The topic of ‘mood’ has come up in several conversations in the last couple of weeks. When that happens, I know it’s a sign (a nudge, if you will) that I need to write about it.
For some reason, I’m still surprised when I talk to someone about choosing their mood, and they say, ‘What? You can do that?’. I guess until someone points it out or you read about it, it may not necessarily occur to you.
I learned about the importance of choosing your mood relatively early in my career. I was working for a leader who told me:
‘I choose my mood every morning in the shower. If I don’t consciously do that, I am at the mercy of outside influences, people and circumstances.
If I go to work in a bad mood, I will metaphorically ‘kick’ a person who works for me. That person will then go and kick the person below them, who will kick the person below them. So, relatively quickly, the whole organisation will be in a bad mood.
As a leader, I have a responsibility to inspire, motivate and act with maturity, and I do not take that responsibility lightly.’
I’ve never forgotten that; it’s stayed with me for nearly 30 years, and it’s something that comes up regularly with clients in my coaching.
Negative ‘States’ & Bad Moods
As children, we learn what to think and how to react in different situations in two ways:
- Through what we see our parents/ primary caregivers say and do (so, if you’re one of those parents who say to their kids, ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’, good luck with that because that’s not how it works!)
- Through trial and error (we try something, and if we like the reaction we get, we’ll carry on doing it, if not, we won’t)
What this means for us as adults is that how we react to stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, plus how we view ourselves and the world around us, is pretty much hard-wired by the age of seven, reflecting the same views as our primary caregivers.
Of course, we can override that programming, but we need to do that consciously. For example, when a potentially negative situation arises, you may think, ‘In these circumstances, my parents would do this… However, that doesn’t work for me; instead of repeating their behaviour, I choose to do something different’.
How to choose your mood
There’s no science behind choosing your mood – you simply DECIDE what mood you want to be in that day and select thoughts and behaviours that align with it.
Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe ‘stuff’ isn’t going to get in the way. Of course, it is, especially if you’ve been doing your behaviours since childhood. So, it’s unrealistic to think that you simply decide on your mood in the morning and don’t have to check in with yourself throughout the day. On the contrary, you need to be aware of and consciously adjust your attitude as you go. However, changing your negative thoughts is relatively easy, as long as you’re aware of them in the first place.
Changing Your Thoughts
If managing or choosing your thoughts is new to you, here’s my top tip: you can’t think two thoughts at once. It’s impossible! So, as soon as you recognise that you are thinking something that isn’t serving you, consciously shift your thoughts to something more positive.
It can be quite an eye-opener if you’ve never previously paid much attention to your inner dialogue/ inner critic. We have around 60,000 thoughts a day, and up to 95% of those are the same as the day before. Therefore, what we repeatedly think over a long period significantly impacts our personality and forms our beliefs and values (a belief is just a thought that we keep repeating!).
Negative Thoughts & Neuroscience
Unfortunately, despite undertaking personal development for many years, I often have negative thoughts due to my early childhood programming/conditioning. Therefore, I have to be vigilant so that they don’t spiral and adversely impact my day. But, I’ll be honest, it feels like a gargantuan effort some days.
I’m so fascinated by this topic that I spoke to a neuroscientist about it. I wanted to understand if there is a way of stopping the unhelpful thoughts from coming in the first place, as it would make life so much easier. He replied,
‘There isn’t a way to stop negative thoughts from coming, but you can choose whether they stay’.
I love that. It sums this topic up perfectly. When you choose your mood, things WILL happen that could sabotage your progress. However, it’s your decision whether you allow them to or not.
What mood do you choose today?