In the midst of generating maximum productivity and success, as you probably are, you generally face an onslaught of vexing problems and marvelous opportunities, as well as exacting requirements and appealing options. Your days, and possibly nights, are chock full of tasks, projects, and goals that come streaming at you as though from a fire hose, and you’re hard pressed just to keep up.
That’s all normal.
But it’s limiting.
Because you’re nearly always under some degree of stress, your mind is locked into “reacting” first, without sufficient thinking or planning. As a result, your behavior emanates from a strictly limited repertoire of learned responses, acquired skills, relevant knowledge, and largely unconscious habits.
In all probability, if you’re reading this blog, most of this stands you in good stead. You generally work on the right things in the right order, and you normally produce good results in both your work and your life.
But you can do better.
The secret is to add another source to those, listed above, that already generate your behavior. For lack of a better term, I’m going to call this extra source your “inner guru.”
Like a conventional guru, your “inner guru” has a larger, longer-term perspective on your situation, and has the ability to steer you in more “proactive” directions than you may now be pursuing.
Here are some ways you can most easily tap into and benefit from listening to your “inner guru:”
Open Your Habit File
A lot more of your behavior is driven by habits than you probably recognize. This is natural, in most instances. It’s simply not practical to rethink the best route to the grocery store every time you go, or whether to shower first each morning or brush your teeth, or how to accomplish many of the simple, repetitive tasks that land on your plate.
And when you’re under stress, you rely on your habits even more than usual.
In fact, the more focused you are on those vexing problems and marvelous opportunities, exacting requirements and appealing options I mentioned earlier, the less brainpower you have available to handle mundane, routine operations.
But as the world around you changes, many of your once-useful habits fall out of date, become stale and unsatisfying, or lose some measure of their effectiveness. They became less practical than they were originally, or in some cases even counter-productive.
Here’s an example: ever since I first earned my license, I had a habit of putting on my eyeglasses every time I got ready to drive a car. But then I underwent cataract surgery that implanted permanent corrective lenses, eliminating my need for glasses. Nevertheless, for a year or more afterwards, I still habitually reached for my (non-existent) glasses several times a day.
So this is a call for you to open your bag of habits and examine each one, along the lines of: Does doing this even make sense? If it does, can you improve it some way? Can you replace it with some more effective behavior?
Gear Up Your “Executive” Functions
Your brain’s “executive” functions are those that make choices and restrain your impulses.
Your day-to-day activities invariably involve “executive” functions that help you solve immediate problems, deal with rapidly developing situations, and take advantage of current opportunities. That’s all necessary and good. You can’t live without relying on some of your “executive” functions, but you probably aren’t using them as much as you could.
So here’s a call to gear up your “executive” functions and apply them more often. I’m talking about diverting some of your time and energy toward developing new skills, abilities, and knowledge – not just what you need to prevail in today’s world, but what you may want and need to prevail in tomorrow’s world, as well.
In other words, start thinking about being “proactive,” as well as “reactive.” Even if you spend just an hour a month on this, use the time to think about a wider range of forces and factors, larger perspectives, and longer-term goals. Simply put: use your “executive” functions to become more strategic.
Think About How You Think
This one may be the most important aspect of “taking your brain in hand.” It’s good to think more widely and proactively about what you do. It’s even better to think about how you think.
- Why are you thinking these particular thoughts, and not others?
- What are these thoughts going to drive you to do? Why?
- What standards are you using to make your choices and evaluate your results?
- What other options and standards would other thoughts make available to you?
By examining your habits, your brain’s “executive” functions, and the ways in which you think, you can step out of the limited “reactive” mode and into a smarter pattern of using your brain’s capabilities more proactively, and more effectively, as you tackle the tasks, projects, and goals that are important in both your work and your life.
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