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Managing Your Mind – The Key to Everything Else

Think about it. If you can’t manage what’s going on up in your head, you can’t manage your job, your team, or your world.

Managing your mind is the key to everything and it’s also the most difficult job you’ll ever have. It will decide where you’ll end up in life. Do your thoughts run wild through your head like a band of marauding hamsters all running on different treadmills? Are you calm and centered? Are you centered within yourself? We need some practical ideas to take on life’s most difficult gig.

Managing your mind is very different than applying your mind. Parents and teachers taught us to apply our minds to learn math, science and literature. Managing your mind is dealing with the maze of things that come through your brain unbidden. If these thoughts take over your cerebral real estate to the point that you don’t have the bandwidth to work on the issues that you are facing, you need to find a way to control what your mind processes.

Management of the mind is not an exact science, but we’ve learned a lot about brain science in the last five years – more than in all preceding time in history. We’re beginning to understand why we often seem strangely at odds with ourselves. We know more about the mechanisms that cause fear, aggression, and self-sabotage than ever before.

The 20th Century defined much of the chaos and confusion we experience in our brains in terms of Freudian psychology as deep-seated pathologies that it would take years to cure. As executive coaches, our belief is that many things that come to us in our thinking that were thought of as negative are actually useful but all too often overused. We must learn to manage our thoughts. In the coaching philosophy, it’s about directing and redirecting our thoughts in the right ways to the right things.


1. Understand that confusion, anger, fear, and jealousy are a natural state of mind for everyone. While they are not pleasant, they are a constant reality. We come from an ancient tribal system where danger was a constant threat in the forests or savannas. You needed those emotions to stay alive. These emotions are part of our defense today‚ we just let them dominate our thinking to the point they choke our productivity and creativity.

2. The managing director of your mind is the frontal cortex, right behind your skull. Like a good executive it classifies the myriad of data that comes to you every moment – write an email, call your mother, join the army, become a monk, learn a new language, go back to bed and try again tomorrow.

3. You don’t choose your thoughts. Your thoughts choose you. This is extremely important, because we’re often told, “Control your thoughts!” It simply won’t work because that’s not how the brain works. Like a popular video game, the actors in the action of our minds seem to come out of nowhere, amazingly able to challenge you and change the course of your thoughts immediately. From those parts of the brain behind the frontal cortex, in areas we are only beginning to understand, there are monsters and other worlds that come to us, sometimes as real as anything we’ve ever experienced.

We can’t dismiss our thoughts like a bad employee. The most important tool we have is to redirect ourselves toward a whole course of other actions that lead us where we want to go. As we redirect, our brains will give us a set of thoughts related to what we’re doing. When unproductive thoughts occur, find a new course of action and just move on.

4. From behind our frontal cortex the most important ideas we’ll ever have will come. Learn to find a quiet place and wait for what these parts of your brain will bring you, whole concepts and strategies more important than anything else we’re ever consciously thought about. Everyone from Einstein to Shakespeare received their ideas from those other parts of the brain. That’s where your idea explosion will come from.

5. Managing your mind is a function of managing your life, its direction and content. Many people spend a lifetime fighting those thoughts and feelings that assault your frontal context. These are the thoughts that bury you in depression and keep you constantly off course. Managing your life consists of:

A. Understanding your personal mission and creating your personal mission statement. Organizations spend months developing a mission statement, but you are not apt to be at one organization all of your life. You are the biggest constant that you have. What is the one thing that drives you? If you keep it in mind every day, your thoughts will coalesce around your purpose. Your mission statement is a primary tool for managing your mind.

B. Creating short term and long term goals to stay on your mission. Write four goals or more if you like. They should reflect those things than make you want to get up on a good day. If you read your personal goals when you feel at loose ends or off course, these goals will take you forward.

C. Surround yourself with people who support you and enable the best in you. We all need friends, and over the years I’ve sought out people who are smarter and wiser than I am. These people are one of the most important factors in managing my mind.

The secret to managing your mind is to be your best client. If you stay on course, managing yourself like a valuable customer, you’ll manage your mind. You are the most important customer you have.

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