If you believe it’s external factors that alter how you feel at work, you should think again.
At the World Economic Forum this year, there were a record number of sessions about mental wellbeing. But despite our good intentions, there is a fundamental and widespread misperception about state of mind and its place in the work environment. Unfortunately, this generates a multitude of myths, which, when exposed and understood, will automatically clear up most of the problems and issues we face at work. Here are three of them.
Myth One: We need to feel motivated or confident before we can take action
The truth is that we don’t need to be in any particular “optimal” state of mind to take action or do the right thing. Imagine if an actor waited for his nerves to go before he stepped onto the stage. In her autobiography, the comedian Joan Rivers said that she continued to feel performance anxiety even when she had become a raving success. She went ahead, despite her feelings of insecurity. Waiting for a particular feeling before we take action is a thought trap – and you’ll never manage to move forward.
Myth Two: External factors are the main cause of stress and anxiety at work
In my research, leaders and employees said that the key reason they don’t always perform to the best of their ability is that they are stressed, anxious or worried. When I ask what makes them feel that way, the top four answers are: workload, pressure of deadlines, not enough time, and other people.
But when it comes down to it, only our moment to moment thinking about workload, deadlines, time or those we interact with can create the feelings that we describe as stress or anxiety. We misunderstand where our internal experience is coming from, and innocently believe that the workload (or some other factor) has some inherent power over us. Thankfully, it doesn’t work that way – it just seems like it does.
We cannot experience any feelings of stress, worry or anxiety without our attitude playing the starring role. That’s why you can have a group of people all feeling differently about the same situation. Remember that one person’s “stressful” is another person’s “exciting”.
Myth Three: A bad day at work is caused by how well things go or the results you get
The top reason given for a bad day at work is nearly always “if something has gone wrong” – and the lowest ranked reason: “how I’m thinking about things/my own state of mind”.
The biggest problem we are up against in life is our misunderstanding of what governs our state of mind. If we believe that something other than our own thinking can make us feel a particular way, our minds fill with thoughts that reduce our perspective and clarity. We disempower ourselves.
But when we have awareness of how it works – that nothing outside our own thoughts has the power to make us feel a particular way – we become mentally freer, and are empowered to bring our smartest thinking and common sense to the table.
The ultimate leverage for business performance is a person, team or organisation that understands this simple yet elusive truth. State of mind is everyone’s business, and understanding how it really works will give you the best foundation to operate from – allowing you to thrive in any situation and under any circumstances.
Chantal Burns is a state of mind and performance expert and author of Instant Motivation – The surprising truth behind what really drives top performance (Pearson, 2015).
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