Wellbeing from Healthy Thinking

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The rationale for these thoughts starts from the idea that a healthy mindset assists in wellbeing. Wellbeing is about how content we are to be ourselves, but is also about how empowered we are to achieve our dreams too.

What is a mindset? Three things are important: values, beliefs and the sense we have about our identity. Much of this evolves more or less naturally, some of it changes through pro-activity, courses, group-work and psychotherapy, for example. But what if we chose to focus more often on these three aspects? How better might we think and feel?

Being and Doing

How we are and what we do in the world are two separate experiences. Many of us have identities that we develop from our sense of ‘what I do’. There is nothing wrong in that per se. What we do in the world can stoke self-confidence, self-assurance and stimulate feedback from others. Critically though, what we do is best aligned with our values, with our vision and with our identity. Self-worth is fuelled by success in ‘doing’ and the young tend to be very focused on ‘doing’. It is also helpful to attend to our sense of ‘being’ as well. In other words, what are the qualities of ‘self’ that stand on their own, even without being manifested immediately by actions in the world? These might include factors like:

  • Self-reflection
  • Ability to be in awe
  • Thinking the best of others
  • Honouring all life’s experiences as natural and learning opportunities
  • Feeling grateful for each day

When we add together both the ‘being’ and ‘doing’ aspects of our lives we have a richer sense of identity and sometimes for life-purpose too. And this creates energy that we can use to achieve more with our lives, or to make necessary changes.

Fear of Change

Many of us have experienced the dilemma of wanting to do something different but having been frightened of the consequences. What if I gave up my work and became a counsellor? What if I led an openly gay lifestyle? I tend to ask a question, for example, “How bad does each day have to get before you will do what you want?” and “How long will it take before it gets that bad, do you imagine?” Sometimes people are willing to take a leap of faith immediately rather than suffer! Patterns of self-neglect lead to loss of essential energy (that is needed to make such a change). It’s a bad spiral to go down. Of course, it is not enough to launch into change – we need to think through holistically – what are the impacts? How will I feel and experience life if it was happening now? Who else is in my world now?

Involving Love

When we do make changes it is positive to tell people – this makes our decision real and develops a support-network to help us on the journey. Those people have to be able to cope with your change and will want to encourage your change – not be negative or resisting. If you select the right people, then this experience will deepen the quality of those loving relationships and give you the opportunity to support them more deeply in return.

The Power of Acknowledgement

A business acquaintance I knew was a high achiever – Marketing Director of a world-class historical attraction and regular expert columnist. His family were all landed, asset-rich and he was connected intimately with most of the Royal Family. Each time he succeeded in something, he moved quickly on to the next project without pausing. He surprised all his friends and family by wading into the river Thames at Christmas while wearing a heavy overcoat. He drowned himself. A critical psychological error in my view was his inability to acknowledge himself; to pause after each success and to briefly reflect on his decision to do something, and to have then succeeded. The action of acknowledgement raises our self-confidence and self-esteem – and it is a free gift for the taking. If we acknowledge appropriately in practice, then we find that we can achieve at a higher level because our resources are more broadly grounded.

Learning from Senior Citizens

I used to spend a lot of time visiting residential and nursing homes. The experiences left me with ambivalent feeling, I saw terrible things – ignorant and careless staff, neglect, dirt and terrible malodors. But it was not all bad. One of the things that shone out was the character of a minority of the senior folk. These were the ones with the twinkling eyes; they smiled when they caught your eye. Often they were bed-ridden and sick – but still they chose to think positively about their experiences. It started me wondering whether they were always like that or whether they developed that ability. I am now sure that some of them learned those skills through self-development. The question is – why wait? Every moment of every day is enriched if we can just ‘re-frame’ our experiences to think and feel positive about them. Yes, it is a psychological trick of the mind. So what? Is it positive? You bet your life it is! There is grace in accepting what we cannot change.

Power from Confidence, Confidence from Success

We are not powerless of course. There is much we have dominion over if we choose to take action. Everything we do is supported by our confidence. If we could buy it in packets then most of us would be queuing at the check-out – “Yes, I’ll have a box of ‘confidence around snakes’ please!” Confidence is an intangible, but that does not mean we are powerless to boost our confidence and to begin that process of boosting from whatever level we happen to be at now. For those that have been knocked down by a series of experiences and now fear leaving their house, the process will start as it does for those who lead busy lives but who want to emigrate or change career. It is a three-part process – Decide, Action, Acknowledge. For someone feeling paralysed and burdened by bad experiences, this may be tidying a kitchen drawer for the first time in a year.

The process remains the same – Decide, Action, and Acknowledge. The process is self-enduring and expanding. Keep the decisions realistic and achievable. Each success builds on the last. Necessarily, we must continue to be successful to anchor that momentum and to get the maximum benefit from our life’s work.

Dr Angus McLeod

Dr Angus McLeod is the author of many papers and books on coaching, NLP and leadership. His books include, Performance Coaching and Me, Myself, My Team (both Crown House), Self-coaching Leadership (John Wiley) and Performance Coaching Toolkit (McGraw-Hill/Open University Press, 2010). He designed distance-learning performance coaching diploma courses at Newcastle College, with over 15,000 students to date. Angus also researches and supervises academic research at Birmingham City University Business School and facilitates master-classes in coaching, trains managers and coaches 1-2-1 internationally.

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