How to declutter your brain

Karen Natzel, BridgeTower Media Newswires

Skiers, mountain bikers and motocross racers probably already understand the adage "Don't focus on the obstacles, focus on the path."

People will go where they focus their attention. I learned that lesson the hard way. As I was mountain biking, my focus was on not getting caught by a rut in the trail, only to have that very rut grab my front tire, stop me in my tracks and catapult me into the embankment nearby. I went exactly where I focused my attention.

Attention is the behavioral and cognitive process of selectively concentrating on a discrete aspect of information, whether deemed subjective or objective, while ignoring other perceivable information. Giving our attention to what is in front of us can be a phenomenal way to get things done. However, are you giving your attention to the right things? What if we were more attentive to our intentions? Wikipedia defines intention as a "mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action in the future." It means something done deliberately. When we pay attention to living our lives more intentionally, we generate a more rewarding and congruent life.

What are your intentions?

Setting intentions declutters the brain. They bring a sense of clarity that cuts through the noise, distractions, confusion and clutter. They bring into focus what matters most. To achieve that kind of clarity, start by getting real about what motivates and inspires you. What brings you immense satisfaction? Tapping into your intrinsic motivators will help clarify your true intentions.

Is it profit? Perhaps you find it rewarding to hit the financial targets as a way to keep score in the game of business.

Is it winning work? Maybe your gratifying moment is when your competitive spirit is satiated by a well-earned win.

Is it providing meaningful careers to your employees? Many business leaders feel a deep sense of satisfaction knowing they are crafting rewarding livelihoods for their people and their families.

Is it problem-solving? Maybe you thrive on figuring out a creative path to tackle challenges that others think can't be overcome.

Is it cultivating the latent talent of potential high performers?

Is it about building a vibrant, sustaining community? Maybe you find inspiration in building relationships and connections that shape your community.

Is it making an impact or leaving a legacy?

By knowing what fuels your motivation you can craft your intentions accordingly. When our behavior is incongruent with what we say we want, we unintentionally create a stressful gap that erodes our confidence and our credibility. The disconnect between your intentions and your actions can greatly limit your potential impact.

"Only when a person finds the disconnect unacceptable will he/she commit to behavioral change," Roland Carlstedt writes in "Handbook of Integrative Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine."

Be intentional with your thoughts. There's a self-fulfilling prophecy to our thoughts generating our experiences of life. If you catch yourself believing it's not going to work instead of believing it's possible, you're probably focusing on the obstacles and not the path. Your thoughts will dictate how creatively engaged you will be in designing and executing a solution. How you perceive a situation directly impacts your ability to affect it. Start paying attention to your thoughts. If they are not aligned with your intentions, make a conscious choice to change them.

Be intentional in your conversations. One of the most common organizational ailments I witness is communication breakdowns. One way to mitigate that is to be clear about your message. What are you trying to convey or impact? Be intentional about your words, your tone, your content and the context. This doesn't mean one should be overly sensitive; rather it means one should be thoughtful. It also requires being present in the conversation by being willing to be transformed as a result of a meaningful exchange. As Susan Scott, author of "Fierce Conversations," says, "Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real." This kind of intentionality fosters genuine connections.

Be intentional with your relationships. It is easy to take even our most cherished relationships for granted. As you practice being more intentional in how you show up in your relationships, you will find these important relationships begin to flourish. Pay attention to the people in your life in a more intentional way know what matters to them, such as their hopes, fears and motivations and you will cultivate deeper trust, appreciation and ultimately more mutual value.

Be intentional with your time. If you look at your schedule and find that you've not carved out time for what you say is important, you may need to reassess where you spend your time. As Gandhi so succinctly and eloquently put it, "Action expresses priorities." Identifying your priorities, and committing time to them, will build productive, results-oriented habits.

Live intentionally. Manifesting your intentions builds credibility (with yourself and others). It also generates inspirational momentum for success and satisfaction. Living intentionally requires actions being in alignment with desires for the future. That ultimately might mean getting out of your own way to forge the new path!


Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations.

Published: Fri, Oct 21, 2016