Photo by Tyler Thomas, via Unsplash.com
“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” Yogi Berra (Major League Baseball catcher, manager and coach)
All of life, not just baseball, fits that quote. Successes and failures are mostly the result of our thoughts; our actions are the remainder of the cause. If you go into the classroom thinking “I hope I get at least a 60% on this test”, your mind is shooting for 60% as a goal, and you should not be surprised if you don’t get much more than that. Our mind controls our abilities.
Let’s consider a few ways that our mind controls our body. If you play darts, and you need a bull’s eye to win, do you think “I hope I don’t miss the board!” or do you think “I am going to hit a bull’s eye”? When you play a round of golf, you approach the tee with your driver in hand, and address the ball. Do you think “Oh, please, I hope I don’t look up and hook it” or do you think “Straight and true, 300 yards, no problem”? When you shoot a rifle, you look down the sights, but you don’t focus on the sights. You focus on the target. With both eyes open. And you focus on as small of a target as possible. “Aim small, hit small.”
Have you ever needed to write a speech? And you find that you have nothing. No ideas. You look into the creative well of your mind, and when you drop a pebble, all you hear is it hit a rock bottom? What is your first thought? If you think, “Wow, I don’t know what to say, I got nothing!” you will probably stay that way. For a long time.
Writer’s block stems from the idea, no the unconscious belief, that you have no ideas. Your mind, as powerful as it is, will make sure your belief is realized.
But instead, if you sit down with a note pad or laptop and just start jotting down thoughts, ideas, simple random neuron impulses, pretty soon you have a page full of things. Useful? Maybe. Maybe not. But you no longer have “nothing.” And maybe a word pops up and makes you think of another word.
Our mind controls our body. Do you know why you hit your thumb when driving a nail with a hammer? (And if you have ever driven a nail, you have hit your thumb!) You hit your thumb because as you swing the hammer, you briefly look at your thumb to make sure “you don’t hit it.” And what happens? You hit it, because in that instant you looked at your thumb, your brain said “New target acquired and locked in!” (This thought is frequently immediately followed by “Direct hit—dammit!”)
I used to be a bartender, and one of the most important lessons I learned was when you carry a drink that is full to the rim, never look at it while walking. You will spill it. But if you look at your customer as you walk, your focus will not be “don’t spill” but rather “deliver to customer, receive good tip.”
When you want to reach a goal, you need to focus on your goal. Make “achieving your goal” the focus. How many of your watch (or play) football? Living here in Green Bay, Wisconsin, we are required to occasionally reference football. Often I will watch a game and one team will be dominating the other and by the last 5 minutes they might have a 14 point lead. To win, all they need to do is prevent the other team from scoring two touchdowns and a final 2-point conversion. The leading team goes into the…dreaded “Prevent Defense.” Yes. Their focus changes from scoring and beating the other team to “not losing their lead.” In the “Prevent Defense”, the team is willing to allow short to moderate gains but spreads their defenders out to contain against the long passes.
And what happens almost invariably? The other team quickly scores a touchdown, and starts a come-from-behind victory. Why? The leading team was more worried about not losing than they were about winning. Meanwhile the underdog team was even more focused on scoring because they had such limited time left in which to win. The leading team changed to a negative focus, a focus based on fear of failure, at the same time their opponent increased their drive and intensity for victory.
To bring that idea back to our weight management goal, I am telling you to focus on reaching your goals, not on what you will do if you fail to succeed. If you are always thinking, “I just don’t want to gain any weight this week” you probably will gain. Your mind is focusing on the verb in that thought (gain) and will tell your body what it needs to do to fulfill that verb’s meaning. Instead, if you continually think “I will continue to lose weight” your mind will key in on the verb (lose).
This isn’t magical thinking. You still need to eat the correct amount of food and move more. But it sets a subtle message to all parts of your body, keeping everyone on the same path because you won’t be sending mixed messages.
What are some other ways your mind can strengthen your resolve? When you lose enough weight that you can no longer wear your current wardrobe, buy new clothes (ideally at your local thrift store) and immediately donate your old clothes. Purge your closet! Don’t keep anything back. If it doesn’t fit—and fit well—it doesn’t stay. Keeping an outfit (“just in case”) is the same as the football “Prevent Defense” and you have subtly changed your focus from continued losses to “…but in case I regain…” and on what verb will your mind grab? Regain.
Maybe you have an open bag of potato chips. “I hope I don’t eat any of those chips”. What is the action verb? Eat. What happens a little while later? You find yourself bag in hand, happily munching chips. The simple key step there is to not have the chips in your house. If you must have chips, then buy a bunch of single serving bags. Yes, they are much more expensive that way, but if you mindlessly grab a bag, you at least are limited to eating one serving. Hopefully you will regain control by the end of one bag.
You CAN do this. It IS within your control. It is ALL in how you think.
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Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com
Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!