Can changing your actions really change your mindset?
Like almost half the population I have made a new years’ resolution.
I was inspired by this article in The Sydney Morning Herald which cited research that revealed resolutions made at new year have a greater chance of success compared to resolutions made at other times.
I am talking about this publicly in the interest of my own accountability which apparently is good for my style of habit-forming.
As an obliger I tend to put the needs of others before myself. So I do need others to help keep me accountable.
My goal is about taking specific physical action to achieve a sense of contentment and wellbeing.
I am interested in this goal in particular as I watched a great TED talk on productivity and happiness. The speaker said that 75% of our success at work can be predicted by our optimism levels.
As someone who has a big tendency to remember the negative, and to let that negative colour the way I see my day (or even week) when I read this research I thought AH HA.
My particular style of pessimism is that I find myself focusing on the perceived problem, making it only my issue to solve it, rather than being fully occupied in the task at hand.
So, annoyingly, I tend to take longer to do things.
Happily the researcher suggested that there are certain physical activities we can undertake to train our brains to become more positive.
So instead of mind over matter, it’s matter over mind.
For me this fits with work I have been doing last year to understand how trauma impacts both my body and my mind. I had a massively frightening car accident last year and found that strange things were happening. I could not focus well for a few months, even though physically I was fine.
The Ted talker suggests we can make a visible difference by taking certain actions, and that this difference can happen within 21 days.
– Spend 2 minutes reflecting and writing down 3 things you are grateful for. This helps our brains start to retain a pattern of scanning the world for the positive not the negative first
– Exercise each day for 30 minutes to teach your brain that activity matters
– Meditation, helping us to focus on one task at once
– Enact one random act of kindness
As that all added up to about an hour a day and included things I have already been doing irregularly, I’ve decided to apply another goal keeping strategy of a “chart.”
I have always being skeptical about keeping charts as it never fitted with my perception of myself as a more “creative” type who’s happier “going with the flow.”
However, apparently keeping visible track keeps whatever habits you are trying to form close to your consciousness and helps with habit forming. And once something is a “habit” you don’t need to think about it, like breathing you just do it.
I suspect my reluctance to keep track in charts is a bit of BS, to be perfectly honest.
I think my underlying resistance to chart-keeping has been around not knowing what I wanted to focus on, and my previous inability to keep a chart. Usually I start a spreadsheet for a few days then give up.
However I realise I don’t have any issue with bad habit forming (extra glass of wine with dinner anyone?), so why not apply this to good habit forming.
So I have printed out a tracking list of activities and days of the week, that I can action from wherever I am in the world at the time.
If I can maintain this for 3 weeks, maybe I can improve my levels of optimism, and overall productivity.
My actions are:
– Write down 3 things I have enjoyed the previous day
– Write down 3 positive things about people I have met
– Write down 3 things I have accomplished (positive only)
– 30 minutes of exercise
– 20 minutes of meditation
– One act of kindness where I expect nothing in return
– Have that extra glass of wine if it helps 😉
Most goal setting experts suggest that a goal needs to be time-specific and measurable to succeed.
I realise that “improving my sense of wellbeing” is a bit airy-fairy and completely unscientific. (Plus I can see the raised eyebrows of my more cynical friends around all of this.)
So my own personal way of testing this will be to review what proportion of the day am I spending focusing on growing my business in a productive way, rather than solving things from the past that I cannot control.
I’ll report back on my progress in 3 weeks.
Wish me luck.
(I’ll probably need it).
And if you have any optimism actions that have worked for you, I’d love to hear about these too.
It caught my eye in the book store, and being a big believer in serendipity and experimenting to create change, I bought it instantly.