I’ve been intrigued with personal development for a long time. Most of us are, right? When you’re a teacher, it goes way beyond personal. Motivating students requires every tool you can find. And now that I’m transitioning to a new career in motivational and goal achievement mentoring, it’s fair to say it’s a passion.
If you believe the internet, the average person has somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s about 3,000 per hour, or 50 per minute. Just under 1 per second.
What are we thinking about? You tell me. According to some research, as many as 98 percent of those thoughts are exactly the same as we had the day before. I don’t know about you, but there are some days I really don’t want to repeat. The day – or my thoughts.
Seems like all those thoughts would be an amazing resource if we actually directed even a tiny percentage of them. If it’s true that 98 percent of them are the same, and we’re not making any effort to direct them, what a waste of that resource!
So what IS this amazing tool?
Direct Your Thoughts!
When you’re facing a challenge, you need a strategy for action! A solution-focused mindset rather than a problem-focused mindset. What’s your other choice? Wallow in the “I can’t” mindset (problem-focused mindset)?
Ask yourself “what is ONE thing I can do to make this better?” At first read it might seem so insignificant that you question how it could possibly be effective. Notice I’m not suggesting this one thing will guarantee achievement of your goal or a successful outcome. But – It does give you a strategy for developing a solution-focused mindset rather than a problem-focused mindset.
People – this is HUGE!
I tried this for the first time on a climb in Mexico. Plodding along at I don’t remember what altitude – 15,000+ feet. I’d been on my feet for hours. Big pack, freezing hands and feet, super tired and my head was screaming “just give up. You’ll never make it”. When you’re in the middle of a climb you’ve got a lot of time to have some pretty interesting conversations with yourself. So – I thought I’d give it a try. I needed all the help I could get to keep my brain from reminding me that this felt hard and what did I have to lose?
The question: What is ONE thing I can do to make this better?
Solution-focused Mindset: BREATHE!!
It was all I could think of at that oxygen deprived point, but obviously when you’re at altitude and physically challenging yourself, breathing is super important. It worked. It gave my head a productive place to focus energy. But you know what surprised me? Back to those 50,000 thoughts per day. I’d remind myself of my solution. Literally 2 steps later, my brain was already back to focusing on negative thoughts. How hard the climb felt. (Why do we do that??) Until I reminded myself – again – to breathe. I went back and forth like a yo-yo for the rest of the climb. This is hard. Oh wait – breathe! 2 more steps. Repeat.
Solution-focused mindset vs. problem-focused mindset. It gives you the next actionable step. You don’t have to be able to see all the way to the top of the mountain. Just take one step at a time. Grab a few of those 50,000 thoughts and ask yourself: What is the ONE thing I can do to make this better? It flips the switch and enables you to focus on a solution. It might be only for a second, but it means you’re redirecting your thoughts toward a much more effective place. When you realize you’ve wandered away from the solution, repeat the process.
Try it. I promise you – it’s a powerful tool.
Be in motion. We do not learn by standing still.
Summit of Ixtaccihuatl (17,338′)