5 Ways Your Mind Can Be an Asset or Liability
Your thoughts can be the single greatest detriment to your business, your health, and your quality of life. How you leverage them sets the tone for the level of success you’ll achieve.
Especially with COVID-19, it’s easy to point blame, make excuses, and deny responsibility for what’s happened to you or your business. But such negative behavior can serve as a huge liability in the long term.
ActionCOACH’s Rick Phelps recently shared 5 ways your mind can be an asset or liability.
To give you a better idea of what is meant by your mind as an asset or liability, imagine this.
You’re walking on a city sidewalk and you see a piano falling from above you. Your brain will respond in one of three ways – fight, flight, or freeze.
Of those three responses, one of them is an asset and two of them are a liability. If you take a stance to fight or freeze, the piano will crush you (liability). But if you flee, you’ll survive (asset).
In this post, we’ll discuss the the science behind your brain, the Point of Power concept, and the 5 ways your mind can serve as an asset or liability.
The 4 Steps to Learning
Good news. The brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to change, doesn’t go away in our youth. It is with us for life.
Neuroplasticity is very important for learning development.
There are 4 steps you must undergo in order for your brain to learn and grow new muscles or neural networks.
- It all starts with unconscious incompetence, which can be summarized with, “We don’t know, what we don’t know.”
- Through education or awareness, we become consciously incompetent. Now, we know what we don’t know.
- If you apply some emotion and some energy, you can become consciously competent. This is when you’re working hard to develop a new skill. You start rewiring your brain. It takes intense effort.
- In time, it develops into unconscious competence. This is when you start doing things automatically without thinking about it.
For example, when you first learned how to drive a car, you were 15-or 16-years-old. It looked simple to you at first. But, you soon realize it was more complicated than it looked. You were unconsciously incompetent about how much was involved in driving.
You had to learn all the things that you didn’t know before, which is an example of being consciously incompetent. You learn to check your rearview and side mirrors, as well as your blindspot. You learn to place your hands at the 10 and 2 position on the wheel.
As you learn and develop new habits, you become consciously competent.
After a while, you begin to operate on autopilot. Your automatic networks in your mind take over. You might drive to work and when you arrive, you don’t realize how you got there. Your brain is so accustomed to driving that you have no awareness of what happened during the drive.
In this state, you are unconsciously competent. You become unconsciously incompetent again when you learn more about what you already know.
An example of this is if you were to drive on a race track for the first time.
Your brain implicitly knows how to operate the vehicle, but you quickly learn that you can’t drive at 200 mph on the track the same way you do on the highway at 70 mph. You have to learn a whole new set of skills. You’re unconsciously incompetent about this type of driving.
“We have, over our lifetimes, developed a lot of these neural networks. And they kick in automatically, so a lot of our life is run on autopilot,” said Rick.
“The thoughts that you believe are an asset might actually be a liability, which is why it’s so important that you become more aware of the things that are going on in your mind.”
Before we explore the 5 ways your mind is an asset or liability, we want to share a very important concept called the Point of Power. This is a core concept within the ActionCOACH system.
Point of Power
Whenever a problem or opportunity presents itself, you have two choices:
1. Go below the point of power or
2. Go above the point of power
When you go below the point of power, you end up in victim land.
For example, a situation arises and you lose your job. You can blame others, you can make excuses, or you can deny your complicity in the process. These are not productive or helpful responses.
When you’re below the point of power, you are in a powerless, deenergizing mode. This negative thinking will take away your ability to do the actions that you need to do to change your situation.
“At ActionCOACH, we work with our clients to get above the point of power. We all start below the point. The question is not whether we’ll go below [the point of power], it’s how long we will stay there.”
To get above the point of power, you must recognize what is going on and own the situation. You must be responsible for your actions and decisions, and be accountable for your results. Then, you own the ‘ship.’
“When you own the ship, you get to choose where you’re going to take that ship. It’s your life. When you have ownership, accountability, and responsibility, you have an O.A.R, which is an acronym. The great thing about an O.A.R. is it’s a tool that can propel you forward and steer you in the direction you want to go,” said Rick.
When you’re above the point of power, you’re energized. You’re motivated. You’re in a position to take actions that will be beneficial to you.
Taking ownership and asking yourself what you can do to make things better will give you the control and confidence you need to improve your situation.
Your beliefs are the first factor in determining if your mind is an asset or liability.
In a recent Danish study, a group of researchers studied a large group of people with multimorbidity (the co-occurrence of two or more chronic conditions) and assessed their levels of perceived stress – from low to high. They then followed the group’s mortality over the next 8 years.
What they found was that high-stress individuals with multimorbidity had a 40% higher mortality rate than those who indicated that they had low or moderate stress levels.
The research also showed that the high-stress individuals who perceived stress as healthy had the lowest mortality rate of that subgroup. These people saw stress as a means of the body preparing you to take action and step up to your issues.
“What we believe about stress will determine whether or not it’ll hurt us or help us,” said Rick.
Are your beliefs an asset or a liability?
2. Reticular Activating System (RAS)
Your Reticular Activating System is a spot in your brain where all your senses are wired. Your hearing, vision, sense of smell, etc. are filtered through this point.
Identified in 1957, the RAS filters your senses and runs on autopilot. It pays attention to what you’re thinking about. Therefore, your world is tailored to your thinking.
The classic example of the RAS at work is when you buy a new car. You buy a new car and then begin to see the new car everywhere. Your brain starts focusing on the car brand and model because you purchased the same type. It’s become a part of your thinking. And the more you talk about it or think about it, the more you see it.
Suppose you have an attitude that your employees are rude. Your mind will then look for opportunities of rude behavior because your mind wants to confirm that belief or bias.
However, if you have the mindset that people are nice and polite, you’ll experience people in your life who are kind and polite.
This is where the terminology ‘rose-colored glasses’ can be applied because you have an optimistic perception of someone or something. Even making them out to be better than they might be in reality.
Your world is filtered by your RAS and you’ll experience things that support your beliefs.
“Understanding how the RAS operates is especially important in your business because you want to pay attention to your goals, where you want to take your life, the jobs you want, and the experiences that you want. Your brain will help you find those opportunities. The RAS will take you in that direction,” said Rick.
Is your RAS an asset? Or, is it a liability because you are running on autopilot?
Your mind wants you to be right and successful.
What questions do you ask yourself? Are they positive or negative?
“Asking yourself questions such as ‘what’s wrong with me?’ is a death spiral,” said Rick. “Do you want your mind to be thinking about that question?”
Instead, ask yourself positive questions, such as: What’s great about this? How can I do this?
“Language is so important. Your brain will lead you to success.”
Similarly, what are the words that you are using?
Are they helping you, uplifting you, or dragging you down?
If you’re thinking and saying negative things, it’s not healthy for you.
A fascinating example of the effect words can have on health and mortality rate can be seen in a recent study.
Researchers collected data from the CDC and Twitter to see if there is a correlation between the percentage of Americans by region who died from atherosclerotic heart disease (AHD), and the type of words (positive or negative) people living in the same regions used in their Tweets on Twitter.
The study showed there is a positive correlation between word usage and mortality rate from AHD.
It found that the regions of people with low instances of heart disease had tweeted words with positive connotations, including: wonderful, opportunity, possibilities, overcome, and strength.
And the regions of people with higher instances of heart disease had tweets with negative words including, curse words, hate, drama, tired, bored, jealous, and haters.
Words can alter your life’s trajectory.
Lastly, the stories or narrative that your mind tells you can be an asset or liability.
Whenever you observe something, you’ll become aware of it and your brain will provide you with a story of what you are seeing or hearing.
But, the stories are exactly that. Stories have no basis on reality. They are your mind’s way of understanding what you experience.
For example, let’s say you have the urge to make dinner for your spouse. You have the thought, but then you get busy, and you don’t do it. You have betrayed your sense to do something for someone else.
While this only happens in your head, your mind needs to justify why you didn’t do it. A narrative or story builds around it, and your ego protects itself. It may blame your spouse for why you didn’t do it.
A week goes by, something inconsequential happens with your spouse, and you react angrily. Where did all this animosity come from?
It came from the narrative that played in your mind. Your mind made your spouse out to be the enemy.
You can counteract these stories by observing your mind’s narrative. Observe the words that come out of your mouth. Observe your mind at work.
Once you start taking an observing role, you can start realizing that others are not always at fault and that your mind is trying to compensate for its need to be right.
“The only way you will change the way you experience the world is to start observing what is going on in your mind. Question the questions that you are asking, question your beliefs on how things work, and start becoming consciously competent on what’s going on in your mind,” said Rick.
By constantly evaluating if your beliefs, RAS, questions, words, and inner narrative are helping you or hurting you, you’ll be more productive in your business and you’ll live a more enjoyable life.
Your mind will serve as an asset – not a liability.