Small Changes make big differences Part 4 – Centredness

Centredness as an ability to manage your inner mental life, moods, and emotions. People that display centredness are not insulated from failure but instead find the mental strength to pick themselves up when they get knocked down. Rather than struggle on under the weight of roiling emotions, they find ways to work through them and recover, and in doing so allow themselves to sustain high levels of motivation and performance even in the face of adversity and crushing defeats.

Small Changes make big differences – Centredness

Rob Yeung defines Centredness as an ability to manage your inner mental life, moods, and emotions.  People that display centredness are not insulated from failure but instead find the mental strength to pick themselves up when they get knocked down.  Rather than struggle on under the weight of roiling emotions, they find ways to work through them and recover, and in doing so allow themselves to sustain high levels of motivation and performance even in the face of adversity and crushing defeats.

Many of the exceptional people Rob Yeung has interviewed don’t even realise they possess the skill of Centredness.  Most people focus on the outward behaviours of what they do and say rather than the inward processes of how they think and feel. Because Centredness is an inner expertise, the workings of which are are invisible to onlookers, people who possess it can at times appear fairly unassuming.  They may appear reserved, quietly spoken, unadventurous, or even shy.  Their outward demeanour may reveal nothing of the steely mental toughness within.

Psychologists have known for decades that how centred we feel depends on the ratio of negative to positive thoughts we tell ourselves. The more negative messages we hear the worse we feel.  If we allow ourselves to dwell on fears, regrets, and worries, we feel down, less centred, less able to think clearly and get on with life.

For example, say you’re a manager looking to fill a vacancy.  All other things being equal, wouldn’t you rather hire someone who brushes off setbacks than the one who suffers  from more extended mood swings? or if you were a customer looking to buy an insurance policy, wouldn’t you rather deal with the cheery sales person than the one grumbling about whatever is bothering them?

The answer to both questions is yes.  And research tells us that happy, centred people are more likely to receive a second interview than their less happy peers.  Salespeople with a positive, centred disposition also sell more than their downbeat counterparts.

Even well centred people tell themselves off or worry occasionally. A good place to start becoming more centred is to watch what you think and what triggers your patterns of thinking.  Last year we did a course on life coaching and one of the key things that came out of that was the phrase “catch your thoughts”.  It was all about being very aware of what you were thinking and every-time you said something bad about yourself to change the thought to a positive one like next time I will do better.  We were encouraged to put the letters CYT up on mirrors and anywhere you see them to remind us to always catch our thoughts.

As a result of this I saw a dramatic change in my friend we were doing this course with so I have seen living proof that that we can improve our mental resilience.

Decades of psychological science and research into into psychotherapeutic techniques tell us we can help ourselves to feel less anxious, less unhappy. less angry, and more centred simply by choosing to change how we think.  This is despite our genetic tendencies, to depression.

One of the patterns that Rob Yeung has noticed in his research of exceptional people is they focus their thoughts strongly on the present, on what they are doing at any given moment. They do not let their minds wander back to past blunders.  They do not fret over what could or might transpire.  They focus intently on the present, not the past or the future.

There are a lot of teachings out there now on being present, in the moment.  They are teaching the ability to be mindful at school now and I have noticed myself when I am walking or doing a number of things that I am very mindful of my current world, noticing the beautiful sounds of nature, being more observant when on bus rides, getting more involved in what I am feeling right now.

Small changes make Big Differences – Centredness

We can all decide what we pay attention to.  When misgivings or worries pop into our heads, we could give them the full weight of our attention, replaying them over and over again and making predictions for how they will effect us in the future, or fret over what might happen the next time we have a critically important meeting or a big date the next day. The more helpful alternative though is to choose to let such thoughts pass and focus our attention instead on what we’re doing and what’s going on around us right now.

Our attention is like a spotlight that we can shine on whatever we like. Try directing your attention to your breathing, notice the inhales and exhales, then focus on the events going on around you.  Perhaps there are people nearby or you could home in on what’s going on outside your window, a splodge of dirt on a wall or anything else around you.

Have you found that in meetings you turn your attention inwards?  You allow your attention to drift away from what is being said and concentrate on your inner thoughts, the list of groceries you need to pick up on the way home or something funny someone said in the office today.  Or dwell on painful events from the past or something you are dreading in the future.

Mindfulness is the tendency to focus on what is going on around us in the present moment.  It means concentrating on that meeting, or conversation that is happening now not what is going on in our heads.

Research has found that people who are naturally more mindful tend to be more centred, more satisfied and successful.  Several studies show that being mindful helps us to stay centred when others around us are distressed.  Couples who are naturally mindful reported greater satisfaction with their relationships than less mindful couples.  Mindfulness has also been linked to better exam performance.  The good news is that we can train ourselves to be more mindful.  Modern mindfulness training is scientifically proven to deliver results.  Becoming mindful is essentially about training the spotlight of our attention to focus outwardly on our situations, what we’re doing and the people we are with rather than inwardly on your own thoughts.  Try to become more mindful in everyday situations and you will begin to see the benefits when you need it most.

When you are having a conversation, focus the spotlight of your attention on the other person or people  – avoid letting your attention stray to those internal thoughts.  When you are eating a meal focus on the tastes and textures of the food, really appreciate the food.  Concentrate on the activity you are doing,  driving, reading, sleeping or exercising.  When distracting or unhelpful thoughts pop into your head – and it happens to everyone – imagine they are clouds floating through the sky.  Use your imagination to zoom out from the scene and give yourself a bird’s eye view of the landscape below.  Just see those thoughts passing by in the distance.  Observe them but do not dig into them. Then bring your attention back to what you were doing.

Becoming more mindful takes practice.  Most people find that they can only manage it for a few minutes at a time to begin with.  No one can be mindful all the time. But with practice you will find that it helps stave off unwanted thoughts, and enjoy what you are doing, becoming more centred and productive.

Small changes make big Differences – Centredness

Sometimes if we just have too many thoughts in our heads that we can not quieten them we need to look at using another method. The FASTER technique is an example of what psychologists call a thought record.  It is a proven technique for combating negative thoughts and becoming more centred.

FASTER stands for Feelings, Actions, Situation, Thoughts, Evidence against negative beliefs and review feelings again.

  • Feelings – write down the emotions you’re feeling as a result of thoughts going through your head. Be as specific as you can with words like disappointed, tense.  Then give each emotion a rating from 1-10, based on how strongly you feel each one.
  • Actions – write down how these feelings are effecting your life, what are they making you do or putting you off doing?
  • Situation – Describe what triggered these unhelpful feelings, taking note of who you were with, what happened, did someone say something or did thoughts just start it all off?
  • Thoughts – capture all the unhelpful thoughts that are running through your head so you can help yourself to see through them.
  • Evidence against your negative beliefs – Now is the fun part.  Here is where you look at ways to re-frame your negative thoughts. Now imagine your best and most understanding friend is asking you these questions.
    • Is that really true?
    • What’s a better way of looking at that?

Look for the flaws in your negative thoughts, demolish them and help yourself escape from their grip.

  • Review Feelings again – now take a look at the feelings you wrote down in step 1.  Are they still as strong.  Hopefully by now the feelings describes in step 1 are now a lot less or completely changed.  You should now feel a lot less emotional and more centred.

We mustn’t repress our feelings, just make time to look at them properly work out what is causing them and then carry on with life.  Our feelings are messages from ourselves – an internal memo -with a warning or a meaning to impart.  If you are feeling sad it might mean that you need to surround yourself with friends and family for a while.  If you are angry it might mean you need to review the current situation and make changes to change it either speaking up about it or removing yourself from the situation.  Fear may tell us we need to do more preparation.

It has been proven scientifically that writing about, or recording our experiences on a tape enables us to regain our mental balance faster, than thinking about the bad experiences.  Health and everything improves once the experience is released on paper or tape.  It has also been found that reviewing the experience from a third person perspective is much more healing than re-immersing yourself in the negative experience again from 1st person.

Make sure you look back on situation with compassion – you would naturally express concern to a friend who had gone through a gruelling situation.  Make sure to express understanding and kindness to yourself as well.

Several studies have looked at the benefits of expressive writing.  Students who used the technique found that their grades improved.  Un-employed middle age engineers who wrote about the experience of being out of work found new jobs quicker than those who didn’t.  And in some studies, participants who used the technique also reported that they felt physically happier – they even paid fewer visits to their doctors.

The last technique that will help you feel more centred is physical exercise.  It really is true that a healthy body also means a healthy mind.  Research tells us that exercisers report greater levels of psychological wellbeing than non-exercisers.  Several research trials suggest that moderate exercise may be as effective as talking therapies and even certain drugs in the treatment of clinical depression.  It may be a particularly potent method for remaining centred because it both distracts us from our worries and floods our bodies with endorphins, our natural feel-good hormones.

When we stop  to take stock of how we spend our time, we usually know when we are living our lives in ways that help us to stay centred. To help you stay in peal psychological condition and allow you to perform consistently at your best, are there any activities you should be doing less?

If you have enjoyed this blog you may like to check out the other blogs in this series.

Small changes make big differences  – Awe

Small changes make big differences Part 2 – Cherishing

and  Small changes make big differences Part 3 – Authenticity

The next one will be on the fifth trait of high achieving people – Connectivity.

Please leave comments below I would love to know what you are getting out of these posts and if these posts are helping you in your job search, current career, business or life generally.

Have a great day


Please note that this blog includes excerpts from the book The Extra One Percent - how small changes can make big differences by Rob Yeung.  I acknowledge that this book is used of the source of most of the information.