Constructivethinking is basically a way of thinkingconstructivelyabout your world and environment. So instead of reacting to these events, you choose to interpret and then respond to them in ways that will support your growth and development and minimize friction with the external environment.
Check the news as soon as you wake up. Forgot to send that email yesterday—do it now!
Fifteen minutes later, you’re blaming yourself because there’s no way you have time to shower, get dressed,and prepare your lunch to avoid eating out yet again.
On the bus, your thoughts jump from worrying about the homework you did late last night, to contemplating the future and why on earth you’re studying for that degree when you don’t really care about it and you’d rather be doing something else with your life.
And yet it goes on and on, for hours and days and months and years. Why? Because you didn’t think you could do anything about it. But that’s where you’re wrong. Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t a big science about disciplining the mind. Maybe it’s just a matter of training your brain so it worksforyou instead ofagainstyou.
So how can you train your brain—starting today—to give it more discipline?
Here are 3 tips that have worked for me.
Other than making your bed each morning (which is the quickest and easiest way to accomplish something fast), you can set the tone to your day by taking ownership of what you’re going to do with the next 12–16 hours of your life. To do this, I start my day with one question:“What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?”This technique trains my brain to evaluate the goals that are important to me right now, and forces me to prioritize one goal that needs attention immediately. I give myself the time to think about what’s important, instead of letting other people or situations prioritize my day.
It’s quite easy, and it will take you about 5 minutes to do. Put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall. Read it out loud as you start your day, for example as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed. Come up with an answer on the spot and answer it out loud. Then follow up by taking action: focus your energy throughout the day to completing your one thing.
To be perfectly honest—I wasn’t born self-disciplined. Nobody is. Because it takes time, effort, and practice. For me, the habits that I’m practicing now weren’t habits I had in my early childhood. Many of them are new behaviors I’ve been practicing only the past few years of my life. I remember that for years, my typical day would start with checking email and Twitter on my phone, followed by exchanging text messages back and forth with friends, classmates, or coworkers. In retrospect, I see what a waste of time it was! Over the years, I realized that mornings are actually the ideal time of day to get the hardest work out of the way. By doing so, I stopped dreading all the work I knew I needed to do, and it freed up the rest of the day for other more pleasant activities.
Adhere to rule #1: put away your phone. Do whatever you need to so you can ignore it successfully: set it to Airplane mode, turn off the volume, put it on a table farther away face down, or place it in your backpack or jacket pocket. Then, make the most of your mornings by taking advantage of your brain’speak performancetime which happens 2-4 hours after you wake up. Use the time for complex cognitive tasks that require the most concentration, such as reading, writing, coding, analyzing, critical thinking, or problem solving.
Like you, I’ve also experienced thousands of random thoughts bouncing around in my mind all day long. They would rarely appear in a linear fashion (where one thought logically leads to another), but rather they’d come in spurts, sometimes linked by one idea and sometimes not linked at all. They could be anything from busy chatter about what’s going on that particular day, or they’d show up in the form of open-ended questions, analysis of a situation, worrying about the future, dwelling on a past event, or little reminders of what still needs to be done before the end of the day. I used to think this was only happening to me! And then I started doing more research and realized that brain chatter is not anything unusual, but that it can be controlled. I started incorporating small daily habits to manage my thoughts better by working out regularly, focusing on deep breathing, doing a short meditation practice, and switching toa growth mindset.
One thing is for sure—if you don’t do anything about it, random thoughts can take up your entire day, leaving you feeling frazzled, anxious, and unfocused. What’s better? Be proactive about managing them. Start your mornings with a short workout of about 15 minutes (yoga, HIIT training, or a brisk walk in a nearby park). Try some deep breathing, which is simple: sit comfortably, close your eyes, and inhale for a count of 10, then exhale as you count to 8.
Repeat 10–20 times— it can help reduce stress and help you feel calmer. If you’d like to try meditation, download the Headspace app for a free 10-minute guided session. And if you’d like to develop a growth mindset, read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset to discover how a shift in your attitude can make you feel more optimistic about your core strengths, and keep you disciplined to tackle any goal that is important for your self-development. And that’s where a disciplined mind can do itsbestwork!