“The mind is a powerful thing. It can take you through walls.”
~ Denis Avey
I want to tell you a cute story about my kid. One of our new family habits for 2023 is to go on a walk in nature every Sunday morning. The walk takes me about 40 minutes fast-walking and at times it’s through rough terrain following the path of the river. It’s a walk I’ve done many times on my own, but never with the boys.
The first time we did it as a family, we weren’t sure if we’d get the whole way around my usual route, given that the boys are only 5 and 3. But we’ve seen how much energy they have, so with snacks and breaks, I was prepared to bet on them making it, albeit with my youngest doing some shoulder riding for sure.
As we neared the end of the walk, we were met with a bit of a hill to get from the river back up to the road into town. By this point our 3 year old, Oliver was on Joan’s shoulders and my 5 year old, Oscar started demanding that he too be carried. I have a bad back so it wasn’t an option for me to carry him (at nearly 6 years old, he’s pretty heavy!) and Joan already had Oliver on his shoulders, so we told him it wasn’t possible and carried on walking.
He refused and sat down on a low wall at the bottom of the hill — he folded his arms and said “I can’t — my legs won’t work anymore!” after a few minutes of shouting encouragement at him from half way up the hill to no avail, I knew I needed to change tack.
I went back down the hill, crouched down to his level and asked him if he wanted me to let him in on a secret trick I knew that would help him get up the hill. He nodded reluctantly. “Stand up” I said, he got up “now hold my hand and start walking with me”, he wasn’t sure about it at first but then I started chanting “I can do it, I am strong” he walked alongside me sulking while also trying not to laugh, but walking nonetheless. “Come on, sing it with me!” I said “I can do it, I am strong!” He refused to sing, but started to march at my pace in time with the chant.
Before long he started running, let go of my hand and said with a huge grin on his face “I can do it Mama, I am strong!” as he ran ahead of me. When we got to the top of the hill, I thought he would run out of steam and it was still a good 5 minute walk to our house but I was wrong, he carried on singing “I can do it, I am strong!” and raced me the whole way home.
As we ran and laughed together, I thought about just how powerful language is. Of course, if we’re trying to walk up a hill repeating over and over “I can’t do it” it’s going to make us feel like we have lead in our shoes. However, changing our mantra to “I can do it, I am strong.” had the opposite effect.
The following week, when we did the walk for a second time, I was shocked by what happened. As we got to the same point in the walk, without any prompting from me, both my 3 year old and my 5 year old ran up the hill holding hands and chanting “I can do it, I am strong!”
Neither of them asked to be carried that day.
Such is the power of mindset and being mindful of what we tell ourselves.
Even though it was me who helped my son change his internal dialogue and come from a more positive place, I was stunned by how quickly he went from feeling exhausted, defeated and rooted in impossibility to literally skipping up the hill and then running the rest of the way home.
I have seen the effects of what I tell myself often in my personal and professional life. How about you?
Let’s look at your language
I have an exercise for you. Why don’t you take 5 minutes now to open up a notebook, grab a pen and write your answers to the following questions:
1. What have I been telling myself I can’t do lately? (Such as I can’t get clients or I can’t make videos)
2. What have I been telling myself I’m no good at lately? (Such as I’m no good at writing or I’m rubbish at public speaking)
3. Where have I been using words like “always” and “never”? (Such as people always cancel on me last minute or I never meet my goals)
Next, I want you to ask yourself if any of those things are really true or if there is scope in there for improvement and growth.
The best practice I know for reducing negative thinking
As I reflected on my 2022 at the end of the year, I, myself, came to the realisation that I had gotten into a bad habit of being negative. After a challenging few years, both personally and collectively, I think that many of us have. Normally though I’m actually a very positive and optimistic person and desperate to get back to that I bought myself and my love copies of The Five Minute Journal. It’s basically a gratitude journal.
We’ve been doing it religiously and the impact is undeniable. I feel happier, healthier and all around more positive and excited about my present and my future. How? By taking time each day to focus on the good in my life. The journal has daily prompts for us to complete in the morning and then others before we go to bed. We haven’t missed a single entry since starting.
When we’re struggling in business it can feel hard to practice gratitude, I see it all the time. Clients will complain to me that only 5 people liked their post or only 3 people responded to a question they asked in an email. Rather than focus on the 5 or 3 people who have engaged with our work, we focus on all those who haven’t. It’s human nature.
However, if we can raise our awareness and learn to focus on the good things happening in our life and business, I truly believe that we inevitably create more of those things. Don’t ask me how it works, I’m no expert in manifesting, but I do know that gratitude is magical.
In my negative mindspace I would have dismissed the power of having a growth mindset or a practice of gratitude but lately, I’ve seen firsthand the incredible benefits of both.
How about you? Is your mindset where you want it to be or could it use some work? If the latter, I encourage you to start watching your words, those you speak out loud and those you say to yourself and see if some adjustments might be in order. It’s not about denying our feelings but rather shifting our focus. Personally, I find it’s harder to feel a sense of lack when I’m focused on the good in my life and oh my is there a lot of good.
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