Andre Cooray | May/June 2014
Everyone has bad days, but if you can’t remember the last time you had a good one or feel like there is nothing to look forward to anymore (other than your next vacation), you might be due for a mental makeover. Sometimes the only thing holding us back from true happiness, good health or reaching our life goals is ourselves. But with the right mindset, anything is possible.
Rewiring your brain at any stage of life is achievable. From switching to a positive attitude and redefining success to mustering the courage to exit your comfort zone, here’s what the experts have to say on how to realistically whip your mental state into shape.
AltEr Your rEAlitY
It’s never too late to reset your mind to a healthy and happy mode. Shawn Achor, author of Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change,says your ability to make a change depends on if your “brain has already constructed a picture of reality in which change is possible or not”. Put simply, change can take place, but only when you alter the way you view the world – until then he says, no amount of TED Talks will make a difference.
One of his tips to achieve happiness,by shifting the way you think, is to create what he calls ‘happiness hygiene’. “We eat, sleep and brush our teeth every day, yet we neglect something crucial – priming our brain to be positive,” Achor says. He suggests setting aside two minutes daily to either: think of three new things that you are grateful for in life, write positive experiences in a journal or email, and/or meditate through breath exercises.“Find meaning at work, connect to the people around you, perceive stress as enhancing, and your success rates rise dramatically,” Anchor advises.
tick tHE riGHt ‘work-lifE’
“Normally, work takes more than 2,000 hours per year and has a major impact on our emotions, psychology and relationships,” says Stefan Smith, the author of The 7-Day Weekend, Finding The Work You Love. If that impact is largely negative, it’s time to reinvent your work-life through sustained positive thinking, so that it enhances your well-being rather than being a detriment to it. “We can monitor our ‘mind-talk’ and change thoughts that don’t contribute to the ‘inner vision’ we have of ourselves as happy, healthy, creative, balanced, expressive, passionate, powerful and prosperous men.”
A practical technique Smith suggests, ideal for when you are in a rut or in need of a mental reboot, is to list the top ten things you enjoy. Then to each activity, write the date when you last enjoyed it. Finally, create another column and tick the ones that are a substantial part of your current work-life. Smith’s method is designed to help you find clarity, so that you can pinpoint where an adjustment is required. For example, the results could indicate that you need either a change in attitude or career.
HAvE A Good SEnSE of dirEction
When it comes to achieving optimal health goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and throw in the towel before you even begin. A healthy lifestyle transformation takes time, requires hard work and is possible with baby steps. “No one can change their destination over night, but they can change their direction. It’s a bit like saying every journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step,” says Dr Greg Emerson, an Australian-based authority on health, vitality and longevity.
“If I choose tomorrow to swap soft drinks for spring water and vegetable juices, it’s a great change in direction. A great first step to my final destination,” Dr Emerson explains. Take achievable steps, so that you feel great, like you’re winning. This encouragement will help you stick to a healthier lifestyle and move you closer to your bigger, long-term wellness goal.
rEconnEct witH fAmilY,friEndS And YourSElf
The chances are you’ve heard the phrase ‘it’s lonely at the top’, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no point in achieving ‘success’ if you can’t enjoy it – or are sad, anxious and depressed all the time. One of the ways Vanessa Vershaw, an industrial psychologist, Executive Coach and Managing Director of Reinvention Organisation & Leadership Consulting in Australia, helps her high-profile clients find contentment and inner peace, is to help them define themselves not just by what they do.
Vershaw says, “What if they define themselves also by saying: ‘I’m a great husband, I’m a great son, I’m a great father’, and look at other roles they play in their lives?” Reconnecting with people and repairing relationships can help men become more successful leaders, because it surrounds them with a loving support group that they have created.
“So often it is stripping back the quest for wealth and the drive for success in business, almost to a state of infancy – and getting to the core needs that people have, which is love,” Vershaw says.
cHooSE Your own AdvEnturE
Even if our urge to live a challenging new life is strong, we still need to get out of our comfort zone and make it happen. Rob Lilwall, a Hong Kong-based motivational speaker, left his job as a geography teacher to embark on a three-year cycling expedition from Siberia to London via Papua New Guinea, Tibet and Afghanistan. “It was not spontaneous, it took about nine months in the dreaming/planning process, and it had been a vague dream before that,” Lilwall says.
The acclaimed adventurer has since appeared on his own television series for the National Geographic Channel and written two books, including Walking Home from Mongolia. Going on the road and testing his limits gave Lilwall a new perspective on life, allowing him to appreciate what is really important. “An expedition is a very intense experience, which requires a lot of focus on long-, medium- and short-term goals in order to get through it,” says Lilwall. “We have to go ahead and take risks in life, though also do research first.”