The other day a colleague mentioned to me that as a company we do so much good but how come people do not remember? The question made me ponder. How much of goodness do we really remember? When you reflect on an experience, most often than not, it is the things that have gone wrong that rush first to our memory.
If you were asked to share your most vivid memory of an immensely knowledge learning webinar that you recently attended, chances are that the first thought to hit you is probably about how jarring it was to have technical glitches mar the program. And then your thoughts swing towards the sessions, the experts and their expertise. Sounds familiar does it not?
Are our brains wired in a way that the bad memories never go away? Why do they rush in and fill the space first? Numerous psychological studies point this behavior out as part of our evolutionary process in learning how to adapt hence paying more attention to threats and being alert to them.
In a work place scenario where we juggle multiple tasks and work across teams and functions, our memories are clogged with experiences. To make us grow and move forward in our career trajectory it is vital that we dip into the good memories, learn from them and put into practice the key lessons that we pick up during that period. It therefore becomes important that we do not let the negative feelings and emotions get the better of us and bog us down.
As we continue to work from home and stay confined within the boundaries and walls of our home with minimal social interaction, the mind has become a fertile breeding ground for negative thoughts. Just as a farmer sows best quality seeds for a high yielding crop/plant, we should farm our mind with positive thoughts that can multiply and amplify the good things that we see around us.
I wish I had a magic wand to share that would vanquish all the negativity away. But sadly, there isn’t any around. Nevertheless, we do have a more powerful tool with us – our brain, our thoughts and our feelings that we can mold to make ourselves feel better and live in the moment.
Positive thinking can be practiced through self-awareness and the process of being in the present. It may not however take into consideration the shortcomings and obstacles that may come in the way. That is when positive thinking fails.
According to psychologist Dr Gabriele Oettingen, ‘positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.’ At such times, the application of ‘mental contrasting’ has been far more successful. Mental contrasting calls for us to visualise the positive outcomes and also think of the obstacles that may come in the way. It is all about how we balance the positive/desired outcome with a realistic view of the challenges that are likely to occur.
“Think of a wish. For a few minutes, imagine the wish coming true, letting your mind wander and drift where it will. Then shift gears. Spend a few more minutes, imagining the obstacles that stand in the way of realising your wish.” – Dr Gabriele Oettingen, 2014.
For instance, if you have lost your job due to the challenging Covid situation, it is likely your mind is swarmed with images of hopelessness. Mental contrasting works by bringing in imageries of what would happen if you were to get a new job and how you would need to prepare for it.
You can make mental contrasting work for you in these difficult times. Think of what you wish to achieve and write down your goals. Look at them and prioritise. Reflect on all the good outcomes if you were to achieve that goal of yours. Stay focused. Think of all details. Jot them down if you wish. Next, think of the hurdles and how you will navigate those. For example, facing a job interview, negotiating a new offer…once again, pay attention to all the details. Visualise how you will navigate these hurdles. Set actionable goals and you are on the path to achieving them.
By being self-aware and focusing on our thought processes, we have the power to change the way we visualise situations and aim for positive outcomes.
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