The importance of a positive mindset

Did you know that we could have as many as 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day? That’s an average of 2,500 – 3,300 thoughts per hour. Imagine if many of those 60,000 daily thoughts were negative ones…how would we feel? What would we achieve? How much energy would we have? For the average person, many of those daily thoughts are negative, whether they are thoughts about themselves, others or external circumstances and situations. For example, they could range from, “I’m not a confident person”; “That business idea won’t work”; I’ll never be any good at interviews”; “Nothing ever goes right for me”; “Life’s tough”.

With the process of immigration and settlement being inherently stressful, it is important that newcomers and immigrants pay attention to our thoughts. Given that our thoughts create our feelings, which drive our actions that in turn determine our results in life, taking some time to notice how we think and where our focus is can be a game changer to create more of the life we want to live and be more of the person we aspire to be.

Move away from negative thoughts
Once we pay more attention to our thoughts, and our voice that reflects those thoughts, we may notice we tend to use words and phrases such as ..” I have to…[relocate]; I’ve got to…[give up the idea of getting my ideal job], I must…[spend more time networking], I should…[be employed by now].
Psychologists call this ‘victim language’ because it can trap us into a victim state of mind, and we can end up making false assumptions based on a negative attitude. Even if some of our negative thoughts are true, it’s usually not helpful to focus on the negativity as it only creates more stress, which as we know is very toxic to our health.

It is hard to find energy for the things we want to do and to take responsibility for our actions and decisions, when we feel like a victim. Instead, we tend to blame other people, or external circumstances, when we feel unhappy; when things don’t go as we would like or expect. When we tell ourselves we ‘have to/should/must/got to’ etc., it can sound and feel as if we are not exercising our free will to choose. Although it may not always feel like it, as human beings we have the advantage of being able to choose what we think about and decide what action to take.

There is little in life we actually ‘have to’ do, providing we can manage the consequences of our decisions. Our decisions and actions reflect our values, emotional needs, principles and the information we have available to us in the moment. Sometimes our thoughts and actions are so habitual, so repetitive, that we overlook what’s driving them and forget that we can choose to think or act differently, if that suits us. Maybe it’s time to review our values and needs to be sure that we are making decisions based on what is important to us, and that we are not bound by some outdated ideas of what other people (e.g. our parents/teachers/the media) told us was important, or the ‘right’ thing to think and do.

Be mindful
Research suggests that 95% of the time we operate on autopilot, i.e. we act without much conscious attention to those thousands of thoughts that enter our head every minute of every day, so it’s easy to get stuck in the vicious cycle of negative thinking and negative self-talk if that is our pattern. The opposite of being on autopilot is to be mindful i.e. to get curious enough to pay more attention to what we say and how we say it. Then practice using positive language that puts us in control of our choices and decisions. For instance: How can I make this business idea work?; I am capable of learning how to give a good interview; I want to…relocate, I’ve decided to…give up that idea, I choose to… spend more time networking, I’ve agreed to…make more effort in my job search.

It can be liberating to remember that, aside from physical force, no one can make us do anything. If we can live with the consequences of our decisions, we aren’t stuck with anything. Even when we don’t like the choices available to us, understanding that we always choose what sits most comfortably with us, based on our values and needs at that time, can keep us from feeling trapped in a victim mindset.

Harness your ‘response-ability’
Exercising the ability to choose what we focus on and how we respond – our ‘response-ability’ – is a skill that will help us be successful and feel more fulfilled in all areas of our life. It’s a skill that will help us settle into Canadian culture and a new way of life.

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• "To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage." -- Lao Tzu