Over the past 15 years, through life experience, education, professional training and working with people, I’ve realised that our mind is arguably one of our most important and precious resources. The human mind is vast and wide. The mind is not the same as the brain. Our brain is physical, our mind is not. When I think of the mind, I consider various aspects to it such as:
How we perceive the world and what’s going on around us. The various internal narratives or stories we carry with us. Our current beliefs. How these beliefs impact our internal narrative, emotional state and our behaviours. Our conscious and subconscious mind. Our energetic state and frequency. How alive our soul is.
It’s also worth considering the manifestations of our state of mind. How our mind has a major role in important aspects of our lives such as:
How we experience and navigate these uncertain times. Our response to adversity. How we show up and carry ourselves personally and professionally. The quality of the relationships we have in life. Our sense of self-worth. Our overall health and wellbeing. The choices we make in any given moment and what we give attention to. How we handle moments of pressure and times of change. Our relationship with stress and uncertainty. How we navigate fear. Our financial wellbeing. Our physical health and fitness. Our levels of resilience
So if we accept that our state of mind has a significant impact on how we experience life, how we behave and ultimately plays a major role in the outcomes we get in life, then that brings me to a very simple question – what do you do each day to look after, grow and evolve your mind?
This is important at the best of times but in our current environment, being as mentally strong, dynamic and resilient as we can, is critical to how we experience and navigate the times and the circumstances we are in.
Building your “Mental DNA” is a very simple way to strengthen, grow and evolve your mind. DNA stands for Daily Non-negotiable Activities. These are simple daily practices and rituals that we can do throughout our week to nourish, strengthen and evolve our minds. The list of practices, tools and techniques are vast in what might fall into your DNA practice.
Things like outdoor exercise, meditation, reading, spending quality time with family (maybe not friends at the moment), cold showers, visualisation, priming, journaling, grounding with the earth and breathing techniques are all practices that come into my own DNA throughout any given week. I don’t obviously do all of these in one day (I’d be at this all day if I did :). What I do is simply pick certain daily non negotiable activities that I will do on the various days of the week and they are not the same every day. In this time of great uncertainty, I would highly recommend you make time to write out what you would like your mental daily non-negotiable activities to look like and then consider how will you incorporate these in your life.
I’m not a robot so I’m not suggesting that every day I manage to get mine in – I don’t. That said, over the past 6 months I have been as consistent as I have ever been with my own DNA’s (average 5 to 6 days each week). My attitude as somebody who is self employed with a young child (and another on the way) is that I need my mind to be at its absolute best right now so I’m making this a priority in how I live. Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years about putting these rituals into practice and really living them.
Arguably the most important element to habitualising your DNA practice. Plan out where in the day you will slot in your daily non-negotiable activities. Put these into your calendar, block out this time. Treat this as a meeting with yourself. Most work meetings and family activities go into our diaries. We are consciously aware of them and surprise surprise – they actually happen! Your mental DNA should be no different if you want to make them a habit. It’s worth mentioning that part of your planning might include speaking to work colleagues and / or your boss about this. For example let’s say that part of your DNA’s will be a 30 minute run or walk before lunch. You might want to explain your logic and planning to work colleagues so that they know (and will see in your diary) that you will not be available at this time on the days you are doing this. This can mitigate the need to stand up for your DNA’s which brings me to my next point.
Be prepared to stand up for your DNA when you are challenged by other demands and requests for your time. These challenges will absolutely come.
For example, you might be about to finish up work for the day and get your run or walk in before having your family time in the evening when you see an e-mail hit your inbox. In this moment, you have a choice to address the e-mail or stand up for your mental DNA and go running. This is where your internal narrative can kick in. The e-mail might be relatively “urgent” and might require 30 minutes of your time to address the issue.
Your narrative might be “I need to respond to this now and I’m not really in the mood to go for a run anyway”. So you reply to the e-mail and skip your run. In this case, you have not taken a stand for your DNA. A different internal narrative might instead be “I can make time tomorrow morning to deal with this, I don’t really feel like going for a run now but I know I’ll feel great when I do it so I’m heading out for my run”. You have stood up for your DNA here.
Own Your Time
My wife and I are both self-employed and we have a 16 month old son. Over the course of the initial lockdown period with no childcare, one of us would work in the morning while the other would spend time with Noah and then we would swap in the afternoon. We varied this each day as needed. While on one hand this was a great to spend so much quality time with our little fella, it was also challenging at times. I made a conscious choice early on that I would allocate time to my own DNA during my half of the day when I was working. Now that we have childcare again, I feel like I have so much more time on my hands and it’s easier to incorporate my daily non-negotiable activities into my day.
I believe it’s very important that we each take personal ownership for how we spend our time. That we own our time, take responsibility for it and be very intentional about how we use our time. How we use our time reflects our degree of intentionality which in turn is a manifestation of our level of consciousness.
One of the key influencers of successful behaviour change is meaning. So how meaningful is a certain desirable behaviour? How important is it to me that I put my mental daily non-negotiable practices into play? In other words, what’s my “why”? This is a question only each of us can answer for ourselves. I think it’s something many people overlook when trying to initiate new habits and behaviours. Perhaps consider what’s the potential impact for you if you can enhance your mental strength and resilience by putting consistent mental DNA’s in place? It might be that you will feel less anxious and this impacts how you are with your family. It may influence how you perform at work and of course it will likely impact your mood, happiness levels and overall level of wellbeing.
Behavioural support scaffolding is something many people overlook when trying to initiate new practices. What I mean here is what are the resources and supports you can put in place around you, to stack the odds in your favour of actually implementing a desired new behaviour or routine. A simple example of support scaffolding is an accountability buddy. So let’s say part of your desired DNA is writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day. You might ask your partner to be your accountability buddy. This might mean that at the end of each day, he or she asks you what are the 3 things you are grateful for today. This could be taken a step further if he or she also decides to it and you both share each day what you are grateful for in your lives.
I’ve often heard people say that their health and family are what’s most important to them. These are the words they say and I’ve no doubt they mean them. However their words may not be backed up by their actions ie – they devote very little real effort to their health or real quality present time with their family. Often this can happen over time due to a lack of conscious awareness and behavioural intention. Building your own mental DNA and cultivating these rituals over time is a statement of behavioural intent. It doesn’t mean that you will all of a sudden become a robot and never miss a day. What it will do is bring a heightened sense of awareness to how powerful your mind can be if you choose to train it. Our state of mind is instrumental in the quality of how we experience life. Today many of us (myself included) could do with our minds being as strong, dynamic and resilient as possible. Please do make and invest quality time to look after your mind. My personal experience as well as from working with people, has shown me over and over again that it is arguably the single best investment you will ever make!