THE Pixies classic ‘Where Is My Mind?’ first vibrated into my teenage ears from their album ‘Surfer Rosa’, and then more forcefully as the soundtrack to the cult classic film ‘Fight Club’. I loved it; a blend of guitar screeching teenage angst mixed with the testosterone fuelled images of illegal street fights. The chorus is the track title, repeated three times – “Where is my mind? Where is my mind? Where is my mind?” I sang it as a teenager without a care for its meaning. Now I ask myself that question every day, and so should you.
It’s not the first time that I, or other columnists here at Gaelic Life, have advised athletes to shift their attention away from sport during lockdown. It offers no real gain to stare at the confectionary section of a shop with no change in your pocket. For the time being, your energy is best spent elsewhere. And where better and easier accessible than with yourself. Someone once told me that “the greatest gift and the greatest curse you can ever receive in life is the same thing – yourself. It’s your choice which one it’ll be.” It all comes down to how much control you put into what goes on between your ears.
Your thoughts are like an unsupervised classroom full of kids, running around with sharp pencils, scissors, paint, glue, whatever has come from their noses. Eventually the chaos and disorder is going to rock the foundations of the whole school building.
We have, on average, 60,000 thoughts per day. The incredible reality is that only five percent of those thoughts are conscious -what I mean is that we are only aware of five percent of our daily thought output. The other 95 percent go on in the background, from how to tie your laces, to how to change gear in a car, but also that you aren’t good enough to do a certain activity or brave enough to have certain necessary conversations etc. So many thoughts that dictate not only the direction of your day, but also its outcome, and yet we don’t know we are having them.
The more negative thoughts we have on a daily basis, the more our mind becomes our greatest curse and less our greatest gift. And on top of that, having a thought, conscious or subconscious, burns energy, and so the more we have in an out-of-control manner, the more fatigued we are going to be throughout the day.
The key is to be intentional. Don’t allow your thoughts to run unsupervised – put the teacher back in the classroom. A pen and paper are your best friend, so get to know them, and get to know yourself. Over the next few weeks of lockdown start to pay attention to what you are thinking – to your white noise. All that clutter of ideas and commands and negative thoughts can be put in files to be looked at again at a later date. Ask yourself “Where is my mind?” and listen to what it tells you. You’ll save a lot of energy, you’ll become much more self-aware, and you’ll also become more ‘present’.
Being present is the new buzz word of ‘Instagram well-being gurus’ – but so be it. It is extremely useful. It improves concentration, it improves productivity, and it also improves emotional intelligence. Too many of us are led astray by impulsive feelings – we sabotage our nutrition plans, our strength and conditioning programs, even our relationships with teammates and management because we give into feelings like anger, jealousy, resentment, that we can actually control and exchange for more beneficial ones. Every feeling you’ve ever had is the result of a thought that you either chose to control having or not. So once you start controlling your thoughts, you can then control your feelings.
So how do you do it? How can you learn to know exactly what you are thinking at any given time? Simple. Sit down and close your eyes. Sit down, close your eyes and begin to follow your breath. You’ll soon find yourself distracted by a thought. If you sit long enough, you’ll soon find another, and another. I recommend setting your alarm for two minutes, and when the alarm goes after your two minutes, open your eyes and write down everything that came into your head during your meditation. When you’ve written all your thoughts down, you can either deal with them there and then, or go back to them later on in the day. Either way, they are out of your head and stored in a safe place so that you don’t have to think about them again until it’s time. And as a consequence, you’ll save energy and create a little more brain space to focus on something else more useful. Leave nothing to chance, not even your thoughts.
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