By Peter Demarest
As humans, we have a strong need to control things, including other people. We tend to believe that if we’re not in control of things, then we are vulnerable to being manipulated, used, hurt, or dominated and won’t succeed in getting what we want. The brain quickly habituates thought patterns and strategies associated with self-protection, well-being, and preserving or advancing our social status. Ironically, our need to be in control of things ends up taking control of us in the form of habits.
Our subconscious habits of mind dominate 85 to 95 percent of all our decisions, emotions, actions, reactions, and interactions. Many of these habits are also rooted in self-centric cognitive biases that we have subconsciously developed over time.
These cognitive biases are also the ways of thinking that tend to cause us the most trouble in our life, ranging from emotional stresses to underperformance and from relationship problems to health issues.
How much of your life (your daily choices, actions, and emotions) do you believe are either controlled by or greatly influenced by your subconscious, self-centric, need-to-control, cognitively biased habits of mind?
Researchers estimate it to be between 85 and 95 percent. Think about that a moment. On average, we are “in control” of just five to 15 percent of our thoughts, actions, and emotions. The rest of the time, we give up control of the ONE THING we can actually control – our choices – to our bias-driven, self-centric habits of mind.
Are you getting the picture?
- Our need to control creates self-centric cognitive biases
- Our biases become our subconscious mental habits
- Our habits end up controlling us
The truth is:
- You cannot control what other people think or do
- You cannot control how other people think or feel about you
- You cannot control the future
The only thing you can control is your conscious choices.
But you can influence all of the above by adopting a different mindset that will enable you to make more good choices.
To reclaim the full power and freedom of choice, rather than seeking control of things outside of you (which you can’t control anyway), claim control of your own thoughts. Become a self-leader; a thought-leader of your own mind.
How? Rather than focusing on maintaining control, focus on creating value. We know from neuroscience that we’re actually at our best when we are engaged in doing good things that create greater value and not just for ourselves.
The first and simplest step in adopting a “valuegenic” mindset is to make a practice of asking ourselves a question called, The Central Question of Life, Love, and Leadership:
What choice can I make and action can I take, in this moment, to create the greatest net value?
This not a rhetorical question. Let your mind do the work to answer the question. It is far more capable of answering it than you might imagine. It’s a question to ask yourself whenever you are in any state of stress, overwhelm, upset, or confusion, indecision, or procrastination – or, I dare say, when you “feel out of control.”
Great leadership begins with self-leadership. Adopting a “valuegenic” mindset with The Central Question is the first step in regain control of your own mind and becoming a master of Self-Leadership.
If you take this practice to heart, you’ll be less controlled by the need to control and, instead, be guided by the innate wisdom you already have. Your stress levels will decrease, and your performance and happiness will increase. You’ll gain a new perspective on your life and work and will be able to make meaningful and lasting changes you likely struggled to make for a long time.
What to know more?
On Feb. 5, Peter Demarest and Achievement Unlimited’s Michael Gidlewski are teaming up to deliver the Self-Leadership Breakthrough Workshop for business owners and executives who want to make 2020 a breakthrough year. Click here to register.
Peter Demarest is a leading expert in the science of neuro-axiology (brain science + value science), co-author of the book Answering the Central Question, and president of Axiogenics, LLC.