What matters most? How you think or how you act?
This is an interesting question, and the majority of people are likely to say that it’s actions that get results, therefore it is how you act that’s most important. Indeed this is true. Action is important, thinking alone doesn’t achieve anything unless people act on those thoughts. But what most people miss is that it’s thoughts that influence and direct what actions are taken and how they’re taken.
In a recent webinar with Gavin Drake from Mindspan Global, watch the full webinar here, he shared an interesting phrase. He said this: “It’s not what you’re thinking that matters, it’s HOW you think what you’re thinking about, that matters most.” Now while this seems like a bit of a tongue twister, if you think about it for a moment you’ll realise how true it is.
All of us have had different experiences in life and each of those experiences shapes our perception of things, people and situations. Often siblings can grow up in the same household and attend the same school, but they have very different perspectives on life. While their lives may be similar in some aspects, their day to day experiences of life and interactions with other people could have been very different – which has resulted in a different outlook. Personal perceptions unconsciously influence our thoughts. And it’s thoughts that influence emotions, behaviours and subsequent outcomes.
Most management training is focused on changing people’s behaviours. Getting them to move away from unproductive habits and to them working more efficiently and more effectively. Now while this is important, there’s a reason why it is often not as effect as management hopes it will be. The reason is that it’s skipping two vital influencing steps. It doesn’t talk about how people think or feel about things, it moves straight into correcting actions. But if people still think and feel negatively towards work, then changing their behaviour is going to be really difficult.
Almost every company has that employee that knows what they should be doing. They have the skills, qualifications and necessary experience to be able to do it. They know the time frame it needs to be done in and the quality of work that needs to be produced. On paper, there’s absolutely no reason that they can’t do the work. Yet they don’t get it right. They don’t produce the results expected of them. The reason why is because mentally and emotionally they’re stuck and it’s preventing them from being productive. A typical management approach is to take more action to try change their behaviour, perhaps even giving them ultimatums. And they may make an effort for a short while. But if how they think and feel towards work hasn’t changed, their behaviour isn’t going to change either in the long term.
Using the whole Thinking Cycle
It’s been suggested that rather than just trying to change the behaviour, a better approach would be to look at why those are the outcomes? What do people think about their work and their abilities? If their level of confidence is low, explore how they feel about doing certain tasks or about the role/department etc. that they are in. Once you’re able to work through those things you can start to see the correlation between how they’re performing at work and why those are the outcomes that they’re achieving or not achieving.
Research indicates that the average person has between 60 000 and 70 000 thoughts a day. That’s a significant number of thoughts influencing our emotions and behaviour. Especially when you’re probably only consciously aware of a few hundred of those thoughts. The rest are thoughts directed by our subconscious, built from our experiences and are also fairly similar from day to day. They are thoughts that become entrenched in our subconscious and form our beliefs and values.
When those beliefs and thoughts are negative, that’s when people live in that unproductive, unhelpful and unhappy mindset. But the opposite is also true. When you’re in a positive mindset, then you’re more confident, you can think more clearly. You can get through work more efficiently and the good outcomes that are achieved further entrench that positive mindset.
So back to the original question: What matters most? What you think or how you act? The next time you’re not getting the outcomes you want, or you’re not feeling positive about a situation, you know what to do. Go back to your thoughts and evaluate how you’re thinking about what’s going on. Get really clear on that, and then you’ll be able to start to change how you feel, what you do and the outcomes you achieve.
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