Just like a physical space, your mind can become cluttered with things that don’t serve you. What’s taking up space in your brain that could be put to better use?
Our fears can take up a lot of brain processing space. Whether you’re scared of an actual thing (that presentation you have to give next week) or a potential thing (that people won’t like you for some reason), you can spend loads of time playing through disastrous scenarios in your mind.
Those fears are your brain actually trying to keep you safe from physical harm, embarrassment or rejection. And in my experience, the voice in your head can get particularly loud when you’re close to a goal or breakthrough.
Focus on the experience you want to have or the goal you’re reaching for to help calm your fears so you can declutter your brain and focus on more productive things.Are you finding it tough to focus or create? It might be time to declutter your brain! #peakperformance Click To Tweet
Assumptions About Others
When we make assumptions about others — especially about their motivations or reasoning — it can put our brains on an endless loop as we try to figure things out. Of course, nobody can know what’s in the minds of others, so energy you expend trying to do so winds up wasted.
The antidote? Assume positive intent. Sure, some people really do have it out for you, but most don’t. Remember, too, that times of heightened stress can bring out the worst in people, and just because someone’s being a jerk doesn’t mean it’s about you.
Assumptions About Ourselves
I’m talking about the negative ones here. Negative assumptions (like “I can’t do stuff I haven’t tried before,” or “I’ll trip myself up yet again”) actually reinforce counterproductive messages in our brains.
The good news is that the opposite is true, too: Positive self-talk helps us envision and achieve success. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”
Certain attitudes and mindsets can keep us from growth and achievement:
A mindset of scarcity focuses on worries about never having enough. Amassing and protecting resources and ideas become the focus, rather than caring for and sharing them. Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol personifies this mindset. Try looking at what is working rather than what’s not and what is possible rather than what isn’t. Focus on the abundance of the situation rather than its limitations to bring creativity and growth into play.
A subset of the scarcity mindset is the attitude of competition. At its heart is the zero-sum game concept that requires one person to lose if the other wins. What works in sports doesn’t necessarily translate well into organizations. Collaboration allows multiple winning solutions and encourages team members to help others perform well because they know the entire team will benefit.
There are a million ways to wait and not take action. Whether you’re waiting because you want things to be perfect or because you want someone to tell you it’s OK, you’re not getting things done. In almost every case, putting something imperfect out there is better than just waiting. That old saying that “progress beats perfection” is true — it’s better to iterate than procrastinate.
I am married to someone who manages risk for a living, so I have a healthy respect for the field and the concept. But when you eliminate all risk, you often become stagnant at best. Try taking risks that can move you forward. Some of them won’t work out, but the ones that do can become sources of personal, professional or business growth — or all three. Taking time to reflect on the risks that don’t pan out can provide some of your best learning and development, too. Taking calculated risks can minimize your downside while maximizing your opportunities.
Want to feel limitless? Check yourself when any of these brain clutterers creep in.
When you jettison fears, assumptions and limiting attitudes, you create space for more positive and generative thoughts and energy. Just think about what that could mean for your productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. It’s definitely time to declutter your brain!
This article originally appeared in Forbes.com