How self-aware are you?

“Experiencing one’s self in a conscious manner–that is, gaining self-knowledge–is an integral part of learning.” — Joshua M. Freedman

Being self-aware is being conscious of your own identity and how you come across others. Your experiences, abilities, habits, feelings and preferences influence your behaviour. How well you truly know yourself and your effect on others is essential in today’s ‘me’ focused society, where we are seemingly becoming more self-obsessed and self-interested. We give into convenient labels and the opinion of others and tend to put on a social mask to make a definite impression upon others and conceal the true nature of ourselves. Constantly seeking and finding external validation replaces our authenticity with superficiality thereby diminishing our sense of true genuine self.

Many of us face difficulty in defining who we truly are on the deepest level because we don’t have a proper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and are prone to various biases and pre-existing beliefs that affect our ability to have a correct understanding of ourselves. We tend to believe narratives that support our pre-conceptions. Most of our behaviour stems from such biases, preconceptions, limiting belief or thought patterns. Many issues like stress, worry, negative beliefs, and moods can be understood more clearly by becoming more self-aware. The more you know about your existing negatives, the easier it is to improve them or create new positive habits.

Studies have shown that people who understand themselves and how others see them are generally better decision-makers, are more creative and collaborative. Being more self-aware also increases your emotional intelligence by changing your thoughts and interpretations. Even though self-awareness is correlated with many positive attributes like overall success and happiness, it never occurs to most of us to ask if we know ourselves as well as we think we do.

Understanding Self-awareness..

According to the theory of self-awareness proposed by Shelly Duval and Robert Wicklund, “When we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behaviour to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.” Your inner ‘self’ is something that is central to who you are, how you relate to others and to your standards of correctness or values or ideals.

According to Dr.Tasha Eurich, author of the book, Insight, there are two categories of self-awareness, internal and external self-awareness. The ability to monitor your thoughts, feelings, behaviour, strengths, weaknesses, values, passions and aspirations, and how well they fit with your present environment is internal self-awareness. You feel happy or discontent depending on how you measure up to your inner standards. For instance, recognising whether your current job matches your true passion makes you either happy or dissatisfied. The ability to see how others perceive you or how you relate to others is external self-awareness. Knowing how you are perceived and your understanding of others makes you more empathetic and ups your leadership abilities.

“Self-awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our actions, our habits and tendencies.”

⁃ Stephen Covey

Why is it important to be self-aware?

An accurate self-assessment can help you figure out your blind spots and unknown spots. Having self-awareness means that you have a realisation of your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, your motivations, likes and dislikes. The more you understand yourself, the better you will be able to accept some of your weaknesses and can improve those areas. Self-aware people manage stressful situations without giving into the thoughts or emotions that are influenced from external events or situations. It is an important tool in developing leadership skills as it is easier to understand others and how they perceive you. You can increase your work motivation by seeking your true passions and lessening tasks you don’t want to pursue.

Self-awareness is different from self-focused attention which consists of simply thinking about yourself. It is more about paying attention to your inner state with a beginner’s mind. Our mind is skilful in storing information about how we react to certain events. Such information often ends up conditioning our mind to react in a certain way when we encounter similar situation. Being self-aware makes you conscious of such conditioning of mind and preconceptions.

Self-awareness & Productivity

If a particular habit or behaviour or mindset of yours that is self-destructive is holding you back in achieving your full potential, and for whatever reason, you are not aware of it, you end up supporting such behaviour or habit or mindset. But if you develop self-awareness, you can work around such habits and can better evaluate your values, passions and goals which fit and align thereby making yourself more productive and focused. With realistic introspection, you can see where your thoughts, emotions and behaviour are leading you, so you will be able to take control of your actions and can make necessary changes in the direction of your future goals. These changes may include building positive habits, or altering the way you respond to challenges, or to increase your Emotional Intelligence.

Self awareness provides you clear understanding of your skills be it managing, leading, or team-building. It gives you an opportunity to identify any gaps that you might have and areas in which you are effective and where you might need to improve by weighing your choices. You can create better work life balance as you become more aware of your emotions. It can increase your effectiveness in your decision-making and you can be more productive and focus on what you want to achieve.

How to become more self-aware?

Developing self-awareness is like building any other skill, it can be strengthened through practice. Here are some ways to improve your self-awareness.

Gain a different perspective through honest feedback

Gaining a different perspective is important to get a true sense of who you are. Seek honest feedback from people whom you trust or work with or lead. Ask for honest and valid response that is insightful and helpful. Formalised feedback allows you to know your strengths and weaknesses. Be open to receive constructive feedback without feeling attached. Listen to it without justifying, evaluating or defending yourself. This way you can learn to become more self-aware. It is impossible to be completely self-aware without gaining a different perspective on who you are as this will help you shore up some of those unknown traits. You will also be able to differentiate a biased and dishonest feedback from real and genuine one as you learn more about yourself and others.

Practice Self-reflection

Daily self-reflection is important to improve your self-awareness. Develop a regular practice of reflecting on your strengths and core values. Also reflect on your fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs. Try to identify your perceptions. Write down things that you think you are good at or that you need to improve. Write about the thoughts that you come across in stressful situations and how do you react in such situations. Reflect on how people you work with perceive you. Write down your plans, goals and priorities to get a better idea of who you are and what you want to achieve. Self-reflection is a way to connect and pay close attention to your inner world –what you are feeling or saying to yourself.

Practice Mindfulness

Becoming self-aware is about bringing conscious awareness into your everyday living through the process of mindfulness. Paying attention to your inner state in the present moment non-judgmentally allows you to observe your thoughts without suppressing them. By simply being present in the moment teaches you to observe, identify, and respond to underlying emotions and thoughts in a constructive way rather than to recoil and react impulsively. Meditative mindfulness helps you in making choices that add up to help you build the life you want. Be mindful and accept everything that arises in your inner awareness to experience your unchanging inner self. You can practice regular meditation through mindful daily activities like while communicating, eating, walking or listening.

Ask ‘What’ instead of ‘Why’

Most self-aware people are those whose introspective thinking is based on ‘what’ rather than ‘why’. Studies have shown that asking yourself ‘why’ when introspecting can cause you to ruminate in negative feelings. Self-evaluation through ‘why’ could leave you feeling more depressed, anxious and unproductive. For instance, when you think of a situation that made you feel bad, if you ask yourself ‘“why do I feel bad?” makes you feel self-depreciated. Instead asking yourself ‘’what are the situations that are making me feel bad?’ can help you recognise the factors outside your control that are making you experience that particular emotion and you can come up with necessary changes. When it comes to developing self-awareness, asking ‘what’ questions are more productive to help you focus on your future goals and to come up with solutions.

Acknowledge and own your personal narrative

Everyone has a personal narrative that shapes our personality and gives a direction to our purpose. Our narratives help us discover our strengths, our experiences and guide us towards our future goals. Your personal narrative includes your opinions, reactions, experiences, emotions, your vulnerability and your strengths. It is important to understand your narrative to frame your life experiences. Focus on your life and highlight the times you felt something deeply – happiness, anger, excitement, grief, anxiety or fear. The emotions you experience act as your guide to repeat the positive times and avert the negative ones. Your personal stories not just help give a shape to your purpose, but also gives you the strength and guidance for the future. How do you frame your challenges and setbacks? What are the values you stand by? Which people and events have had the greatest impact in shaping the person you have become? Knowing your personal narrative and owning it can help you gain more self-awareness.

Finally, Reframe your limiting beliefs

Self-awareness is not about simply thinking about yourself. It means that you shouldn’t ignore the assumptions you hold about yourself or your thoughts, habits, behaviour or beliefs that are holding you back. If you have some negative or limiting beliefs about yourself, spend time to think about how these limiting thoughts made you feel about completing your goals or objectives. Did such beliefs caused a hindrance in the past? Reframe such thoughts to preferred positives to try in similar situations in the future.

To conclude,

How well do you know yourself? How deeply do you understand your strengths, motivations or flaws? What do you need to improve? Are you emotionally intelligent?What are you doing that is in alignment with your values? What thoughts are holding you back? What is your narrative identify?

Reflecting on such questions and accepting your thoughts and feelings unconditionally and without judging yourself can help you bring awareness in to your daily tasks to achieve your goals. Like any other skill, developing self-awareness takes time and also at times it can be quite challenging to achieve an honest self-assessment, but by adopting a mindful approach without harsh self-judgment and building the above mentioned practices into your daily activities can help you become more self-aware.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/04/10/enhance-your-emotional-quotient/

https://sscascades.org/2018/08/10/harness-the-power-of-what-is/

https://sscascades.org/2019/02/24/how-to-build-new-empowering-beliefs/

 

Why you should stop being so hard on yourself

 

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” – Mark Twain

When it comes to doing your work or getting what you want in life, having high standards can be a good thing. Being a perfectionist motivates you to go beyond your comfort zones and keeps you focused on your goals and leads to big rewards. Perfectionism is often considered as a positive trait when it comes to excelling academically and professionally. Because of this we tend to associate it with our self-worth and the drive to perfect everything starts from very young age to overcome fear of rejection or failure.

Perfectionism helps you do well in your career, academics, and to excel in your personal goals. And while it sounds positive on the surface, it has its downsides and can sometimes do more harm than good. Perfectionism can sometimes become too big a burden as it is always more demanding and time-consuming. It can turn you into an obsessive, restrictive, and stressed person for things you haven’t done perfectly and might cause you to place too much pressure on yourself. This can lead to feelings of unworthiness, depression, anger or frustration and can become detrimental to your well-being and success.

What is being a perfectionist?

Perfectionism is a personality trait whereby the individual sets high personal standards for their own behaviour and actions and can sometimes set the same expectations for others. Perfectionists tend to want or expect things to be flawless. Here are some signs that you are a perfectionist.

• You end up spending lot of your time just to perfect something,

• You have extremely high standards for yourself and others.

• You constantly wait for right moment to work on your goals so as to deliver best quality work.

• You are highly demanding, critical and exceptionally hard on yourself.

• You would like to do your work yourself rather than delegate.

• You think there is no room for mistakes and think you know what others should do.

• You feel anxious and stressed when something doesn’t conform to your approach or when things don’t go the way you want.

• You are highly organised and have a specific manner in which things should be done.

• You feel dissatisfied and feel like no matter what you do, it’s never good enough.

• You find faults in what you or others do.

• You avoid situations that could result in perceived failure.

Some of the above traits can be advantageous at times, but when you become overly rigid, it can have negative effects on your health, relationships and self-worth. Though many view perfectionism as a strength, it often gets in the way of achieving your goals. Perfectionists strive ṭo produce flawless work, and they also work more engaged and are motivated, always ready to push themselves to achieve that next big thing. However, they are also likely to be rigid, inflexible, and have a habit of getting overly critical with themselves. They hold excessively high standards to evaluate their and others’ behaviour, hold ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset and associate their self-worth to performing perfectly. They become over-stressed always pushing themselves to constantly do more and achieve more. While certain perfectionist tendencies might be beneficial, they can also clearly impair your productivity.

Seeking perfection just ends up creating ridiculous amounts of stress and disappointment.” – Arielle Ford

The Downside of ‘Perfectionism’

According to research studies, perfectionism has an impact on a range of outcomes. According to them, individuals with higher levels of perfectionism experienced stress and emotional distress.

There are generally considered to be two significant dimensions of perfectionism. The primary being excellence-seeking perfectionism where there is excessive fixation on perfectionistic striving and refers to the individual themselves, whereby the person attempts or endeavours not to make mistakes and does their best to be as good as possible at whatever activity is in hand. People with this type of perfectionism not only evaluate their own performance but also hold high performance expectations for others in their lives.

The secondary being, failure-avoiding perfectionism which involves perfectionistic concern where they worry or feel anxious about making mistakes, they have doubts about their own actions, and feelings that there is a discrepancy between their own standards and their own performance or actions. They worry that others will negatively judge them for mistakes or failures and negatively react to situations that do not meet their exacting demands. The beneficial effects of perfectionism are stronger in excellence-seeking perfectionists where as the detrimental effects of perfectionism were stronger in failure-avoiding perfectionists. The research further shows there is no link between perfectionism and performance.

However, perfectionists have incredible work ethic and have what it takes to perform as they approach challenges with courage and motivation. But if left unchecked, perfectionism can sabotage your success. Here are some downsides to perfectionism.

• Perfectionists have a specific manner in which things should be done. Being detail oriented and getting obsessed with every single thing weighs them down. With the need to do things perfectly, they tend to put off the tasks for later time, some get in analysis paralysis and some even give up. Also due to extreme high standards, the targets stress them out and makes them procrastinate out of fear that they can’t meet the standards they have set for themselves.

• Trying to perfect every small thing ultimately leads to emotional exhaustion and wastage of time as they spend lot of time just to get simple things done to achieve that final perfect output. With the obsession ṭo achieve high standard, they try and try and strive to the point when it becomes detrimental to their health and relationships. They aim for high standards at the expense of their well-being.

• Perfectionists mostly compete against themselves and feel the need to be in control. Their perfectionist tendencies are not restricted to only their work, but also in managing other personal activities like cleaning, cooking, and parenting. Because they let their achievements define who they are, they often experience constant worry, unhappiness and feel nothing is ever good enough.

• Whenever something is perceived to have gone wrong, the perfectionists become extremely hard on themselves and are flooded with negativity thereby failing to learn from it or see it as the lesson that it is. They get depressed and feel everything must be their fault if they don’t achieve that perfect or desired standard.

• Having very harsh expectations of themselves, perfectionists are rarely satisfied with what they are doing. The always look for mistakes and issues to correct. This makes them often experience recurring feelings of dissatisfaction and regret over seemingly small things. They have difficulty in letting go of mistakes and imperfections and often mull over outcomes that don’t turn out as expected.

“The key to happiness is letting go of that idea of perfection.”– Debra Messing

How to balance your perfectionist tendencies?

Most part of your perfectionism might be a result of your passion about improving and giving your best at everything you do. If you are educated in an environment where success is extolled and mediocrity rarely regarded, you tend to achieve perfect standards in every area of your life making you an overachiever. Perfectionism is a healthy trait. To persevere in your goal-striving, you need to be positively motivated by high standards that can take you forward. But the problem comes when you get into a perfectionist mind trap and play host to a harsh inner-critic. You reach a point where your life seems to be programmed from a place of stress and fear rather than positivity or creativity. But with the right strategies, you can learn to recognise when you are bordering into the extreme perfectionist tendencies and moderate your behavior to overcone them. Here are some do’s and dont’s ṭo overcome extreme perfectionist tendencies.

1.Stop working when you feel you’re getting diminishing returns. Focusing on every detail and unimportant information drains you from getting more done. It is important ṭo ask yourself whether the details you have been obsessed about are essential to your end goal. If not, it is time to set them aside. Trying to push every little thing, especially the ones that do not affect what you are trying to achieve decreases your overall output. Check in with yourself when you are striving so hard for an external goal that it’s getting you down, and reassess your short and long term priorities before continuing on.

2.Avoid failure-avoiding perfectionism. Putting lot of emphasis on external achievements gets you wrongly associated with your self-worth and your perfection gets steered by a fear of failure. This leads to ‘all-or-nothing’ approach where you either do everything well or you don’t do it at all. Such mindset is self-defeating as no one achieves success without having failed in some form or the other. Everything happens in progression and not in all-or-nothing manner. Instead of seeing mistakes as failures, choose to see them as part of the learning process. Instead of trying to avoid mistakes and failure, reframe them as normal and as an essential part of your growth.

3.Stop self-criticism. The need for perfection makes you feel compelled to keep moving towards your goals with high standards and it’s easy to beat yourself up when things don’t go the way you want. Such situations can make your inner-critic quite harsh and strong. Check out the negative things you are saying to yourself in such situations. Ask yourself whether the need for perfection is self-driven or is it driven by your need for others to approve you. By understanding your motives, you can switch your negative self-talk to positive. Instead of blaming yourself, love and appreciate yourself.

4.Adjust your expectations. Have realistic expectations. It is impossible to do everything perfectly. Try to focus on the task at hand rather than running on what the end result will be. High standards and unrealistic expectations of yourself and others constantly make you disappointed and frustrated. Realise that you cannot control every situation and force others to meet your unreasonable expectations. Balance your pursuit of perfecting in all things with excelling in fewer and more important things. Choose tasks that are worth the effort and put your perfectionist traits to work on them.

5.Stop focusing on your achievements. Perfectionists tend to associate their self-worth and success with their achievements. When you focus on the outcome, you work towards pleasing others. Let go of comparisons and the need to prove yourself. Instead focus on the process and on your strengths and values. You are more than your goals and achievements. Treat your goals as guides and not as absolutes. Whether you have accomplished a particular task yet is not as important as the fact that you are progressing towards it.

6.Delegate and let go. As a perfectionist, it is tough to work with people as you may feel that it is easier and faster for you to do everything yourself as opposed to relying on others. You also may think having to rely on others is to deal with the errors and their imperfections. To achieve high standards, it is not possible to do everything alone. It is important that you find the right people and delegate your work by sharing your expectations with them. Allow yourself to let go of your expectations of them. Not everyone one will be able to measure up to your expectations.

7.Finally, Embrace mediocrity. The fear of being mediocre holds us back in many of our pursuits. But the key is to embrace certain imperfections. You dont have to be perfect to set out to accomplish your goals. Instead sometimes just getting started without worrying that you are good enough is also important. You can trust some of your imperfections and mediocrity without treating it as indicative of your abilities as a whole.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

To conclude,

Are you a perfectionist? Does the pursuit of high standards weigh you down? Do you often seek to achieve a perfect standard so that others will see you as a success? Do you need to perfect every single thing you do at the expense of your health and relationships? Do you become extremely hard on yourself whenever something goes wrong? Do you constantly wait for the right moment to work on your goals? Do you feel anxious and stressed when things don’t go the way you want? Do you get stuck in ‘all-or-nothing’thinking? If your answer to the above is a ‘yes’, then it is time to balance your perfectionist tendencies. Use the above strategies to embrace your true self with some imperfections. Sometimes it is important that you should lay aside your perfectionism and let go of it to develop a healthy and a happier approach.

Why you need to achieve Flow state

“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

When it comes to doing quality work and achieving your goals, you need to work on your tasks with full concentration and free from distraction. But most people have unproductive work habits caused by unhappiness, dissatisfaction and displeasure. They do not enjoy performing the activities related to their work. Because of this they fail to optimise their performance and produce quality work. Whenever we get involved in doing a task that is interesting or enjoyable, we do it with total concentration and we lose track of time and everything around us be it the noise or people or other distractions seems to fade away. Many of us would have experienced such state at one point or another in our life like while playing a game or pursuing our hobbies or while learning a subject of our interest or while writing, dancing and so on. Such state where we feel intense, exhilarating and satisfying is called Flow state.

By achieving flow state, you can overcome the problems of dissatisfaction, unhappiness and other unproductive habits. Flow can lead to improved performance and can be the key to achieve happiness at work.

Flow state is not only limited to your work but it also optimises your performance in activities like sports, art, and learning. When you are in Flow, you can exhibit your creative skills and abilities quite easily and such state leads to your productive best irrespective of which work you are involved in.

What is ‘Flow’ state?

Flow is about enjoying what you do and is known as the state of optimal performance and engagement. Flow is often referred to as being “ in the zone” and it is directly proportional to being productive. Flow experience is mostly active and is complete immersion in an enjoyable activity. Activity can be playing a sport or pursuing a hobby or pursuing your goals. Sometimes both positive and negative behaviours can lead to state of flow. But the negative behaviour at some point will take you out of flow because of the risk involved when compared to that of a positive behaviour.

According to Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

According to him, we find more occasions of flow when we work rather than when we are at leisure or relaxed. This is because at work, we have clear set of goals that require appropriate response and it provides immediate feedback in terms of measurable goals completed. And also job/task tends to improve concentration and prevent distractions.

When do you experience the state of Flow?

Almost any activity can produce flow experience. You can find flow in your daily activities or while working. In fact we find more occasions of flow when we are dealing with challenging tasks than the easier ones. You also experience Flow when you push yourself to accomplish a difficult task, or while contemplating on difficult questions or recalling enjoyable experiences, or activities that keep you engaged in writing or learning about the topics you find most enjoyable. You get into a state of Flow when

• Your time spent on the task seems effortless.

• You have a sense of control over your actions.

• Your action and awareness merges during which you lose self consciousness.

• You experience timelessness.

• You receive direct and immediate feedback.

• Your goals are clearly defined.

• You are able to focus all your effort and attention in the task.

• The task is challenging, but it is doable.

• You are internally driven with a purpose and direction.

While flow experience has above components, but it is not necessary that all these need to take place together.

Almost everyone can learn to achieve flow. But those with passion, persistence and enthusiasm tend to experience more flow. On the contrary, those who are highly critical of themselves or anxious or self-conscious and self-centred experience less of flow state. Engaging in high-skill, high-challenge activities that contain clear goals and feedback structure and mastering challenging activities would allow one to experience more flow.

Why being in flow is important?

Being in flow is a sense of effortless action and if you can achieve flow state in your tasks, it allows you to focus on your goals that are clear and compatible. Research shows there is an association between Flow and peak performance where the benefits included enhanced well-being and self-concept. It triggers positive mindset, grit and creativity. Being in flow state enables you to focus your attention completely in the task at hand leaving no room for contradictions thereby leading to better choices, decisions and more positive outcomes. Flow can help you achieve happiness, satisfaction and productivity.

“The greatest athletes are the ones who ‘make it look easy’…The athletes and others in peak performance states are not ‘wanting’ to perform well but are engaged in the flow of doing.” – M. Hutchinson

People who experience flow are more productive as they tend to ignore distractions with more control over their thoughts. They pay close attention to details which often help them identify opportunities to act, set goals, gain feedback and go after bigger challenges. Flow activities in learning provide enthusiasm, provide intrinsic rewards and help you gain new skills.

How to achieve the Flow state?

Achieving a state of flow can be great way to make your routine chores or tasks more engaging and enjoyable. People who mastered certain skills often experience flow state and they make whatever they are doing look easy as they are totally engaged in it. You can achieve such a state by making the components of flow available in your work or other activities you pursue. Here are some ways to achieve the Flow state in your work.

Make your tasks more challenging

A boring task can be turned into more challenging by finding better ways to do it or to do it more efficiently or to find ways to accomplish more on the task by paying more attention to it. Approaching a challenging task without any prejudice and with more determination, you can make it more meaningful and can achieve a state of flow. One way to stay in flow is to consistently increase the challenge of your tasks, but not make them too hard. The task should be neither too demanding nor too simple for your abilities. It has to equal your skill level to tackle the difficulty or challenging part of the task.

Develop your skills

You can achieve state of flow by engaging in challenging tasks or work that are doable. Achieving flow state is enjoying what you do. so by developing your skills, you can match up to the challenging tasks which otherwise seem much harder than they actually are. When you are devoting all of your energy to learn new skills that are required to achieve a larger goal, this puts your thoughts, feelings and action in harmony achieving a state of flow.

“If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If they are too great, one can return to flow state by learning new skills.” – csikszentmihalyi

Set clear goals

Flow is about achieving your goals to your satisfaction. Goals add motivation and structure to what you are doing. Whether you are in learning or working or in creative field, learning to set effective goals helps you to gain focus you need and working towards achieving them. Gain clarity about your circumstances and the behaviours you are indulging in. Setting goals and aspirations provide you with a sense of direction that will help you to get in the state of flow. A clearly defined passionate life purpose can help you bring back to flow state.

Establish your priorities

Your core values will determine how you you prioritise your life. If your priorities have meaning and aligned with your life’s purpose, then this will help you find the motivation you need to get into flow state. By prioritising, you can match your skills with whatever tasks at hand or your purpose. And also figure out the required skills you need to achieve your goals and can extend yourself beyond your current ability level. Slight stretching of your ability is a good way to a experience flow state. Reevaluate your core values and priorities by checking if there are any specific habits and fears that might be holding you back from entering the flow state.

Expand your possibilities

A personal evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses let’s you identify the skills you need to build or work upon. Sometimes you may not find your flow because you have closed yourself off to new experiences. Find your flow by opening yourself to new possibilities or by gathering new insights and by exposing yourself to new ideas and opportunities. Surround yourself with people who motivate and inspire you and those who tend to challenge you. This way you can step out of your comfort zone to open up to new possibilities.

Find your motivation

Being in flow state is by doing a intrinsically rewarding task. If you are Extrinsically motivated, motivation lasts as long as you receive a reward and can avoid a negative outcome. Such motivation is short-lived and doesn’t make you intrinsically driven which is important to find your flow. You can attain flow through voluntary engagement in a task that you find enjoyable. Without intrinsic motivation, you will fall back to indulging in unhelpful and limiting habits that obstruct your flow. By being intrinsically driven, that is doing a task for the sake of doing and not because of external factors, you will always find your flow.

Strike a balance

We experience many emotional states when trying to perform a task depending on the difficulty of the task and our skill level. If the work or the task isn’t challenging, we experience boredom and if our skill levels don’t match any challenging task, we could experience anxiety and worry. Similarly when we are not motivated enough and under too much or too little pressure, our performance often declines and becomes unproductive. According to inverted U model created by Psychologists Roger Yerkes & John Dodson, there is a perfect medium of pressure where people perform at their best. According to them, when we are overloaded with work or under high pressure, our negative emotions like stress and anxiety increases. Instead by balancing your skills with the difficulty of the task or work you are pursuing, you can enter a state of Flow.

Finally,

Guide your focus

If you control how you interpret the events that become part of your conscious experience, you are more likely to experience happiness and therefore more flow. Attention is an important tool that can be used to control your flow experience. When your focus is not guided like when you are idle or distracted, your mind tends to lean towards the negative paying more attention to negative experiences and information than to the positive. Guiding your freed-up focus for goal-striving or towards your intentions, and focusing your attention on one task at a time improves your flow experience.

You can only put your conscious attention on one thing at a time. If that’s all that has your attention, you’re in flow.”

Conclusion

To sum up. If you are willing to create conditions that would allow you to experience flow at work by having clear goals, establishing your priorities, receiving feedback, emphasising on focused attention, you can use your skills to their fullest capacity to create things that matter. Follow the above mentioned suggestions to achieve a state of flow in your everyday life be it personal or professional. Having a purpose and right direction, you can make better decisions about to what to pay attention to in any given moment , which, in turn, allows you to engage more fully in your activities, making them more engaging and enjoyable thereby making Flow a more likely outcome.

How to build new empowering beliefs

“As we develop new beliefs about who we are, our behaviour will change to support the new identity.” – Tony Robbins

Our beliefs shape our identity by influencing our behaviour.  For instance if  you don’t believe that you can achieve your goals, you don’t even try to act in the direction of achieving them or might even give up on them really quickly. We always do things in the direction of our faith and belief.  If you believe that you can be of what you want to be, you can work towards changing yourself either by imroving your skills, or  developing new habits, or work on other aspects of your life in order to be that person. On the other hand, if you believe that nothing will ever change or there is nothing you can do to change it, you continue to do same old things and this will become your self limiting prophecy.  So, your belief system has lot of impact on your success or lack of success. For instance if you believe that you’re capable, competent, and deserving, you’re more likely to look for opportunities that could help you get there.

Doing what you believe to be true can bring out some of your inner leadership abilities and can take you nearer to your greatest achievements. For instance, a person who initiates change believes he/she knows where that change will lead to. In other words your belief system is the invisible force behind your behaviour, be it your habits, or personality, or any decisions that you make, or the way you communicate or react to anything.

Importance of your beliefs

Your beliefs also influence your health behaviours. Research shows that people are more likely to engage in healthy habits if they have a greater sense of self-belief. A stronger self-beleif can help you in dealing uncertainty and anxiety thereby maintaining your emotional well-being. Here is why your beliefs play an important role in your personal and professional lives.

Beliefs provide clarity. The moment you believe in things you value, you find your way to achieve them.

Beliefs empower you to overcome obstacles. If you don’t believe in something that makes your goals worth striving for, you will lack the enthusiasm ṭo overcome failure or difficulties.

Beliefs take you in the right direction. If you don’t know what you believe to be true, you’ll tend to drift from your purpose and priorities.

Beliefs influence your choices and decisions you make.

Beliefs will determine your expectations and perceptions of your reality.

Beliefs encourage your critical and creative thinking skills.

Beliefs determine your goals and how you about accomplishing them.

• Your beliefs form the foundations of your self-concept and how you see yourself.

Understanding your belief system

Beliefs are conditioned perceptions that are built upon your experiences of past and present together with other factors such as your personality, habits, and so on. Some of your beliefs are based on your interpretations, emotions, or thoughts which you judge to be true and some come from your friends, family, and environment. Deeply ingrained beliefs act as commands to your nervous system and uses them as shortcuts for pattern recognition. When we process new information, we try to fit the new information into an already existing belief system thus leading to distortions, biases and errors. We generalise and make assumptions based on similarity to previous recognised patterns while drawing conclusions.

We hold on to most of our beliefs to fulfil our needs, whether that is related to feeling loved, secure, or sense of belonging, or to develop our self-esteem. We experience less stress, fear, and anxiety holding on to our belief system. But when your belief system is not aligned with the goals and objectives you would like to achieve, you often feel limited, stuck and unfulfilled. This is because when you have a deeply ingrained pre-existing belief, which is limiting, your mind will find evidence to support that belief.

But if overtime, you are exposed to empowering beliefs, you will start to question your existing disempowering beliefs. This is more like water dripping on a rock where the shift in your existing belief system will happen but takes long time. Instead if you consciously make an effort to transform your old beliefs that no longer serve your purpose, the process can be faster even with the ones that you held dear or which were once part of your identity.

Why is it hard to change your belief system

Sometimes to learn something, you might have a belief problem. When you come across a different environment or circumstance which exposes you to a different belief system, you face resistance to get adopted to new ones.  Also, a sudden disruption of your old beliefs can effect your sense of self and your emotional stability. This is because we don’t work towards changing our awareness or beleif. Our life changes, but our beliefs remain constant.

It is hard changing from your prior beliefs as your opinions turn into deeply ingrained beliefs due to repeated situations that prove their legitimacy. Over time they grow more strong, consistent and stable and get intertwined with how you define yourself by preserving a constant self-image. As a result, you become highly resistant to change whenever you are exposed to a highly different view point as compared to your own belief system.

Also as people invest a lot of personality in their belief system, or structure their whole life around a belief, changing their mind through disproving previously held beliefs can make them experience emotions such as anger, anxiety, confusion, and frustration.

If you have a set of strong beliefs that are in conflict with your goals, or new ideas, or new beliefs, then you will likely to sabotage your efforts in moving forward in achiving them. This is because when you face situations where your pre-existing belief system gets so strongly threatened, you experience negative emotions making you think there is something wrong with you.  You become emotionally entangled with ideas you come to believe are true and this causes you ṭo pay more attention to ideas that support your current belief and disprove ideas that contradict your current belief. But it doesnt mean that your beleifs cannot be replaced or can be stabilised once replaced. Beleifs have a capacity to reach a state of equilibrium, can adapt and repeat themselves.

How to build new beliefs into your belief system?

When you embrace the process to build new beliefs into your belief system,  your view point can evolve into something very different than what it used to be. That is when real self-change happens. So when you are exposed to new ideas and beliefs, instead of being anxious and confused, accept that period of time as it is. It may be very well a period during which your belief system is restructuring due to things you have experienced or ideas you have been exposed ṭo. Your belief system is striving to adapt itself to the new conditions and towards a state of stability. You can use this time to expose yourself to the right ideas and right environment which will help you to go in the direction of your desired goals. You can use this time to be reflective by asking yourself ‘what resistance are you feeling while thinking about achieving your goal?’ Or ‘which beliefs are holding you back to achieve your goal?’ Or ‘which beliefs you now started to question?’ Or which new beliefs you can expose yourself to progress in the direction of your goals?’ Here is how you can build your new empowering beliefs in to your belief system.

Reframe your limiting beleifs. Each of your belief exists because it sees a purpose or it is protecting you from something. But not all of them might be purposeful. Most of the times, you exaggerate based upon how you visualise,hear, and feel things internally. To move forward from such pre-existing limiting beliefs, you have to reframe your limiting beliefs. By doing this, you can convince yourself that the value you derive from your new empowering belief is mich more and thus can align with your goals.

Create new beliefs that are aligned with the goals you would like to achieve. Choose a new empowering belief according to the goal that you want to achieve, the person you want to become, and the values you want to represent. By asking yourself how this belief can empower you in the long-term or how it can change your life for the better, you can change your old beliefs systems and create new beliefs that serve your purpose.

Strengthen your new beliefs.As you work through your belief transformation, you must be open to possibilities, new perspectives, and you must accept alternate view points. Be receptive to new beliefs and willingness ṭo adapt to changing conditions and circumstances can help you strengthen your new belief system. Adopt new habits, decisIons,and actions that support your new beliefs. By building the evidence in favour of your empowering belief you can strengthen and change your mindset.

Condition yourself to new belief. You can do this by making necessary changes to your environment, thoughts, communication patterns, values and so on to support your new empowering belief. If you still face resistance to your new belief, you will find it difficult to adopt it. Asking yourself whether your thoughts and perspectives are in alignment with your new belief, or how must you change other aspects of your life to integrate new beliefs successfully into your life can help you to adjust to your new belief system.

Finally, Get into the habit of using your new empowering belief until it begins to feel familiar. Stay flexible in your approach and make corrections when required. Your new belief might need some alternations and this you can figure out only when you begin to take proactive action towards the attainment of your goals by puttinag them to use.

Conclusion

As you read this, take some time to reflect upon your belief systems.

What are the new beliefs that you want to create in your life?

Which beliefs are disempowering your self-change?

Which empowering beliefs you can build that will help you in the process of achieving your cherished goals?

What evidences you can look for that support your new beliefs?

By taking conscious control over your beliefs, you can integrate your empowering thoughts into your belief system.

Related links:

https://sscascades.org/2019/01/05/reframe-your-limiting-beliefs/

Reframe your limiting beliefs

Most of the times, we are open about our physical health, but how often do we seriously consider our mental well-being?

Many of us lead busy, often hectic lives, so it is easy to experience certain levels of stress and anxiety that have an adverse impact on our thoughts, efficiency, emotional well-being and overall health.

Thinking is basically a mental process; which helps one define, organise, plan, learn, reflect and create experiences. In-fact human beings think at the rate of 1300 to 1800 words per minute according to a study. This explains why our mind wanders even when we are listening to others. One’s mind has all kinds of fleeting thoughts passing at any particular time. Day to day stressors add on to the kind of thoughts we have and are also one of the reason of we having unpleasant and irrational thoughts that don’t serve us any purpose.

Thoughts on their own will not affect one’s destiny, but if one spends time dwelling upon the unpleasant thoughts, surely then they impact one’s life in every kind of way. The prolonged periods of unpleasant mental state can be detrimental to your mental health and hinder you from performing to your maximum potential. So a lot depends on your ability to think correctly in certain stressful situations and unexpected life situations. Correct thinking is only possible if done so consciously and on purpose. Most of the times it is your beliefs that influence how you think. When you hold on to certain beliefs that don’t serve your interest or values, they give rise to unpleasantness which in turn hurts your ability to be rational, happy and successful.

Your beliefs shape your thoughts

Your beliefs have an impact on how you think, feel and act most of the time. The emotions we feel and the behaviours that arise from emotions are due to the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, people and environment around. Our beliefs shape our interpretations and how we evaluate certain situations and occasionally, due to certain limited beliefs we hold of ourselves, our thoughts can be distorted, biased, or negative thereby giving rise to irrational thought patterns and negative moods.

Because of such irrational thought patterns, we interpret the facts through a distorted perspective and create the impression that imaginary scenarios represent actual facts. If you hold onto negative beliefs, you tend to worry about things that are unlikely to happen. Such biased thinking affects your communication with others, your emotional/ mental well-being as well as your perceptions. Inability to perceive reality accurately leads to errors in your thinking and causes cognitive bias. These biases make you think in a very exaggerated and irrational ways, causing fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Because one’s thinking is so firmly associated with one’s beliefs, it’s not easy to change one’s thinking pattern unless you put in the required work to reframe your limited beliefs.

So, how do you deal with your irrational thinking?

Our minds constantly create narratives as they are pattern making machines. We always like to process facts through our minds and build association that seem to have a logic or rationale behind them. In doing so, we become victims of certain beliefs that aren’t logical, rational, or accurate representation of facts. This is one of the reason why we think in an exaggerated and irrational way about ourselves at times by giving into our negative beliefs. In some ways, our brains get wired to make these errors every now and then making ‘distorted’ or ‘faulty’ thinking patterns.

It is possible to modify your irrational thought patterns by being able to recognise what you are perceiving, assuming, and expecting. Being aware of your irrational thoughts and learning to reframe or restructure them with rational thoughts can be helpful especially when you are in situations that cause anxiety or depression or stress. It is important to learn that situations are not always the cause of our irrational thinking, but it is the way we perceive and interpret the situations. Interpreting the relevant facts of the situation effectively to come to rational conclusions can help in eliminating some of your false assumptions about yourself.

By restructuring your thoughts and reframing the way you interpret a situation, you can deal with your irrational thoughts and slowly make progress towards rational thoughts that are more empowering.

How to reframe your irrational thoughts and limiting beliefs ?

The essential idea behind reframing is that a point of view depends on the frame it is viewed in. When the frame is shifted, the meaning changes and thinking and behaviour change along with it. Cognitive restructuring or reframing helps in observing, identifying and modifying irrational thoughts to rational thoughts and negative mental patterns to positive ones. By reframing, you can think constructively and can practice accurate thinking. You can reframe your limited beliefs to new beliefs that better serves you and your goals. Constructive reframing also helps in overcoming certain mood disorders, anxiety, stress or depression. It is about reorganising thoughts, ideas, awarenesses into correct perspective and putting them into practice. Here are some ways to practice cognitive reframing of your limited beliefs.

Familiarise yourself with cognitive errors

When you learn to familiarise yourself with certain errors in your thinking and cognitive biases, you can challenge your limiting beliefs and eliminate negative thoughts. Here are some examples of cognitive errors which leads to irrational thinking.

• Downplaying the importance of a positive thought or emotion or event thereby magnifying the negatives like “useless”, “ failure”, or “inadequate.”

• Drawing conclusions when there is little or no evidence or on the basis of perceptions and not on real facts.

• “Making mountain of a molehill” Blowing things out of proportion.

• Using words like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everyone’, ‘all’, ‘nobody’, etc.,

• Emotional reasoning – concluding that your emotional reaction proves something true, regardless of the observed facts.

Perfectionism – Thinking that you always have to be perfect, sating “should”, or “ must.”

• Thinking there are only two possibilities, when there may be other alternatives you haven’t considered.

Overgeneralisation – making conclusions based on a single event.

• Attributing personal responsibility for events which aren’t under your control.

• Thinking in extremes like “black-and-white” or “all-or-nothing thinking” (all good or all bad with no middle ground)

Practice noticing when you have these distortions in your thinking and ask yourself what other ways you could think. By being aware of these errors and reframing them can help you overcome your limited beliefs.

Challenge your irrational thoughts

Identify the thoughts that are of wrong perceptions and assumptions. Sometimes emotions make it difficult for you to think logically. The beliefs that we hold change how we manage our day-to-day experiences. Examine what are your negative beliefs and which emotions are involved and question how valid they really are. By questioning your negative beliefs and looking for alternatives, you can replace thoughts led by fear with realistic and positive thoughts. Replace obstructive and limiting thoughts with positive and empowering thoughts.

Track the accuracy of a thought

Analyse what the pros and cons of your limiting thoughts and beliefs. Evaluate the evidence for or against your irrational thought. Examine the validity of irrational thoughts and beliefs by asking critical thinking questions like what’s the worst possible and what’s the best possible thing of that thought. Once you narrow down to your irrational belief, you can think of a way to reframe it into more accurate and positive belief. Do not make up super unrealistic beliefs, instead find more positive way to frame a belief without deluding the facts of the situation.

Apply alternative views

There are always multiple perspectives to any given situation or circumstance. When you restructure your beliefs, you can look at the same facts through a new perspective and interpret in a way that can keep you motivated. By changing your perspective, you can make out your previous thinking errors and can transform them into rational thoughts. This way, you can discover the best way to view a situation so that it brings out your best possible self.

Avoid using extreme language

Often while expressing a negative belief or thought, we use exaggerated words like “never”, or “always”, or “very” and we end up identifying with negativity in ourselves too strongly. Instead, you can replace them with “sometimes”, or “at times”, or a “little”. This way you can downplay the negativity by how you speak about these negative traits by describing them in less intense ways. This way you can leave more room for positivity, improvement, and change. Reframe the way you describe your experiences and memories.

Develop mindful awareness

Simple meditation practice can develop your awareness of negative and irrational thoughts. Focusing your attention on your breath allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind. Whenever you notice any irrational thought popping, gently bring your attention back to experiencing the sensation of your breathing. Meditation is a great way to train yourself to be mindful of irrational thoughts and beliefs.

Finally, set your own direction and evaluate your progress. There are many ways to reframe any particular situation. And the way you would want to reframe a situation depends on your current goals, values, decisions and choices you make.

Conclusion

Cognitive reframing of your negative beliefs is extremely effective if used properly and consistently. It can help you overcome your limiting beliefs to become happy and successful. Reframing your limiting beliefs takes time and effort to master, but once mastered, you can keep repeating this positive thinking pattern for better results that add value to your goals. Take time to learn how to change your thinking for better and go beyond your limited beliefs and preconceived assumptions. Always remember constructive thinking is a process, one gets better with practice and experience.