clearing out the clutter in your mind

My posts for the past week boil down to one piece of critical advice: During the coronavirus crisis (and, actually, always) it’s very important for you to realize that you have CHOICE about what you think, what you feel, and how you act.

Not total choice, obviously, but a heck of a lot more choice than most of us are exercising.

And listen, I’ve heard every version of how that’s not true:

“Some people have depression and anxiety or worse, Amanda. They aren’t at choice about how they feel.” They have more choice than they know, and I want them to see if they can find some. Will their choices make them feel all better? NO. But I’m not going to let that stop me from encouraging them to do what they can to feel more at peace TODAY.

“Some people have lost their jobs and have no money and nobody is hiring right now, Amanda. What do you want them to do?’ I want them to know that even SUPER hard times don’t have to be the only thing happening in your life. Where can you find joy? What delights you? How can you get a little bit of that TODAY?

“Some people are sad, angry, and frustrated, Amanda! And what’s wrong with that? You shouldn’t shame people who are feeling entirely rational, albeit negative emotions.” I would NEVER shame anyone for feeling badly.

And I never said that exercising your choice about how you think, feel, and act during the coronavirus would mean that you will feel great all the time.
How bizarre would that be? Our world is in crisis, people we know are sick (and maybe we will be, too), and there are real worries about how we are going to recover from this economic free fall. Being present and intentional often means feeling sad and angry and frustrated. That’s totally fine.

AND! Being present and intentional can also mean feeling grateful. It can involve laughter. Sometimes it means that you restrict your exposure to the news so you can be present with your kid without that crushed feeling in your chest. Sometimes it means that you tell your husband that “If pajamas are on my body, NO ONE WILL SPEAK about the coronavirus!” All of those things are allowed.

Being alive during a global crisis does not mean you have to BE in crisis.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So, if that’s true and we have more choice than we realize, how do we go about exercising that choice? Or, said another way, how do we manage our minds so that we can live intentionally while feeling more peaceful?

At the center of that question, is another question: What is a mind?

There are actually a lot of answers to this question! In all the related fields (neuropsychology, personal development, meditation and hypnosis, etc.) every answer they come up with seems to be controversial! Which is kind of weird, when you think about how basic that question is.

Whenever that happens (which happens a lot in “the literature” around fundamental ideas), my go to strategy is to look at all the options and then come up with my own working definition and then see where it takes me. I’m always looking for the position that leads to the best advice about living an intentional and adventurous life.

Answers range from “your mind is your brain, obviously” to “your mind is your bridge to universal intelligence, obviously” and everything in between.

I like to think of the mind, most of all, as a workspace. This is where we go* to observe our world, navigate our emotions, make choices about our thoughts, and, well, exist.

Our mind is the only place that is entirely our own, so we have to take care of it.

In my theory (which I’ll someday give a name…) the workspace of the mind has three interwoven parts, each of which can be adjusted to support our ability to choose.

Mindset: These are the lenses that fall into place and color/frame the way we interpret what’s happening to us. Fundamentally, a mindset is a pattern of beliefs. Beliefs are ingrained thoughts. And thoughts are things we can choose. We’ll talk about how to be strategic about dismantling and strengthening our thoughts, beliefs, and mindsets so that you (and not the mindless status quo) can be the boss of what happens in your mind.

Mindscape: It’s helpful to think of your mindscape as the almost physical space occupied by your mind. Is your mind crammed so full of half processed trauma, disorganized memories and repetitive thoughts that you want to punch me in the face every time I tell you have a choice about what you think?

Or do you maintain your mindscape so there’s room for introspection, innovation, and creativity? We will discuss what kind of maintenance will help you make/keep your mindscape a place you want to spend time.

clearing clutter where to start

Mindmanager: If you’ve ever taken a cognitive development class, the mindmanager is a lot like the “central executive.” Or Joy, from inside out. Or Genius, from Herman’s head. Your mindmanager has shit to do, and only some of them involve your conscious brain. It’s for our mindmanager that we need to engage in self-care. And if you struggle to believe you are good enough, It’s your mindmanager who needs a bit of an identity upgrade.

When you understand the pieces of your mind, you are better able to intervene with intentional choice when things go a little crazy around you. And that’s our goal.

*PS- It’s totally wrong to say we “go” there. We ARE there. The fact that there is a “there” means that we “are.” Our mind IS our physical existence. Without our minds we are either nothingness or released back to universal intelligence/God or whatever it is that happens after death. But for this life, this crisis, this moment in time, our mind is where we are. Let’s take care of it, shall we?

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About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost a million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.