The Mental Game

“As a man thinks…, so is he.”

Mastering our thoughts is a critical skill in life and business. The recording (or podcast) in our heads feeds our beliefs, values, character, attitudes, impulses, decisions, actions, and behaviors. These, in turn, have a profound impact on our lives, relationships, and outcomes. It is vitally important that we learn to direct our thoughts in desirable directions. Our thoughts determine who we are today and, more importantly, who we will become. Repetitive thoughts can lead you to positive outcomes and joy or to destruction and despair. Most people are somewhere in the middle. Some thoughts lead the right direction and others do not, thus, we are all, at some level, full of contradictions. There is a battle for your mind.

“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality.” – Bruce Lee

I could bombard you with quotes on positivity and believing in yourself. There are many tidbits of wisdom that tell you, essentially, “you’ve got this” or “you’re going to make it.” A mantra is a useful tool, but it does not change the circumstances you are facing. It can help your attitude. While I believe in the power of positive self-talk, I have found several things helpful in corralling my thoughts and redirecting them in a positive direction. How do you begin to corral your thoughts when they are spinning out of control?

“She believed she could, so she did.”

It may be helpful to review why people “give up.” A person may quit something long-term like a job, a relationship, a business or a venture they started, or an organization of which they have been a part for a long time. They may quit something short-term like a sporting event, leave a show or a party early, a task, or a conversation. Generally, people quit when they lose hope, they lose interest, or they perceive the pain or the risk to be greater than the reward.

“People quit when they lose hope, they lose interest, or they perceive the pain or the risk to be greater than the reward.”

How do you rein in your thoughts when they are getting out of control, how do you begin to rein them in? These are some suggestions that have worked for me. These are short and to the point for purposes of this blog. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to comment and discuss further.

1) Realize most pain is temporary. Remembering this is usually all I need to stay focused and determined through a trying situation. I keep moving through the pain. “When you are going through hell, keep going.”

2) Do the next thing. Sometimes you can only see one step in front of you. I often want a fully developed plan and not having that can lead to inaction. Knowing the next step is enough. Take the step.

3) Do just one thing. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all that is in front of you. I’ve seen many people, myself included, be successful by focusing on doing just one thing well. Master the one thing before adding another. This has helped me in everything from weight loss and fitness to business projects. “Don’t try to boil the ocean.”

4) Press “pause.” Give yourself some mental downtime to clear your head. Do the things that allow you to relax your mind or focus on something else.

5) Move. When I can’t get clarity on something, I go for a run. Increasing the blood flow to your brain does wonders for mental clarity. Exercise of any sort will help clear your head.

6) Sleep. Most of us do not get enough rest. Even if you think you are “fine” on 4-5 hours of sleep, you will have more clarity, physical, and emotional energy when you get more rest.

7) Confidence is a choice. When you feel uncertain, chose the thoughts and path the lead you to confidence.

8) Focus. When faced with a particularly tough challenge I find directing significant energy to it for a short period allows me to “muscle through.” Temporary intensity can yield great results.

9) Declutter your mind. It is easy to trouble yourself with too many things. Only give thought to what you can manage. Everything else can be a distraction.

10) Smile. Choosing happiness, positivity, and to smile will affect your outlook, your attitude, and your results. In a recent marathon, I got to mile 18 and was starting to hurt. From miles 18-26 I kept reminding myself to smile and that it was a privilege to run the race. It led to a great outcome. The world record holder in the marathon, Eliud Kipchoge, when asked for running advice frequently tells people to smile. He is always seen smiling through the race and at the finish.

These are simple ideas that anyone can implement to deal with their thoughts. Did I give you too many? If so, do number 3 (Do just one thing.) It is not my intent to address here the broader issues of depression, mental health, or the tragedies that can affect us all. There are circumstances which require the help of experts in the field. I can tell you what works in my own life when I sense my thought processes getting off track.

If you find these blogs helpful I’d like to ask for your support. I am running the 2019 Boston Marathon with the Pedro Martinez Foundation Charity Team. Your tax-deductible donation to PMF helps kids in at-risk situations in both the Dominican Republic and the United States. You can find out more here or contribute here.

What do you think? If you think I’m on point (or not!), I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. This blog is one way I try to invest in others and to encourage character-driven leadership in life and business. If I can help, please feel free to reach out to me at

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By Alan Buttery