Why your present predicts your past (and therefore your future) [Wise Wednesdays]
Do you sometimes feel like you’re a problem-solving machine?
Whatever problem life throws at you, you get your teeth stuck right in there and gnaw relentlessly until it’s solved? Perhaps you’re like a serial killer of problems…
When people called me “intense” I knew exactly what they meant. I could stay focused on one thing for hours if not days or more. I wouldn’t give up until there was a resolution, whether it was a maths problem, an argument or a holiday dilemma.
But you know what cuts into that plan?
Illness. This month, I’d planned a biggish trip (the first in two years) and then cancelled it because of a positive Covid test.
In an instant, the problem was out of my hands.
The most fun I had was noticing how my thoughts changed with the fever.
High fever brought up critical thoughts of how I should have stayed indoors and how silly it was to plan a trip.
When the fever dropped, my thoughts switched to how cosy it was to be in bed, grateful that I could take time off and that the symptoms weren’t so serious.
The rest of the time, when present, I just got on with life – looking after my home, cooking and getting into Chinese historical dramas (even picking up a bit of Chinese - Hěn gāoxīng rènshí nǐ! – Thanks, Duolingo!)
In summary, a couple of degrees of temperature change can radically transform thoughts, mood and therefore what one does going forward.
And that’s why it’s so important to look after your state of mind or ‘mindset’ in the present and worry less about the past and future.
Your present colours how you see your past and your future.
This fluctuation in the quality of thoughts isn’t just the case with a fever but how the mind functions. It’s not just temperature that affects what you’re thinking, but any input from your environment.
Your mind is super sensitive and reacts to the sensory input it receives all the time – a fever of self-doubt can grip you whether it’s a virus or an email from your boss.
But you know what?
You have a trump card – you may not be able to control what your mind flashes at you or when the fever strikes, but you can redirect your focus. You can breathe and let your mind settle and your heart calm down so that you can see the situation more clearly. You can go for a walk or call a friend. You can wait for the fever to drop before trying to make a decision or taking action.
So if you’re ruminating on the past or the future, remember that you’re better off looking after your present. Take care of the ‘fever’ and your mind will do a much better job for you!
We have 6000 thoughts a day, most of them repetitive and critical.
An fMRI study last year estimated that we have 6000 thoughts a day. We also know that most of those are habitual, repetitive and negative.
Imagine if you allowed yourself more “fever-management” in your day-to-day so that your present state of mind was always as close to your optimal temperature as possible?
If you converted half of your critical thoughts into words on a page, you could write the equivalent of a book within a month.
I was reminded of how a shift in outlook - a drop in the self-doubt fever - helps in times of uncertainty to take a leap and create a new trajectory in life.
Legend in the making: Four years ago, a young doctor reached out for some help. She was at a crossroads between medicine, doing a PhD and switching to a corporate career. She also had an idea for a start-up that excited her but she felt that path was too insecure and competitive. In any case, she was told by a partner in a venture capital firm that to gain credibility she needed to do at least 2 years of management consulting…However much time she spent thinking about it, the answer as to her next career step was not forthcoming. The self-doubt fever was high! It was unpleasant to confront the level of self-doubt that had taken root in her mind but by the end of our conversation, I felt that she’d burst the self-doubt abscess and seemed to recover a measure of her clarity and confidence. This year, she was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. You see, she went ahead with her idea of founding a start-up working on cancer treatment and has just raised millions in investment. Congratulations!
Repetitive thoughts = default future. Creative thoughts = created future.
We don’t yet have a drug to drop the fever of self-doubt and critical thinking. But we do have other tools.
Incredible tools like meditation, journaling with powerful questions, mindful exercise, and supports like nature and understanding friends are all excellent daily practices. And if you’re ready to go deeper and turbocharge the process, you may be ready for transformational coaching.
In the meantime, I wish you a healthy and prosperous season!
Have a great week,
p.s. If you’re ready to create the career and impact you want, the Presence Power Possibility group coaching experience might be for you. To find out more, drop me an email with: Self-doubt is so 2021! In the title.