The annoying truth about thoughts is that they think you, and not the other way around. Read that again. However well-educated and highly up the ladder you may be, your mind still has one over you. It will always revert to unconscious habit, bias and keeping you safely boxed in to ensure your survival. Which is why, when you want to create change or have a bigger impact, that you really shouldn’t believe everything you think, or let your thoughts go unchallenged, especially when you’re under pressure.

The paradox with thoughts is that they both change like the weather and yet are as repetitive as a broken record (for the oldies of us who grew up before CDs). 

Because I know I can’t count on the best thoughts to be there for me when I’m feeling challenged, disheartened and dispirited, or when I’m losing it (and neither can you) …

And because we all know that we fall to our highest level of training under pressure, rather than gracefully excelling ourselves, and as we like to imagine we would, it’s essential to practice cultivating empowering thoughts to keep you sane and playing to your edge. 

As a gold medal over-thinker, I wanted to offer you 7 – one for every day of the week – of my favourite thoughts that immediately channel my overthinking mind back into Yoda mind for a more centred and kickass week – even when the walls appear to be crumbling down around me.

  1. The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it (Henry Thoreau)
    Ahh – the wake up and smell the coffee, cold shower style reminder that I’m a perishable item.
    Ask yourself every single day, “How many precious seconds, minutes, hours of my valuable life am I exchanging for what I’m doing right now? For who I’m being right now? For what I’m thinking right now? Is this action/thought/attitude helping me create the future I am committed to? If the answer is ‘too many,’ change something now. You too are a perishable item. Live accordingly.
  2. Raise your integrity and the Universe will meet you there
    When you’re in overwhelm or hurried, I bet you’re tempted to say, things like ‘That’ll do,’ ‘Don’t bother,’ ‘Just leave it,’ and, I’ll do it’ out of exasperation. Or, to cut corners and save time you’ll sigh and roll your eyes, or throw a hissy fit, and then accept a compromise. Or maybe you fall to allowing inappropriate conduct because you’re sick of repeating yourself. There are always seemingly good and logical REASONS to settle. Don’t buy into them.

    You get what you accept. Raise your bar, including your own integrity, and stick to it. Then watch your life, and your leadership flourish. 
  3. You can’t steer a parked car. (From Angela Raspass – my first coach)
    Ideas have many merits, they are inspiring and motivating. However, while ideas might be the fuel, if you’re trying to find momentum and balance, you’ll need to get into first gear and move. You simply won’t get to B from A unless you actually take action, and leave the parking spot. Stuckness – fear paralysis – shows up as having one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake. Take your foot off the brake. Simply DO ONE THING. You will find direction again when you move. Even if you have to course correct, you’ll still have made progress
  4. If you’re the smartest person in the room you’re in the wrong room (Rich Litvin, my mentor)
    Stop with the “Imposter syndrome” syndrome. Or rather, cultivate it as much as possible! Imposter syndrome is an indicator of how high you are aiming. Anyone can play tennis with a 5 year old, right? There’s a difference between ease and so easy you could do it with your eyes closed. Actively seek out people who you are inwardly certain are more interesting, awesome and inspiring than you and challenge yourself to grow through simply being in their presence.
    Oh, and by the way, the woman at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there. Neither did you. You’re not as out of place as you think Remind yourself of this every day.
  5. I thrived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me
    If you want to thrive even in the direst circumstances, get yourself a mission bigger than you and let it latch onto you like a mollusk does a rock. Commit yourself to an impossible. Find a purpose that won’t let you go and let yourself be run by it. Your leadership is given by the quality of your mission. Fire it up! Become relentless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. 
  6. I have been told I often bite off more than I can chew. Better to choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity.
    I have so far been told I am not Alexandra David-Kneel, and equally that I am not Nelson Mandela. Quick reality check: nobody gets to tell you who you are. And nobody is really, deeply content with mediocrity, regardless of what they say or how they act. Our souls were born to develop their potential. Unfortunately, people who don’t develop theirs, or who are fearful of losing their perch, love telling you who you are and who you are not and what you can and can’t be. Remember other people’s opinions have nothing to do with you. They are reflections of their own capacities and needs. Chomp in and go for great.
  7. Commitment is choosing between what you want now, and what you want more
    I wrote about commitment here. What you want more is fantastic and worth it. See point 5. Now, put your hands up and move away from the icecream/wine bottle/sofa/comfort zone and choose with spirit and wisdom. Your future self will thank you for it.

Dr Maya Angelou said, “We need to remember that we are created, creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.”

This doesn’t come easy. I see it as a daily practice, a discipline and suggest you do too. I have to remind myself constantly to come back to any one of these 7 thoughts with post-it notes, a coach, waking myself up earlier, programming it into my calendar with an alert … Anything to overcome the inertia of every day thinking!

Challenging our thoughts and cultivating perspective is a daily work in progress in which each new practice builds on and strengthens the others. It could take a lifetime to master.

Then of course, life – like leadership – I happen to be in it for the long haul. What about you?

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