Nurture thoughts as well as health

New year resolutions usually consist of health-related pledges: lose weight, get fit, drink less, etc. Most of these are (at least partially) a result of over-indulgence over the festive period and, despite the best intentions, usually peter out before the year has progressed very far and carry little chance of making it to becoming new habits. For several years, I kept a record of my resolutions and objectives for each year which are now a little embarrassing as they do little more than capture my hopes and aspirations at a given time rather than any meaningful plan.

Whilst the new year is a good opportunity to take a fresh look at our physical lifestyle, it’s also a good time to review our mental habits – the mechanics of our thinking – as these tend to underpin everything else. Whilst being physically healthy can help us perform better, it is our thinking that defines our experience of life and also how others experience us.

A good metaphor, used by Matthieu Ricard, is how your interpretation of a penthouse apartment at the top of a tower block, can vary, depending on your state of mind. To some, it would be an amazing view and to others it may be somewhere from which to jump.

A leader’s ability to think clearly, listen deeply and make complex decisions are arguably their most important skills and yet many are involved in too many things and are overloaded with commitments and communication to think straight about anything other than the most simple tasks. Jack Welch famously scheduled reflection of half a day per week where he was not disturbed and was able to think deeply about issues or just let his mind wander. Two hours of reflection time in a week is only 5% of a 40-hour week, yet how many leaders spend even that long in un-directed thought?

At Coode Associates we are big fans of Andy Puddicombe and his organisation Headspace who focus on bringing a greater awareness to our thinking. His excellent TED Talk is worth watching. The principles involved are practised in meditation but it doesn’t have to be formal or structured to make a difference. Mindfulness is fashionable but runs the risk of being a fad and not going into mainstream practice. They all focus on one thing: being more aware of our thinking; and reflect one underlying assumption: how we think drives how we act.

Its remarkable how our state of mind, beliefs and thoughts can affect how we see other people and events that happen to us. So, alongside resolutions around physical health, this year I am committing to still my mind more often and to listen more to other people and to what is going on around me. This has not been a strength of mine in the past and yet, these are the times when I have learnt the most and have had the best ideas.

What about you?

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