The human mind can be a powerful ally. Some of the most compelling evidence for the mind’s wide-reaching effects comes in the form of studies on placebo medicines. In clinical trials, placebo medicines—medicines which are not real but the user believes to be so—work 15 to 72% of the time.
This demonstrates the incredible resources that the mind is able to access. For the placebo effect to work, one actually has to believe that something is true. It’s not a case of simply acknowledging that something might work for some people, some of the time. Scientists believe that once this belief has taken root, the mind aligns everything in the body to create healing.
Moving from chaos to mindfulness
Montreal-based life coach and entrepreneur, Randy Belham, knows all too well the incredible power of the human mind and its potential to revolutionize one’s life. Belham himself suffered an abusive and chaotic upbringing, moving sixteen times during his childhood. Even though he became a successful, self-made entrepreneur, he reached a seminal moment in his life following the breakdown of his marriage.
He set off with a backpack to tour Thailand and embarked on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. For three months, he lived with monks and learned how to meditate and take control of his mind. Belham describes his transformation from “chaos to mindfulness” and now uses the lessons he learned to help others “achieve their goals, develop healthy habits and empowering beliefs.”
Overcoming self-limiting beliefs
One common obstacle to success is self-limiting beliefs that often lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. We all have a set of defined responses to situations—a way in which we normally act. If we hear a fire alarm, we’re likely to stop and move towards the exit. That’s helpful. However, in other circumstances, we’ve developed responses that are unhelpful.
“Imagine you’re at work,” Belham explains, “and you’ve just been told that you have a pressing deadline. How do you feel? You may panic, lash out or become resentful. The reaction is often unwarranted, based on an irrational belief you won’t be able to deliver on time or will look stupid. This type of reaction is physiologically and psychologically damaging and ultimately limits your effectiveness.”
Discovering dominant behaviors
The more often we respond in a certain way to a stimulus or prompt, the more likely we are to repeat that action. In neuroscience, they say, “The neurons that fire together, wire together.” Actions become hardwired into our brains.
“The brain is an associative machine,” explains Belham, “and quickly picks up bad habits. I encourage clients to observe and record how they’re responding in certain contexts. Next, ask yourself if this is helpful or unhelpful. How did others around you react to you? Is it inhibiting or maximizing your potential?”
Establishing healthy growth habits
Once ‘bad habits’ have been identified, there is an opportunity to ‘correct’ them by reinforcing positive habits in their place. A way to achieve this is by having a cue that reminds you of the need to perform a certain action. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear discusses the importance of using everyday external prompts as a means of reinforcing good habits.
If you have a history of losing your temper, a useful cue might be each time you get into a heated discussion with a colleague, you smile, breathe and listen to their side first. Perhaps, you panic in key meetings. Before joining the others, look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself how good you are at negotiating and how well you know the business. Any routine activity can be used as a prompt for an action or a mantra. In time, the new behavior becomes ingrained and you begin to do it automatically.
We are what we repeatedly do
As Belham says, “We are what we repeatedly do. If we fill our days with negative encounters, conversations and actions that don’t take us closer to our goals, we set ourselves up for failure. Often, the root cause is we are deeply unhappy or carrying past hurts. That’s why meditation is such an important part of my process. It’s so good for the mind and the soul, encouraging healing and wellbeing.”
To make it in the business world, one needs every advantage available. While some leaders rely on technology, innovative products or slick marketing, one cannot ignore the sheer power of a healthy, focused mind