5 mental shifts

Over the past few months I’ve really tried hard to believe in myself. As a parent I know it’s the hardest thing to be simultaneously telling your children they can do anything but saying “NO” to every little request they ask. As a kid that would happen to me all the time. My parents would tell me I could be that superhero I imagined myself being but then tell me to get off the roof where I was trying to learn to fly. They would encourage me to go for my dream of owning a mountain in Colorado where I was an inventor like Thomas Edison. This would then get thwarted by talking about career options and talks about a “realistic” future.

The problem only got worse because my peers, teachers, coaches, and everyone else I associated with would only tell me the “NO” part. More and more voices came into my life telling me that “I can’t”. It’s human nature to push others down in an attempt to lift yourself up. Enough time around other people and your dreams will get pounded down into the ground so hard you wondered why you even thought about them in the first place. Other people’s narratives for you start to become your own and that’s the saddest fact of it all. The childhood dreams of being a superhero, a firefighter, or some other way they feel they can change the world die. Some people don’t let it die, some others rekindle it later in life, but for the majority those dreams die and never come back.

In the circus the most powerful, destructive animal they have is usually the elephant. With their big cats cages will hold them but elephants have so much strength there isn’t much that can stop them. What circuses started doing was at a very young age they would put a barbed collar on their legs that was staked to the ground. If the elephant tried to escape the barbs would dig into its leg causing it great pain. Enough times of this and it doesn’t want to try and escape. As it grows up it remembers this pain and all they need to do is put on a simple rope to remind it of that pain. It can easily pull free from the rope but that pain is so embedded in their memory that it won’t. These greatly powerful animals capable of so much are held back by a flimsy rope.

I last November for my thirtieth birthday received a fun present from my parents. In the fourth grade my teacher had us create a road map for our life. Most kids did about 5-10 steps including “go to college”, “get married”, “get a job”, etc. I in my typical fashion did 30 steps. The first eighteen were admittedly being born, walking, crawling, preschool, and the K-12 grades. The other twelve were going to a specific college, playing sports there, flying in the air force, marrying at a specific age, retiring at 30 from the air force, becoming an inventor in Colorado, and dying (for some reason) at 111 years old. I even very funnily and morbidly drew a picture of my gravestone with the dates of 1986-2097. I was happy to see I hadn’t given up on my dream of becoming an inventor, that is still something I’m working towards. I recently was rekindled to want to own my own mountain in Colorado and that is still very much something I want to do. I married sooner than I planned and am going to the college I wanted to longer than I planned. The thing that saddened me was seeing that I gave up on playing football for ASU and flying in the air force. I was told by so many people that I wasn’t good enough at football that I started to believe it. I was told I was too slow, too weak, too whatever to the point that I believed it and gave up on that dream. I was told that I couldn’t be in the air force for a number of reasons by family. I was told that it was stupid by a number of peers. I was talked into talking myself out of flying. I finally got off that roof and never got back up again. Even writing this now I feel a little heart ache because I’ve always wanted to fly; first as a superhero then later “realistically” as a pilot. That kid in me wants me to dream big again so spur of the moment I’m deciding to add that to my impossible list (it’s now listed as of today).

Seeing that drawn out plan of my life and having the realizations I had, I decided to believe in myself again like that little kid did. I’ve had so many dreams in my head over the years. Unfortunately the assimilated narrative that I’d built over the years kept them from ever becoming more. They stayed dormant in the back of my mind nagging me until they died. I decided to finally pull that script that’s been running on loop in my head and rewrite it. If you’ve read this far into this without going somewhere else then I got the feeling you are somewhat like me. I hope this inspires you to do the same and choose your future like I am. Decide now that people’s opinions do NOT have to be your vision for yourself.

The first step to rewriting your mental script is to do 5 mental shifts. I’m borrowing these from an article I read at inc.com around the time I described the events earlier and am sharing what I’ve done for each. I don’t agree with the order so I’m modifying that and adding my own descriptions. I invite you to take a look at their article as well.

5 Mental Shifts

So again I’m doing them in my own order that I think makes more sense.

1: Believe in yourself

This is pretty straightforward but is going to be the hardest one. Every time you get the thought “I can’t” you’re going to have to push yourself to challenge that. You’re going to have to realize that it’s not really you saying that. It’s the hundreds of voices of the negative people you’ve come across in your life who’s voices now all together sound like your own. I assure you they are not your voice. You have to push forward instead with the belief that “you’ll never know if you don’t try, so why not try”.

2: Take more risks

This as well might seem like “yeah of course” but again very VERY hard to do. Fear rules our thoughts so much. We get the inclination after we start believing to give it a go and then our head starts to take over. Our brains are designed by purpose to help us avoid pain. When we try something new we’re risking comfort and contentment for something potentially painful. We start a new business, well that might fail and we are embarrassed and broke. We ask a girl out we thought might be out of our league, we could get shot down. This is all scary and causes us to stop and over analyze until we talk ourselves out of it. The thought that needs to prevail in this scenario is “best case scenario I get what I’m hoping for and whatever worse case scenario I’m not going to die.” Then when the time comes to do it, as Mel Robbins says “If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it. The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule. When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and move towards action.”. Our mind builds it up to be so much worse than it ever is and put in comparison with the fact that it won’t kill you makes it seem funny that we’re scared of it. It won’t kill you, so why not just do it and see how it goes? And, oh yeah, act quickly before you brain starts to fight you on it.

3: See value in everything

Everything you go through is teaching you something. What you learn is completely up to you. If you choose to look at only the negative outcomes of what you do then you’ll get them. If you choose only to look at the positive outcomes of what you do then you’ll get those. Choose to see it only as a failure and you have failed. Look, instead, at each failure as a learning opportunity then it will be. There is always something to take away, to improve on, to do differently next time, to avoid, to do more of, and so on. Only when you realize this will the risks be worth it. Sometimes it’s hard to see the silver lining in failures and what to learn from and this leads to the next mental shift.

4: Seek and accept support

The reference article put it just as “accept support” but I don’t think that is enough. I think you need to shift to seek out coaches, mentors, and guides. They’re not just going to land on your doorstep and if they do it might not be the right people. The best thing to do is to look for someone who is doing what you want to do successfully. Once you’ve found someone then come to them with specific challenges you’re facing and ask for guidance. It’s so annoying to to try and answer a vague question like “how do you find prospects?” or “how do you get a faster mile?” A better approach for the first could be “I’ve been trying to hand out business cards at grocery stores and malls but I’m not getting any calls. How do you think I can better find prospects?” They then can teach you how they did what you did better or maybe even a new way to try that might yield better results. The other improved approach could be “I’ve been running 2 miles in the morning and evening six days a week for the past two months but I’m not improving my time. What do you think I could do better to improve my mile?” They then could talk to you about doing interval training, rest days, doing 3 in the morning and 1 at night or any other factors. If you come to them with at least a starting place to where you are then they have a better idea of where they might be able to lead you to.

The next part is crucial: accept their support. Even more annoying than getting vague questions is that the time put into trying to bestow expertise is wasted when it falls on def ears. If what you’re doing isn’t working and you’ve now received guidance on something to do differently from someone who is doing what you want to do then why would you not try it? If this is you then you need to go back a few steps now and take a risk in trying it, because why not right? If it fails then it hasn’t killed you and all you’ve lost is a little bit of time but now the value of it is that you know it didn’t work and you have something to approach another expert about it. The interesting thing is that if you’re asking the right person the right questions then rarely will it be the wrong advice. A mentor of mine likes to joke that you can “fail at it a few times then do it the way your coach told you to do it the first time.”

5: Adjust your vision

The last step is something that hopefully has been happening the whole time but now may need a conscious effort. If one believes in themselves, uses that to take more risks, values every outcome, and seeks and accepts support then they’ll start to see more for themselves. It’s a cyclical cycle. Once they see more for themselves they’ll start to believe even more in themselves and round it goes. The conscious part is to actually define that vision. For so long ideas and visions have entered my mind and I allowed them to reach an expiration date and fade from my memory. If I instead wrote them down on a regular basis, and with the believe that I could achieve them, made a plan to do so then my horizons would have expanded long ago. Goals are dreams written down with specific plans of action. You do enough of this, getting these dreams out of your head away from being eaten alive by those hundreds of negative influences, and belief will continue to grow. Not only that but the voices will starve and fade away over time.

In conclusion I just want to reiterate that we don’t have to be what others have told us to be. All of the limits we’ve accepted in our lives are lies. We are capable of some much more than we and others give us credit for.

Be more.

Be phenomenal.

Be YOU.

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