Welcome to this article on developing a productive mindset. The words “positive” and “negative” are thrown around a lot these days. Recall the last time you heard someone tell you to be positive. Did it make it easy to do it? We all suffer daily stresses, not to mention, are witnessing so many atrocities in the world that it may be a struggle to maintain a positive attitude, let alone get things done.
Ok, so I’m stating the obvious. Life is challenging. Now what? Is it enough to just accept that and go about our business? Or, do we allow ourselves to give in to negative thinking? The mind will take the most well-known path. So, if your mind generally thinks the worst, then it will continue to do so as a practice, unless you do something differently. Let’s say you allow yourself to keep thinking in the same paradigm. What would happen? Things would either remain the same, or get even more difficult, but they wouldn’t improve. They wouldn’t improve because our experience of life is our own perception of what’s happening around us. If our perception is negative, the quality of our life experience will reflect that.
So we have explored how “bad” it is to have a negative mindset. So, let’s talk about the solution. The solution frankly, is to develop a “productive” mindset. Indeed we are reminded to be “positive” but “positive” in fact, is a value judgement. It’s not really giving us any information. When we say we are being “positive” it just means that we may not be feeling negative, but it give us any information on whether we are getting anything done, or achieving our dreams. Having a “productive” state of mind means that we are not always judging ourselves by being either positive or negative, so it gives us flexibility.
Being productive doesn’t entail always being positive, instead it means responding to any given situation in a way that is appropriate. For example, if someone is being sad that wouldn’t be considered as a positive state of mind, however, being sad can be productive. It means that we are grieving a loss, and that process will help us move forward. Being productive allows for emotion, and it encourages us to think about what will be of use. When faced with stresses and pain in the way that we are, we need to learn how to create a productive mindset more than ever. A productive mindset will allow us to respond to situations in a way that feels right, without constantly judging ourselves. In this way, we can also notice how much we are getting done, and make changes accordingly. So let’s look at a couple of ways to develop a more productive mindset for our daily life.
Gauge each situation separately
Productivity means that we can measure our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour in a given situation. For example, if someone is being productive, they can go back and measure exactly what they got done. Anyone would say that this is being productive. Having a productive mindset is bigger than this; it essentially means that we behave in a way that is in line with our values. Being productive in emotionally charged situations would mean that we think about the bigger picture, and act accordingly in the moment. Imagine that you’re in the middle of an argument with a loved one. Do past incidences come rushing back, and do you bring them up in the argument? If that happens, does that leave you even angrier than before? We may end up acting unproductively if we allow this to happen. It may be tempting to lash out, yell, and even remind the other person for each past mistake, but it results in further pain on both sides. One habit of a productive mindset is to learn to gauge a situation for what it is, and respond accordingly. Think about any situation you are facing right now, and ask yourself
“On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the most, how productive am I being in this situation right now?
Am I comparing this situation to others in the past?
If so, how is it affecting my behaviour?
With this awareness, you will be able to notice whether you are comparing old situations you’ve faced to the current. You may find that this comparison is stopping you from being your best. Breathe, and give yourself the opportunity to deal with what’s on your plate right now. Learn to close things out as they happen. If you’re carrying baggage, then find a way to let that go, and a productive mindset will begin to emerge.
Do you know someone who talks first and thinks later? They say things that are unpleasant and later regret them. Things said or done impulsively can be destructive. Having a productive mindset means that we can see the bigger picture, and we can have some idea of how our words will impact those around us. Taking responsibility means that we know that we can choose our response to any situation. We can choose to speak calmly or harshly, be kind or rude, do something, or take no action. Being responsible also allows one to notice consequences of their potential choices. So when something happens, or someone says something, stop and take a breath. Compose yourself, and then think about how you wish to respond. The first few times may be challenging, but insha’Allah will practice this will become easier. You will notice that your relationships will be healthier, and you will feel a sense of comfort knowing that you did your best in a challenging situation.
Take productive action
People often handle situations in predictable ways. We develop patterns for doing things without even realizing. For example, you may have a cup of tea at the same time every day. Generally, people have healthy ways of doing things, but there may be one or two behaviours that would set us back a lot. For example, eating too much junk food, procrastinating, or even sleeping late may be patterns that no longer work. Take a few minutes to notice any habits that you feel are not working for you anymore. Would you like to change them? We may even try something drastic to make that change. Who do you know who has tried losing weight by drastic measures? They work in the short term, but the weight comes back in the long run. The way to make a change that lasts is to do one small thing differently. The key is to practice that new behaviour consistently. For example, if you’re planning to have more water every day, make sure that it happens on a consistent basis. That way, your mind will begin to understand it as a new behaviour. It takes at least 21 days of doing the same behaviour for it to register as a habit. Once you replace an unproductive habit, with a more productive one, the unproductive behaviour will begin to fizzle out on its own, and be replaced by the new one.
Being productive is an important mindset to develop. It allows us to be flexible in our behaviour, and to live in accordance with what we truly value. Imagine that you can be your best, even during challenging times, what would that mean to you? Insha’Allah we can all develop ourselves in this way, if we make small but consistent changes. My best wishes to you for the journey.
Editor’s note: Sayeda Habib is a life coach who works with Muslims to help them overcome obstacles and achieve a more fulfilling life. To find out more about coaching, or to contact Sayeda, log on to http://www.makelifehappen.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (1)331-200-4012. Her views are her own.