The mind is the most powerful tool we can put to use within any endeavor we undertake. It holds the power to enhance and increase our capabilities or to exacerbate our limitations. Henry Ford very accurately broke it down when he said, “if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Mr. Ford was talking about our mindset. Our mindset provides the framework and sets the tone for how we approach everything we do. The things we think, the way we interpret our environment, and our ability to find success in challenging situations are all intimately linked to our mindset. Our mindset grounds and guides our approach. Ultimately, it is either helping us get where we want to go, or it is what is holding us back.
In the modern world, there is a continual stream of information coming at us and this sometimes-overwhelming flow of sensory data consequently generates cognitive activity within us. We see things, we hear things, we experience things, all the while processing all of it in a continual internal conversation with our self. This one-way conversation conducted strictly within our head, is composed entirely of our thoughts. According to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of California Los Angeles’s David Geffen School of Medicine, the average human being has approximately 70,000 thoughts go through their head each day. That is a tremendous amount of information to narrate, let alone process each day. Being able to sort through all of these thoughts and understand their impact on us however, is of the utmost importance since we know how integral our thoughts are to our mindset.
For simplicity’s sake, our thoughts can be broken into two distinct categories, those that are relevant and those that are irrelevant to the moment we are in. When a song pops into our head during a test, presentation, or casual conversation, it clearly distracts us. In the context of what we are doing, it is a spontaneously irrelevant thought, and this is pretty clear cut. Relevant thoughts however, exist on two levels. The first can be facilitative and vital to what you are doing; something such as telling yourself not to forget to print off copies of your presentation for your team. The second and most important type of relevant thoughts, are the ones we repeatedly say to ourselves. These are the thoughts that have the greatest impact on our mindset. Understanding what we are repeatedly telling our self when no one else is listening, clearly correlates to Mr. Ford wisely surmising, “if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
What are the things you are routinely saying to yourself? What thoughts are on your continuous playback loop, the ones you repeat to yourself in nearly all circumstances? Using our awareness of the things we continually find ourselves thinking and the situations which lead to these thoughts is how we can begin to work toward changing our narrative, ultimately helping us get where we want to go.