Don’t think of a pink elephant: Overcoming mental hurdles

I know what you are thinking!

Please, don’t get me wrong, I am no ‘mentalist’ — I mean if I was, new business pitches would be so much easier — but I am going to take a stab in the dark here and guess that despite the headline telling you not to think of a pink elephant, you did just that. It’s hard not to isn’t it?

Turns out there is a name for this phenomenon; Ironic Process Theory. Now I won’t go into the psychology exactly, but suffice to say, a psychologist called David Wegner identified that deliberate attempts to suppress certain thoughts can make them more likely to surface.

Now I did study some psychology at university, so this did not come as a total surprise to me. Well, actually, if I am honest, I fail to remember many things I learned at university, until I read something that reminds me of it, which was the case with Ironic Process Theory. Anyhow, as I identified in my other recent blogs, running your own business comes with some awesome perks and some potential pitfalls, not least of which is isolation, which can breed loss of perspective and so on and so forth. It makes getting out of your own head and thinking clearly that little bit harder.

So perhaps it is no surprise for you to know that often the things I have told myself not to think about, are exactly the things I find I beat myself up on:

  • Don’t worry about what competitors are doing
  • Don’t think about why clients do not want to use my services
  • Don’t waste time ruminating how hard it is to cold call

Tipping over the pink elephant

So how do I get out of my own head you may be asking? As prefaced in the last blog, perspective is everything, though in this instance however, it is not third party perspective but rather changing how I look at something. I take that pink elephant and roll it on its side.

Imagine looking at a rectangular mirror. When it is portrait, you notice certain things. But change the frame to a landscape orientation and bam, what you see instantly changes. Is the view worse, or just different?

With the way I look at something changed, I find things easier to dissect, for the problem to be chunked down. So when I say “Don’t worry about what competitors are doing” I now look at it and say, “Actually, what are competitors doing?”. Then I objectively review the lay of the land, pick up nuances which work for them and see if I need to adapt to my way of thinking. A similar approach I find works for other “Do not think” scenarios.

Of course, thinking differently is not a panacea for solving every problem I have ever had. At times, as clichéd as it may sound, I sometimes find a few catch cries which are good for pulling me out of a spiral. Some of my favourites include:

  • Tilt the frame and gain new perspective
  • So few things come naturally, but the things worth fighting for take time and practice
  • The key to success is consistency to purpose
  • No = Next Opportunity
  • My harshest critic is me
  • If it is important to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse
  • Great things never come from comfort zones

Whilst I find the above to be helpful, by no means am I infallible. There are times my own processing is rendered futile and I need the advice of others, or a swift kick up the proverbial. I have had both work for me. Thus, with great humility I would ask that should you have any thoughts on what I have shared, some knowledge you can impart to help myself or others or anything else, please, share it with us all. After all, there is another expression I like to remind myself of often; The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I am the Founder of Mesh Consulting, if you want to find out if we can help you, drop us a note today.