Do you feel like you sabotage your day when it’s barely even started? Do you have good intentions for the day but then get in your own way from the minute you get up? Are you stuck in a ground-hog day of repeating cycles that are preventing you from moving on?
I work with many clients who feel frustrated that they under utilise their time. Many are unsustainably busy, but with habitual practices and activities that maintain the status quo, do not drive them forward, or that are even down right destructive. For many, starting their own business or side hustle feels out of reach because they don’t have the energy to start breaking this cycle. The cycle that sabotages their dreams.
These self-sabotaging activities rob us of the well-being regime we aspire to. Stop us from working towards our bigger, longer term goals and paralyse us from completing the self-affirming activities we aspire to. They keep us locked in the familiar, in surviving and the now. Focussing on the urgent rather than the important.
It can make us feel sluggish, stuck or like we’re treading water. Like we’re failing a little bit more every day, creating well-worn tracks to Samesville and slowly eroding our self-worth and confidence until we feel completely stuck, cemented in place.
What if you could thought hack your way out of this?
I’ll talk later this month about how we make active choices that break these cycles and help us take back control of the direction we’re driving in. However, this requires us to notice our thinking (self-awareness) and then make deliberate choices (self-management).
To do this you need a solid foundation of three things:
- A belief that you deserve more and are worth the effort
- An understanding of what truly impacts your well-being and makes you feel good
- A plan and the mental strength to deliver it
In my experience as both a life coach and a leadership coach, having to pull this out of nowhere is one of the blockers to making change. Our inability to get started with a new way of doing things causes us to feel like we’ve failed before we’ve even started and to make continued unproductive choices that sabotage our day, and indeed our life’s plans. They hold us back from seeking the help we need and taking the first steps towards what we want.
We need to stop beating ourselves up for not being able to ‘just’ get started and intentionally create the conditions, the brain friendly environment, that enables us to notice where the work is and then make small and consistent, meaningful and purposeful choices.
So where do you start?
It starts with brain training. Imagine your brain is a muscle that has been under exercised. It’s got a bit flabby and used to moving in a certain way. We need to train it. But even the strongest weight lifters didn’t start with a 250kg bench press – they started where they were and built it up over time. We want to start building our brain muscle up in the same way.
Like all training regimes, we’re going to start small, with some little hand weights exercises for the mind. Then we’ll build on the fitness we accumulate as we go along.
The hand weight equivalent of brain training is the morning regime. Our mornings define our day – what you do before 12 o’clock sets the tone for the rest of the day. It can sabotage, or it can elevate. And that’s why we start here.
5 little exercises for your brain before 9am:
1) Start with Gratitude the night before
Download the Happy Feed app and start completing it every night as the last thing you do before you go to bed. No matter how bad your day has been, force yourself to record three things you are grateful for that day – even if it’s just that you are alive, have a bed and have some food in your belly, there will always be something. This is going to start training your brain to see things differently. Forcing you to examine everyday things from a different perspective. To ignore our negative bias and ferret around for the positives. It will also start to build a picture of what makes us happy that you can refer to in the future.
2) Eat a light and healthy breakfast
Breakfast is the easiest meal of the day to get right. Some coconut yoghurt, berries and seeds. Some nut butter on rye bread. Some refreshing water and a slice of lime or hot lemon water. Do something that physically nourishes and fuels you as best you can and that tells your body and your mind that you care about them. This sets a self-nurturing mindset as the intention for the day.
3) Tidy up, shower and dress well
Your surroundings and how you look can significantly impact how you think about your life and yourself. Clear away the breakfast stuff. Wash your hair. Make your bed. Put your clothes away. Tidy your desk. Even if you plan to be at home all day, dress as if you were going to leave the house. As well as making you feel good, this sets your intention to show up for the day and clears away distracting and suffocating clutter that affects your ability to think clearly and confirms the belief that you are failing. It also allows you to be spontaneous if the mood takes you.
4) Put a stake in ground for when you will make time for self-care or self-affirming activities.
Start small, but make sure every day you have one thing that is locked in your schedule that is about looking after you. Whether that be a quick walk, a bath, grooming, reading a book, catching up with a friend or a more intense workout or healthy food batch cook. This starts to train your brain that to gain the reward you have to take control and make the goal in the first place, then hold yourself accountable to do it, consistently, day in, day out. After 21 repeats this becomes an established habit that you can build upon with the next change.
5) Set time boundaries for mini goals
Plan your day. Time boxing is an effective way of making the most of your day. Take 5 minutes at the beginning of each day to prioritise what has to get done and that you want to be completed that day. Allocate start and finish times for each, building in time for breaks and to change your focus. Be aware of your energy cycles and plan for them. If you are more creative in the afternoons, leave the creative projects until then. Use time as a container to drive you forward and keep you focussed in shorter bursts of proactivity. Mark each completion with a ‘reward’ such as a cup of tea, a sneak peak of the gram, or a few breaths of fresh air. This approach ensures the important gets done as well as the urgent. It ensures you work productively and most efficiently and teaches the brain that you will be rewarded for making positive and self-affirming choices.
These activities seem simple and perhaps obvious, but they have a huge impact on our mindset and, over time, layer up to be a sturdy and powerful foundation to build a future on. When we work for ourselves they are easy to overlook and deprioritise, which can have a slowly corroding effect on our wellbeing. Be mindful of this and notice when you are compromising yourself.
Don’t expect changes overnight. You wouldn’t expect a 6 pack after one session at the gym. It takes persistence and consistency and is a cumulative process. Over time your brain will get fitter and stronger and these activities will become the new baseline. This will give you a solid foundation to start work on the next layer of aspiration exploration and goal setting. Be patient and trust the process. Rome wasn’t built in a day nor on shifting sands, and neither will your future life be.
Tune in to my Youtube channel later this month for how to build on these foundations and make the active choices that will take you to where you want to go or get in touch for details of how coaching could help you capitalise on your new-found brain fitness.
Tracy James is a Berkshire based Life Coach and Team & Leadership Coach whose mission it is to help people to deal with their ‘stuff’ and get what they want from their life, career and business. She also creates team and leadership development programmes in SMEs, who nurture their staff as their biggest asset.
Tracy’s own journey through coaching and thought hacking has helped her to transform her life and she loves helping her clients on their journeys’. She’s as seen in Psychologies Magazine and also runs the Maidenhead & Windsor and Reading tribes of Girl Tribe Gang that support women who are aspiring to quit the 9 to 5, running a side hustle or working for themselves.
Subscribe to her newsletter at www.brightyellowcoaching.com/newsletter, connect with her @brightyellowcoaching, or contact her direct on firstname.lastname@example.org for a free initial 30 minute chat about what you could achieve together.