3/30/2020 – Retraining the Mind in these uncertain times

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”

~ Wayne W. Dyer

Last week I really tried to scrutinize what my normal routine had been for the first 2.5 months of this year, before it was derailed by the coronavirus’ impact on our normal way of life, and examine what could be improved and adapted to this new lifestyle we are all suddenly living. It was a good exercise, and one I’m not certain I’m finished with yet. In fact, I think this is a good thing to do every few months, in order to constantly check your direction to make sure you’re sailing on the correct course.

Lately I’d been understandably feeling a little demotivated and out of sorts. The current state of things had made it much harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel of work I usually find myself in, and the unexpected obstacles seemed almost insurmountable to me reaching even my short term goals. I didn’t have a plan for any of this. It was the perfect time to take a step back and reevaluate.

While I can’t say that I’ve “figured it out,” I can say that I’m slowly identifying small changes I can make to help me regain my previous momentum, but also more importantly, help me slightly alter my mental perspective. More specifically, rather than solely focusing on the output and outcome of just work, I see that it may be even more important for me to be focusing on the state of my mind and it’s comfort level, both in and outside my work.

There is probably a deeper dive somewhere in here about mental health and stress management, etc. but I want to keep this fairly surface-level and action oriented for the purpose of this writing. I’ll leave the rest of that other stuff to doctors and scientists. But the thing I’m after here is trying to ratchet up the acuity with which I direct at my own state of mind by reverse engineering the things my mind takes in and puts out, and evaluating how I can better manipulate those things to achieve a more satisfied, peaceful state of mind. Especially in these crazy times we’re living in right now.

For example: It can start as simply as examining the measure of success of a thing. Previously, my measure of success may have been the creation of a plan or document, or a completed contract, or a closed sale, etc.  Notice a theme there? All of those things indicate some level of finality, something I cannot easily achieve in the current state of business. Under my old way of thinking of success, my inability to achieve any of these milestones would cause me to feel a sense of failure in my work, which would in turn add to the sense of futility or lack of direction I had been feeling in recent weeks.

Conversely, in my current state of action, instead of focusing the measure of success on something that can be defined by finality, I’ve begun shifting my source of satisfaction to the quality of work I’ve put in. Instead of just “checking boxes” off a to-do list, I’m focusing more on how that box gets checked, and afterward my brain is deriving a sense of satisfaction from that, rather than a sense of incompletion. I guess this could be more simply wrapped up as a “quality, not quantity” approach, but it feels different to me, mentally. I don’t think it’s as simple as switching lanes, I think it takes genuine mindfulness to appreciate the difference, instead of just going on auto-pilot.

Following that same line, I’ve also decided to start meditating every day. This is something I’ve attempted to do before, but have not always gotten the same amount of value that everyone else around me seemingly gets. By default, I may be one of the lucky few that doesn’t easily get overwhelmed by my thoughts, or consumed with anxiety, so the sense of peace that should come with attempting to calm the mind isn’t usually as pronounced for me, unfortunately. However, with the amount of “waiting” that seems to exist within any meaningful business action currently, I see the value in taking the time to exercise this discipline with that time, instead of planning too far ahead. 

My hope is that I will learn something additional and unexpected while I commit just 5 minutes a day to attempting to quiet the mind and let everything else talk for a bit. Perhaps, just maybe, retraining my brain a little to focus on more important internal successes instead of quantifiable external successes might grant me something more valuable and more peaceful in the long run.

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