After more false starts than I like to admit, we’re embarking once again on the journey of evangelizing life skills, starting with mind management skills. Part of the bottleneck has been doing so from a corner of the world where these topics are talked about in private spaces, but scarcely ever in the public sphere. Access to crucial resources is limited, and of course, there’s no telling when a natural disaster or pandemic will disrupt things yet again.
Nevertheless, we’re always going to just get up, dust ourselves off, and have at it again. Some folks in my circle are amazed because I seem unfazed. Truth is, despite everything, I’m bolstered by the fact that TLS is only one of the thousands trying to get the word out. I think I’m also too fortunate in other ways to be complaining about anything.
All these other things interplay with each other. Mind management, therefore, isn’t only the mother of all skills. It’s the key to… everything! We’ve been discussing passion and purpose the last few weeks. Obviously, this is a challenge that goes beyond earning a salary, paying your bills, and having a reasonable level of material comfort. Peak mental fitness promotes higher-level goal achievement, parenting, marriage, and other relationships, on-the-job performance, motivation, procrastination, leadership, creativity, conquering fear, mental health, just plain old having fun… you name it.
Mind Management Skills and Emotional Intelligence
We’ve heard a lot about developing EQ as something that’s at least as valuable as IQ for long-term success. I’ve been asked to explain the difference between emotional intelligence and mind management skills.
Honestly, there isn’t much practical difference. I just feel that mind management gives the concept a few more useful handles to grasp it if you will. You are empowered to put mind management skills in play in the moment insofar as you’ve made a conscious effort to develop your emotional intelligence over the long term.
I also prefer to use the term “mind management skills” to emphasize that emotional intelligence is something you actively work at. In other words, staying away from the word intelligence avoids wandering into the set mindset trap, and moves us closer to a growth mindset immediately.
Finally, I developed my coaching framework by patching together strands from many folks, not the least of which are Dr. Michael Popkin and Brooke Castillo. I’m therefore a firm proponent of the think-feel-do cycle’s emphasis on getting required change wherever you can find leverage. That’s more often at the cognitive level, but not always. So where thoughts have become hard-wired and near impossible to access, the easiest place to start is with action.
Whatever works! Habit formation and breaking unhealthy habits don’t benefit from over-theorizing. Stay tuned for life-changing hacks. In fact, jump inside our community to help guide where we go next with such a broad topic.
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Teach Life Skills. It’s also a concept I hope you’ll help me to evangelize. It can be an efficient, fulfilling path to accelerated personal development for yourself, and the masses too. Allow me to explain why.
An analogy I heard recently stuck with me. Let’s say you’re driving down the road to take care of the biggest emergency in your life. Then someone slops a pail of gooey mud on your windshield. If you absolutely can’t see through the glass, you wouldn’t keep going just because of the emergency. You’d stop at least long enough to break the glass or get enough of the goo off.
In a very real sense, that’s the kind of situation most of us are in at this juncture in history. I sincerely believe, regardless of what we’re busy with or worried about, these uncertain times offer us many great opportunities to fix some problems we’ve been carrying around for years as a species.
Basics of mind management skills
Let’s try to break down how all that works via various topics over the next few weeks. This week, however, let’s position ourselves in the right way at the starting gate. Life itself depends squarely on your ability to manage your mind and the quality of your thinking. In any discipline, mastering the basics gets you further than switching too fast to more advanced stuff. The novice musician attains mastery quickly by focusing first on the basics of rhythm, melody, and tone. Jumping too fast to improvisation kicks mastery even further down the road.
In a similar fashion, basketballers do well to master dribbling, passing, and shooting before trying to dunk the ball. You’ll therefore see many posts having to do with thinking clearly and mind management. The thinking mind is the foundation; it’s under the most severe assault it’s ever faced.
Major historic events are often overlooked by the people living through them. The “mud-slop” impact of today’s tech on our ability to focus is hijacking our productivity as well as our wellness. It’s simply smart to arm ourselves with viable ways forward that put our wellbeing first instead of some global corporation’s bottom line.
Coaching Conversation Buckets
The following themes, very familiar to coaches, consultants and mentors, counselors, and therapists, may help in making their dependence on mind management clearer.
Leadership and mind management skills
Leadership means being first to take the risk involved in advocating others do something we consider worthwhile. Taking risks requires being vulnerable and having courage. It also takes time to proceed despite trepidations, inner turmoil, and guaranteed opposition. We don’t get past all that without being mentally prepared.
Albeit slightly different for everyone, mental preparedness requires a process; it’s about managing our minds around that vulnerable piece. Berne Brown calls it the “messy middle.” This is the space where your world interacts with, negotiates, and sometimes rejects the vantage points of others. The individual who approaches that unknown edge boldly, and resolves from the onset to stay engaged, displays leadership. I like to think I’m getting better at making that approach a habit; this post-Covid world is begging for a lot more folks who do.
Attempting to problem-solve relationships and job challenges requires seeing, thinking, and even feeling things from divergent points of view. What prevents someone from doing so isn’t the inability to reason. Sometimes it’s an unwillingness to do so born of unmanaged fear. Not managing the mind literally stops the person from using his or her own intelligence. If you wade in without being cognizant of all this and don’t manage your own triggers, things drift sideways.
Playing small or refusing to shine brighter
Here’s another example. Clients often express a strong intention to start writing professionally, play a bigger role, or engage in public speaking. But there’s considerable fear around speaking. Likewise, there’s a gut-wrenching resistance against sitting down for hours at a time in solitude writing and other creative endeavors.
Without learning to manage fear around these highly sought-after activities, one never starts. Dreams remain unrealized; hidden talent remains dormant. In chasing efficiency and effectiveness, it isn’t natural to focus on challenges lying beyond our personal horizons. This limits the possibility of showing up bigger and contributing more. Yet the world hungers for us to nurture inborn talents to a higher purpose.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”Marianne Williamson
Past experiences can lead to playing safe. In an effort to avoid discomfort the psyche tends to form a blind spot around its source. Then there are those who become conscious of all this, yet let the fear win, never accepting the challenge. That’s not a bad space to be in. Really it isn’t… long as you’re fully aware.
The fear we’re discussing is often fear of failure. At other times, including my own case, it’s fear of success. I’ve always known I’m capable of way more. Yet I give myself the excuse that playing a bigger game in life would squeeze all the joy out of it. Full disclosure: I still hide and procrastinate a lot of things because of this. It’s a refusal to show up in full bloom. Work in progress, right?
Digital literacy, weight-loss, and everything else
Around the issue of digital literacy, one of the many bottlenecks that come up is that of practicing restraint. Someone resists owning a smartphone for years. Then just 14 months after giving in, finds his time completely monopolized between screen-time on Facebook, email, and Netflix. He hasn’t learned as yet to manage those subtle but powerful subconscious thoughts. As a result, he’s no match for the billion-dollar-sized marketing and research budgets of these media giants.
I don’t know too many humans on the planet not suffering from this to some extent. Social media figured out long ago how to get us into mindlessly staring at 4-inch screens for hours. Just last week, I spent 7 hours on Tik-Tok. This is after setting a goal the previous week to only spend 30 minutes per day on all social media. I’ve made a commitment to whittle this down. There’s safety in numbers, so I hope you’ll join me. The process for me started with acknowledging that I spend a lot of time by myself. And despite the fact that I’m an introvert, the need for meaningful connections with others is universal.
This is definitely a topic to delve into further. The point here is that mind-management truly is the mother of all skills–the key to everything. The same dynamics are at play for those trying to manage their weight or overcome any bad habit. We make the mistake of thinking it’s the diet protocol, weight loss product, or exercise regimen. The discipline required, IMHO, rests 90% of the time on first gaining some kind of leverage over both overt and subconscious thoughts. But first, an itch I just have to scratch if you’ll indulge me just a bit.
SoftSkills vs. Life Skills
Back in May last year we touched on this. I find the term, “soft skills” unfortunate; offensive even. Comparing it with “life skills” reveals almost identical meanings, but people use them in different contexts. You’ll hear talk of soft skills generally referring to skills, or lack thereof, of adults in work situations. Generally, life skill references skills for children and teens either at home or in schools.
How in the world did skills required for enhancing life itself become soft when we entered the workplace? “Soft” distinguishes it from the “hard skills” required to perform the job-specific, more technical tasks. Something about this vaguely reminds me of the inherent oppression in the term, “women’s work.” So I don’t really know. Could it be that the commercial world needs to remind us that “What we pay you for is hard skills?”
Whatever the case, however, it’s still a huge mistake. There are obviously reasons why 20% of employers produce 80% of a company’s most valuable offerings. Whatever fuels it, high productivity required someone to overcome their low-productivity selves. To hit major goals, you need to focus on this transformative process.
In other words, first comes the “becoming a badass at something” process. Along with that, we get the ability to complete big projects. Savvy leaders seeking to push beyond their personal limitations these days, hire life coaches to facilitate the process with good reason. Without help, we langer in one place with little growth for years. The idea is to instead build momentum through those blind spots. Mind management skills are foundational to all of this.
The Mind-Management Skills-Peek Performance Connection
I like Marlaine Cover’s definition of a life skill. I’ve been using it for more than ten years. It serves me and my clients well. Life skills consist of all inborn competencies for our survival. It’s gotten more difficult than in previous generations to thrive rather than just survive. Modern living places an ever-increasing demand on us to uplevel them just to survive.
TLS has joined her group of “Global Ambassadors” in leveraging the competencies of care professionals. Together we evangelize increased focus in teaching life skills at a higher level to children and teens. This is not something schools were ever designed to do well. Every caregiver needs our help in learning and teaching advanced life skills. That starts with enhancing our own mind management skills.