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August 19, 2011

Mindset Determines Everything: Making the Switch

By Jillian Teta

The deeper immersed I become in training and interacting with people off all different ages, races, creeds, fitness levels and health statuses, one overarching theme has become screamingly clear to me: mindset determines everything.

In our blog you will find many threads discussing the mind-body connection, self-responsibility and emotional freedom. We discuss the importance of those things and the implications of them.

In my own line of work, trying to help others and myself I struggle with the day-to-day “how to”. I mean, all of this touchy-feely stuff sounds great, and is a great intellectual concept, but sometimes I have a hard time walking my talk when I am exhausted, carb-depleted, feeling overwhelmed, etc. It’s just so easy to slip into an unproductive and harmful mindset.

So I wanted to find tools that I could use every day – every minute if I have to – to choose a positive way of being and create, second by second, the person I am and want to be. I want to share them with you, because I have found them helpful in my own life.

These are the four tools: Gratitude, Service, Staying in My Business and Choosing Positivity.

Gratitude: One of the fastest ways to create positivity is to use gratitude. This is backed by research in many disciplines – gratitude actually beneficially changes your brain chemistry, the ways that neurons fire, your hormones, and even your immune system. Gratitude puts you in the position of the student – you have something to be open to, to learn. Gratitude, and being in the position of the student, is quite humbling.

So here is what to do: If you find yourself annoyed, discontent, feeling sorry for yourself, etc – find something in your immediate environment that you are grateful for – even if it is the color of the wall. If you can’t find something there, think of something or someone in your life that you are grateful for: the farmer that grew your food, the nice person who held the door open for you, your favorite music, the oxygen molecules in the air, your feet that carry you, your heart that beats, your eyes that see.

Gratitude allows us to cultivate a positive mindset by our mindful acknowledgement of the positive things in our lives. As we choose gratitude, the brain will seek positive patterns, very much like a positive SPAM filter, instead of a negative one that is always looking for what is wrong.

You will still be able to spot problems and fix them, and with a lot less stress around it. Positive psychology research has demonstrated over and over that we can teach ourselves to find these silver linings, which in turn creates a happier brain, which in turns allows us to handle problems with greater ease.

Service: Service helps create meaning. Many question the meaning of their life or feel dissatisfaction because they think they are not fulfilling their true purpose. Yet, our ultimate purpose is always right in front of us. Whatever presents itself, that is your purpose.

No one’s purpose is inherently greater than another’s; we create meaning with our thinking and expectations and “fairytales” of how we think life should be. Life should be exactly the way it is now, because that is how it is. And that does not mean that we cannot make choices to make a different life one second from now. It does not mean that we condone injustice or violence – it means that if you fight reality, rather than accepting it and seeking to create a different/new way – you will lose the fight and be stressed for it.

If that doesn’t sit well with you, a great way to generate meaning and good vibes instantly is to give an act of service to another person. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or something you spend money on. Sometimes looking someone in the eye and saying hello is all that it takes to give you a boost of positivity. A kind word, a genuine smile, and listening to someone with your undivided attention are all acts of service.

After all, serving others ultimately means we serve ourselves. Ask yourself how you could be helpful or of service in any situation. The act can be as big or as small as you like.

It is best to do acts of service without expectations for the recipient of your kindness: your gift is in the giving (and their gift is in the receiving, which ultimately is the same thing, but that’s a different blog).

Staying in Your Business: There are three types of business: my business, your business, and “God’s” business. You may or may not have ideas about God; what I mean here is those events or situations that are beyond the control of an individual like natural disasters, etc.

The bottom line is this: your business is the only one you belong in. From the outside, it seems to us very clear about what others should be doing – yet, this should be the advice we give ourselves.

When you are off – mentally or physically – running other people’s lives, who is running yours? No one.

This is a mega-trap and sets the stage for negativity. We think people should act a certain way because they are our family/friends/children/spouses/someone we have signed a contract with – and we experience negativity when they don’t act the way we think they should or want them to.

  • “Act this way so I can be happy/at peace”
  • “Act this way because you are my husband/friend/insert title here and my happiness and peace depends on you acting a specific way”
  • “It’s not my fault I am unhappy – you are doing something that I don’t want you to do”

This is slavery (your own) at best and dictatorship at worst.

If someone in your life, be it a spouse, friend, boss, etc, is acting in a way that is not in line with what you want, or creates stress in your life, ask yourself: “What is it in me that tolerates/creates/contributes to this and why do I choose to put up with it?”

This is not about dispensing or accepting blame. This is called minding your business. It begins and ends with you. It’s not about disregarding people, but freeing them, so you can meet them where they are. Then you are free because your mindset is not determined by the actions of others and whether they are following your made-up rules or not.

This can be a rough pill to swallow as we have many societal fairytales about how other people should behave – yet people will always behave exactly as they do. Despite thoughts of how things should be different, we have high divorce rates, full prisons, addictions and injustice.

People will always do what they will do – expect that. The important question is: what will YOU do? Mind your business and take the advice you give as your own (it was meant for you anyway).  You then get to choose your behavior and actions and who you have in your life.

We will all become saner, the whole world will become saner, with greater clarity from just one person – you.

Choosing Positivity: I spent a long (horribly long, really) time in school. The more school I had, the more I realized all that I did not know. There is oh-so-much.

One of the most significant insights of my education, that has offered me peace, is this:

  • You control your own reactions to the events/people/situations and the consequences those reactions create as they reverberate through your life – nothing else.
  • No one has the power to control you without your consent. No one/nothing has the power to disappoint you without your consent.
  • Reactions fall into 2 camps: positive and negative. It really is that simple. Of the infinite reactions possible, they are all either negative or positive.

We tend to choose the same reactions over and over again, mostly out of habit. Yet, it is entirely possible  – and helpful, if you spend enough time in a negative state – to choose a different reaction. This too has been extensively borne out in neurological research. You pick a different reaction, and a different set of neurons fire, a different set of hormones are released, and you feel different. Positivity generates more positive ways of being, negativity generates more negative states of being.

This takes awareness, continual checking in and practice – just like learning any new skill. We practice the skill of being more positive by choosing positivity, gratitude and service and by staying in our own business.

This does not mean that you become a hermetic egoist that is out of touch with the world and lacks compassion and humanity. Quite the reverse.

Negativity, fear and anger close our mind and narrow our focus. We think the solution is then more negativity, fear and anger. By discarding negativity – by creating a life that forces negativity to discard you – the entire world opens before you.

As these negative, impeding forces become less a part of our daily internal environment, and we are in more of a calm, peaceful/non-stressed state – the mind opens, allowing us to see innovative solutions, new ways of being, how we can help the world and others (without us injecting our own negativity into the mix), and the vast congruence of it all.

Life doesn’t just happen to you, it happens for you, it happens to give you back everything you project out. As some smart man said a very long time ago: “As within, so without”

You are everything you have ever been looking for. You are your own best solution.

It begins, and ends with you.


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