lesser or unkind ways.
Why did I get so angry?
Why did I feel the need to talk so much?
Why wasn’t I able to handle myself better?
Why does it seem like everyone else is handling their life with more ease and fun?
As adults and senior-level leaders, you are responsible for complex, high-profile and high-stakes deliverables, not to mention the never-ending, exhausting set of mundane daily tasks required of you as a human being with a family to nurture and a home to maintain. And, none of this is letting up anytime soon. Thus, the only thing that can change is how you process life, and this begins with looking at your mental game – thoughts you allow your mind to think.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Almost everyone suffers from sloppy and ineffective thought patterns that not only significantly limit your professional success, but consistently deny you of the only thing you really care about and why it is that you ever do anything: to feel great and enjoy life.
Let me ask you this: can you focus your mind on what you want to, when you want to? Are you in control of your own internal attention? Are you in charge of how you feel and behave?
There isn’t a single human being whose life and professional success would not significantly improve by improving their mental game.
3 ways to improve your mental game
Find the positive in life
Actively direct your attention to all that is working well. Begin to notice how the work and actions of everyone around you positively contribute to your life unfolding in the way it wants to, and follow this lead. Notice, for example, how a delayed flight allows you to have a timely conversation or much-needed break and something to eat. Several times throughout each day repeat this thought, “Things are always working out for me.” and then actively look for signs that this is in fact true.
Learn from those around you
Actively direct your attention to all that is to be admired and celebrated about those you work with and those around you. For everyone you come across, ask yourself: what do I admire most about them? What could they teach me if I was open to it? What great gift do I see in them?
Take hold of your mind
Actively direct your attention to all you are grateful for. Spend five minutes at some point in your day and write down (yes, put pen to paper) everything you have and love. Look at the list in its entirety. As you read over the list, practise experiencing what it is like to feel rich and successful exactly as you are right now. Take a second to send a thank you to someone who needs to know how grateful you are for who they are or for something they did.
Your greatest challenge will be to suspend your adult cynicism for an entire week to actively direct the focus of your mind. Allow only kind, feel-good thoughts into your mental home. If you notice a negative or bad thought, get excited for the challenge to be kind to yourself as you do the inner work to reframe the thought to something that would have you genuinely feeling good, excited, successful.
Do not brush the above off as Pollyannaish or simplistic.
The only place you will ever live is inside yourself. Do this work and you will have everything you ever wanted. At the end of the week, take stock of how you feel, the impact of doing the above, and then, notice how the world rises up to meet you.