How to Rewire Your Brain

The Problem

How do you typically respond when you face a challenge? People are quick to say "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" or "it’s your responsibility" but you feel trapped - like a victim of every circumstance. Anytime something difficult happens, most people are quick to blame someone or something else - wallowing in the discouragement of the world being against them - giving up any sliver of hope to overcome the challenge. You might recognize yourself doing this.


The problem? You don’t know how to change it. 


How do you change those habits? How do you grow into a new person with a new mindset? It seems daunting and impossible, but there IS a solution. 


The solution: Cultivate Gratitude. 


Needed: A New Mindset


To Cultivate Gratitude is to create a default position of gratitude. Instead of being a victim, blaming others, blaming situations, and giving up, instead you begin to take more responsibility, begin to see opportunities, and you begin to believe that you’re capable of grasping those opportunities.  


But how do you rewire your mind? How do you change the way you think - your immediate reactions, your emotions, your brain - is it even possible? 


How to Rewire Your Brain - 3 Habits to Form


Changing your mindset is a skill. It’s a skill that can be learned like any other. No one inherently knows how to pirouette, hit a fastball, or perform a power snatch, they learn how to master these skills by practicing. They make small adjustments consistently over time and then are able to perform them with ease and expertise. What are the adjustments you need to make in order to master the skill of gratitude? How do you rewire your brain? 


Here are three disciplines to implement to rewire your brain and develop a mindset of gratitude. 

1. Implement a Gratitude Night Routine

Each night when you go to bed, verbalize three things for which you’re grateful. Yes, say them out loud - say them with your partner, to yourself, or even to your pet. Use the words “I’m grateful for [this].” You don’t have to be perfect at it - you just have to start practicing. Do this even if you don’t feel grateful. Remember - we’re trying to change our feelings by rewiring our brain. Stop right now and practice - what are three things (people, places, situations, etc) you’re grateful for? 


2. Say Thank You 

This might sound too simple - but it’s remarkably powerful. Saying ‘thank you’ shows and teaches someone else gratitude. It changes your personal brand and cultivates a social responsibility within you. There are two ways you should say ‘thank you’. First, say thank you everywhere. Thank your chef, your waiter, your grocer, bank teller, your partner, your child, your garbage man, your mailman. Don’t just thank people so you’ll gain something from them (your boss, your CEO, your employee, etc.) - thank them simply so they know you’re grateful. Second, say thank you specifically. Be specific with what happened and how it impacted you. If you’re struggling with this, use the acronym FBI to help you. F =  Feelings. B =  Behavior. I = Implication.  Try to include each of these in your thanks. For example, [To your waiter] “Thank you for taking care of us tonight. You were on top of everything and we didn’t have to think about what we needed next - you already knew [Behavior]. It helped us rest and connect better with each other [Feelings]. Now we’ll be able to go home and take care of our newborn even though we’ve had a long day [Implication].”  BONUS: Thank someone’s manager for their great performance. Ask your waiter to have the manager sent over so you can brag on them. Find the grocery clerk’s manager to tell them how they helped you unload your groceries. 


3. Respond with Gratitude

When someone asks you how things are going or how your day has been, what is your knee-jerk reaction? If you’re like most people it sounds something like this: “Oh we’re so busy”, or “The kids have been crazy”, or even “Ugh the weather has just been terribly hot today.” These responses have roots of ingratitude. They’re just complaining. Why do people respond like this? Well, it’s because life is hard and people want to be understood - and misery loves company. It’s so easy to complain with others, even if it’s under the guise of self-improvement. The way to change this is to respond with gratitude. When someone asks you how the week is going or how you’re feeling instead of responding with complaints, respond with the good things. “It’s been really great - I got to watch Davy at her soccer practice and then cheer on Carter at his swim meet” or “I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the kids today” or “We’re really glad to have air conditioning in the car today”.  Don’t complain - recount the things that have gone well and share what you’re grateful for. 


Maintaining the Mind 

This isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen in a week. It might not even happen in a month. But at some point, you’ll respond to a challenging situation with gratitude in a way that will surprise you and you’ll realize something remarkable - you’ve done it. You’ve rewired your brain. Your default is now oriented towards seeing the good, seeing opportunity, seeing blessings. Car breaks down? “I’m fortunate this didn’t happen on my way to last week’s big presentation”. Friend breaks your trust? “This was going to happen at some point - the fact that it happened now helps me adjust my priorities and invest in the relationships that prioritize and care for me regardless of my performance.” Deal falls through? “This helps me learn - I need to better understand how to validate my estimates on construction costs quickly so I can make a more informed decision on my offers.” 


Once you have cultivated a mindset of gratitude, you become happier, healthier, and more successful. But your efforts don’t stop there - now that you have that mindset created, you need to maintain the mindset. Keep your gratitude disciplines in action so you maintain your healthy mindset. 


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