There are plenty of books you can read that are supposed to help you focus or train your mind. But the real fact is that this is something you can only learn by doing. Once you start putting mental training into practice, things start to get clear about how you can set yourself up for success. In this post I am going to shed some light on how your brain was designed and how it might be holding you back from moving forward. Once you understand these basics on how the brain works, you’ll be able to implement the specific strategies I go through to retrain your brain to be programmed for success vs. continually focused on failure.
Our brain is often the culprit for why we don’t reach our goals. By learning how to train your mind to release negative thought patterns, you open yourself up to a new world of vast opportunity. This is an oversimplification, of course. But, basically, you can think of your brain as having two sides to it, the right ‘creative’ side and the left ‘logical’ side. Every incredible idea you have is thanks to that outlandish, creative right side of the brain. That side has endless amounts of positive ideas, dreams, fantasies, and desires. However, in order not to get too wrapped up in a fantasy land, your brain also has a left side. The left side is logical and critical of all the crazy ideas your right side is scheming. Now, while the left side can be good in keeping us set in reality . . . it can also hurt. It can squash any idea we ever have, convince us we aren’t good enough, and drive us crazy with worry and anxiety.
Research shows you have approximately 70,000 thoughts per day and that 80% of those thoughts are negative. Our brains are designed in a way to literally look for negativity. Negative thoughts also require more brain power, so the more we recycle these thoughts over and over again, the more our brain stores them into our memories.
Psychologists believe that the reason our brains focus on the negative and get into those cyclical negative thought patterns relates to our primal ancestors. Their brains constantly had to be on high alert and scanning the environment in order to survive. Our brains naturally have a negative bias. This means they respond more to negative images, ideas, etc. than to positive ones.
How this looks in the moment is being paralyzed by fear when new opportunities or ideas arrive. New means scary to the brain. Often our judgment is clouded by this fear, and we get stuck. Even if it’s a positive opportunity or idea, we are unable to move forward. By knowing the way your brain works and acknowledging negative thought patterns when they occur, you can shift the way you approach new ideas and thought processes. You can literally train your brain. When your brain is processing things at a higher level and doesn’t get stuck in negativity, that’s where the magic starts to happen.
I want you to know that there are actions you can take to train your mind to process the 80% of those 70,000 thoughts differently. Unless it’s a completely unrealistic fantasy (e.g. retire at 65 and decide I want to start training so I can be an NFL starting quarterback at 70), it actually doesn’t matter how lofty the goal is. If you want it bad enough and are willing to work hard enough, there is a high chance you can make it happen.
So let’s get practical. Here are the 6 ways and specific strategies I personally recommend to start to train your mind to be programmed for success.
1. Look for the Good
The best way you can prevent your brain from getting stuck in negativity over a new idea or “I can’t do this” thought pattern is to seek out others who have done it before. This may sound simple, but it can be very powerful. Remember, we are trying to help the logical side of our brain see that whatever new thing you are thinking of doing or want to do isn’t such a crazy idea. One way to do that is to show the brain, “See, he did it and was no better than me. In fact, he had more to overcome than I do and was still able to accomplish this.” You are giving your brain logical reasons to accept the fact that, if he did it, you can do it.
Focusing in on the most successful key players in the same arena you want to grow in will start to replace the negative stories in your brain with new “I can do this too” positive stories. You will see the mistakes they made and how they kept going despite it all, so you aren’t paralyzed with fear of failure. When you have questions on how to do something, they likely had to deal with those same issues and can point you in the right direction without you having to go through it too.
Printing out quotes to put up that are from those key players, researching and reading interviews or books, watching documentaries, or even working with an actual mentor can start to convince the logical side of your brain that this isn’t so scary and crazy after all.
2. Protect Your Mind
When the time comes to start moving ahead with the new idea your creative brain has set forth, it’s also time to set some parameters for the other side of your brain. The negative side that’s going to question every single thing you do needs boundaries in place.
When you lock in on a project you want to take on, it’s like you’re going on a trip, and you get to decide who is going to go on the trip with you. No matter where you go, if you have someone in the car constantly complaining and belittling you, saying “this is taking forever . . . this is a disaster . . . why did we even go on this trip?” it will make for a totally miserable experience. The trip is ruined, and you may end up just giving in to the constant nagging in the end.
In order to avoid this, you want to learn how to take care of your mind and protect it from these negative voices. Nobody can operate at their best when they have a negative, interfering, constant nagging. In the same way, you cannot allow a flood of negative thoughts in your mind to abuse the logical side of your mind while it’s trying to figure out how to do the things you want it to do. Both sides of your brain need a positive environment.
You have to look out for yourself and go into a positive tunnel. Get away from all the negative people, places, and things. Tell those negative voices in your head, “Enough! Stop with the negative ideas right now. Instead, let’s think about how we can do it.” Give your mind time to work through the transition of sorting out a new idea that may seem scary, and allow it to work out the next steps.
3. Practice Gratitude
One trend you’ll notice with successful people is that they aren’t constantly obsessing about what they don’t have. Instead, they appreciate the things they do have. It’s a great thing to keep growing in life, but not if you never enjoy what you’ve already accomplished. The trick is to train your mind to be grateful and enjoy what you’ve achieved so far in life while you continue to push forward for bigger and better things.
Just because you were expecting your child to bring home straight As on her report card doesn’t mean you should fall apart when she shows up with 4 As and 1 B. When you spend the bulk of your time focusing on the negative, you’ll find yourself getting less and less done. You won’t move forward. By constantly obsessing over unrealistic expectations, you take the joy out of the successes you do have.There have been countless studies that show what the brain does when we practice gratitude. Starting a gratitude journal is a popular method for implementing this practice into our lives. When we participate in gratitude, it lights up the positive parts of our brain. The more you practice, the more your brain adapts to this mindset. Just like you can train your brain to be more protected, you can also exercise and strengthen your brain’s ability to feel thankful and empathetic.
4. Practice Thought Discipline
Start thinking like an overcomer. Shift your thinking towards becoming someone who is going to overcome obstacles rather than someone who is going to be held back by obstacles. Everyone goes through difficult situations and seasons in life. Even if you are implementing everything we’ve gone through already, negative thoughts and self-doubt are going to creep in every day anyway. So how are you going to react? It’s your choice. Remember, your brain’s natural inclination is always going to be negatively focused. It’s easier to stay stuck in failure, disappointment, frustration, etc. It’s easier to give up and just continue living life in a stalling neutral. It’s much more difficult for your brain, and therefore you, to shift out of this negative state and continue pushing forward even when everything inside says to stop. Know that it is okay to get upset, angry, sad, overwhelmed, etc. The most important part is what happens after those feelings arrive. Don’t stay in that state of mind. Don’t allow yourself to spiral out of control. Success is when you choose not to stay stuck and instead choose to use those emotions as momentum to keep charging forward and continue to change things for the better.
5. Give Yourself Room to Fail
You must decide to be your best friend. Your best motivator. Your best supporter. If you can’t get excited about yourself, your possibilities, and your ability to work and make a difference, why should anyone else?
Don’t be your worst critic. The world is full of people who will be glad to volunteer to criticize you. There is no need for you to do the same. Instead, be your biggest booster.
Nobody is perfect and nobody does everything right. Don’t allow yourself to freeze up in indecision because you are afraid of failure or of offending someone. Remember that even the most successful people in the world blundered along the way. If you offend someone, you can apologize. If you make a mistake, you can fix it.
I remember once I was at a convention in Puerto Rico and spent an afternoon at the driving range. The professional golf instructor was giving a lesson in the booth next door. The woman he was teaching kept missing the shots. Shot after shot, she was just terrible. I’ll never forget what the pro said to her; it stuck with me for a long time. He said, “Don’t worry, a lot of getting good at golf is not getting upset when you miss a shot. Your capacity for getting good at golf is directly related to your capacity for being able to tolerate hitting terrible shots while you learn.”
There is no need to go timidly through life afraid of offending someone or making a mistake. Live boldly and know nobody is perfect!
6. Train Your Mind For the Future
Think of training your mind like tuning an instrument. Once you know what the instrument sounds like when it’s in tune, it will always sound wrong when it is out of tune. The same goes for your mind, once you know how to train your mind to think differently, you will subconsciously know when your thought process is veering off course and starting to go negative. Even better, you’ll know how to steer it back on track.
Incorporate more of these strategies into a daily practice and watch how you begin to see more doors that lead to success than you have ever had before.
We’ve covered a lot of ideas here, and you don’t need to implement them all at once. Make it simple on yourself. Look back at what we just discussed and choose something that you know you can easily try. Make this is your first step in training your mind.
Comment below with which strategy you plan to implement and how you are going to make it happen!