While reducing mind-stimulation and physical mess are great ways to prevent new thoughts cluttering our mind, it is also important to take a broom to old beliefs that have remained residual in our brains for decades.
A classic example of why this is significant is provided by Sana*.
She’s a successful media relations officer with a recent promotion in the bag, but a bad experience during a university presentation, when a PowerPoint file she had prepared to accompany her speech failed, means she still freezes at the thought of public speaking – a fear which, she says, has held her back from achieving even more.
“I had based my speech on the presentation and when it failed, I had nothing to rely on. I became nervous and red-faced and just could not continue.”
Sana says that the incident left her extremely nervous and started limiting her career growth.
In this case, experts say what Sana needs to do is almost give her mind a ‘reset’.
“Previous bad experiences can lead to limiting beliefs or negative self-talk,” says José. “It’s vital to become aware of these behaviours because they can stop us from living a fulfilling life.
“Once we become aware of our negative thought patterns, half the battle is won. We can then start replacing them by positive thoughts and consciously focus on what we want to achieve.”
For Sana, that meant recalling that fateful university presentation and identifying what went wrong. In this case, now she looks back, her nerves were a direct result of not preparing properly. Moreover, while her course mates appeared uninterested, they were teenagers who probably paid the same limited attention to everyone else too.
That way, the 29-year-old has addressed and rationalised two of the reasons for her fear of public speaking. “Identifying the causes is the first step to progress. Once you know what is limiting you, then it is easy to find solutions and moving ahead,” says José.
“It’s strange,” says Sana. “I already feel more confident about potentially speaking in public.”
Mahesh*, an oil dealer, is in a similar situation. He was never great at sport at school and was often picked last for team games. That resulted in him never trying, creating a vicious circle in which he shied away from all sport.
Now, at 37, having rationalised his lack of physical activity in later life, he says he is starting to understand that not being a sporty person is not an unalterable fact; it’s just a remnant from a childhood experience. “Maybe I will join my colleagues playing squash,” he muses.