We live in an attention economy, and our mind is desperately trying to keep up with all the stimuli that is fighting for our attention. No wonder it might at times feel quite overwhelming to achieve clarity of thought and be able to choose what to consciously focus on – not to mention acting on it.
At the same time, whether you are leading an organisation, a team or yourself, both clarity of mind and being able to focus are prerequisites for choosing wisely what you put into action. You of course need to know what you are aiming for – but that will not make the difference. Instead, what you choose to put into action every day will.
To gain clarity, we strongly recommend shifting gears in practicing mentalization, which refers to the ability to reflect upon and understand one’s state of mind. Why not develop the habit of studying your mind to understand your feelings, needs, goals, reasons and thoughts – while developing the ability to empathise with others? Practicing mindfulness is one way for developing this skill.
To be able to focus, we suggest you start with becoming ridiculously curious about what is eating your mental capacity. The only problem is that you might not be aware of all the open processes in your mind and your typical to do list might not help you identify them. This is where you really get to use your mentalization muscle. We could call it “an alternative to do list” – a list where you identify the open processes in your mind that are using up bandwidth and preventing you from focusing on what you should be focusing on. You get hints about what these open processes are by asking yourself: What do I keep postponing? What are the conversations that I feel reluctant to have? Which thoughts keep coming back to me? What do I keep dwelling on with some trusted person without acting on it? To create space in your mind, one strategy is becoming ruthless in closing open processes.
Clarity and focus without any action will not take you where you want to get. So, let’s investigate what kind of mindset can support you in translating thoughts into action and developing yourself in the desired direction.
If you want to achieve minor shifts or changes in your life, some hacks, apps, tips and tricks can be helpful. However, if you aim for bigger transformations, we suggest putting the effort where the pay-off is the biggest, and that is with working on your mind, exploring your mindsets and crafting habits that serve you.
Rina Sirén is a trained leadership coach and experienced facilitator. She has worked as both a management consultant and a work wellbeing senior specialist prior to joining Miltton. For over 10 years, her focus has been on developing people and organizations. Rina’s passion is to contribute to people developing their thinking processes and self-leadership skills.