“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” ~Marcus Aurelius

image descriptionIs your head swirling with stuff…deadlines, reminders, goals, problems, dates, meetings, projects, people, places, things? Sometimes it seems like your head just won’t shut off. The thing is, your head is not made to run 24/7. How do you get off this merry-go-round?

Anxiety = Worry + Fear

If you are honest with yourself, most of those things “on your mind” are not required thoughts. They are rather indulgent thoughts. Indulgences like top shelf liquor and exclusive spa treatments sound great. But I suspect most of your thought indulgences are rather highly undesirable things, things like worries and fears.

Let’s take a look at those two things. Worries are concerns about the future. Will the shipment arrive on time? Will our main competitor win the bid? Will we make the quarterly sales quota?

Fears, on the other hand, are concerns about the past. Did I make a bad hire? Is the sales brochure good enough? Did I spend too much on that last inventory purchase?

Worry and fear only cause anxiety. Anxiety has the troubling impact of making it hard to think. So now you have clogged your head with a volume of thoughts that have the caustic effect of making what little room you have left for thinking more difficult.

The Wrong Things Are On Your Mind

Chances are you didn’t wake up today and ask, “What can I worry about today? Oh, and what fears can I recall? Let’s get this day started!” These thoughts usually show up of their own accord.

You have a choice however. Just because a bird lands on your head, you don’t have to let him build a nest there. I am not saying when you hear a train whistle blow that you should dismiss it and continue your picnic on the tracks. But if you are just wondering about a train that may or may not come and you might someday cross some tracks, don’t give away precious headspace to such thoughts.

Get the Right Thing On Your Mind

Notice I didn’t say “get the right things on your mind.” There is only one thing that belongs on your mind at any given moment: the one you are working on right now. Perhaps you are thinking, “But I have a bunch of projects going right now.” That may be true. But they cannot all be on your mind simultaneously. Thinking is a serial affair. So what you are doing (rather ineffectively) is rapidly switching from task to project to plan to event to…Dang, I forgot something AGAIN! Trying to do a bunch of things at once is a proven precursor for failure.

It is time to face the cold, hard truth: you are trying to do too much. And in so doing you are accomplishing less than you are capable of because you are taking your limited thought time and squandering it on topics that may be looming or nagging and yet are still not before you in this moment.

Do a little study of your past thoughts. How many of your anxieties have come to fruition? If you went straight to: “There was that one time when disaster struck…” you need to go back and reread the question. The fact is almost none of them came true. And that one time it did, did you notice your anxiety didn’t stop it? Before you add another anxiety to your mind (“How did he get in my head like that?”), understand I didn’t read your mind. This is the common human experience. Yet with all this collective experience, we still deny the mountain of evidence and continue to fruitlessly indulge in our anxieties.

“Get the right thing on your mind.” click to tweet

So wipe the slate clean. Be present to the task in front of you, whatever it may be. Before long you will notice that you are getting more done and your load is lightening.

Now that you have sworn off anxiety, what’s on your mind? Tell us about it by commenting below.

Photo credit: Craig Sunter

Do You Have a Lot On Your Mind?
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3 thoughts on “Do You Have a Lot On Your Mind?

  • Permalink

    What I found at least as amazing as knowing the above mentioned facts are true ( at least for 99% of mankind I guess) is, that it can be unbelievably difficult to hold on this mindset and not fall back to overload your mind all the time…again and again…for a reason that still escapes me…

    Reply
    • Permalink

      It was once “unbelievably difficult” for you to walk or to talk or to do any number of things that you now literally do without having to think. Repetition is the solution. Don’t give up. You eventually learned to walk after all, right?

      Reply
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    You are right at this! Now reading a bit more about this topic I came to realize that whether you are able and NEED to multi-task to some extent (a good example I came over was “cooking”) highly depends on the work/job you are doing. I’m a PhD student at the moment and I’m often asked to “multi-task my projects more and better”. However, I experience this as really difficult and after some time I realize the problems I get that may reach far beyond mixing things up (including the feeling to forget a lot of other, important things; being/feeling disorganized and not getting control over the situation). And this only gets better when I take a timeout from the situation. So, actually, being resistent to getting into such situation is the thing I find difficult 🙂

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