Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Roadways of your Mind

Today I was finalizing my February newsletter about interference and how my brain can get overloaded with thoughts that don't support my goals. I have been researching how neuroscience has provided discoveries and explanations regarding our thought habits.

It's interesting that our brain is constantly creating mental "roadways" (neural pathways) to help us perform better. Our brain is always looking to create a path or roadway that we can use over and over again. However, many times these roadways are created without our conscious thoughts. That can be good if it forms a good thought habit, but more often than not those good habits don't form by accident.

How many times have you said, "That's just the way I am." My return question to you would be... "Who's responsible for that?" You see, you are the ONLY one who is in control of your thought life... your thoughts lead to your habits which eventually lead to your future. You can choose (starting today if you haven't in the past) to make conscious decisions about what you want to think and inevitably who you become OR you can let your thoughts choose for you.

Not making a decision is making a decision. It's just that you lose control when you decide not to decide. So, if your mind is going to form these roadways, YOU should be making the decisions. You don't have to be a victim of circumstance. Yes, bad things happen, I'm not going to deny that, but you can't control those things now. All that you can control is your reaction to those events.

Many people believe that all they have to do is figure out the right road to take in life. If they pick the right one, they're on Easy Street and all is well. If they make a wrong decision then they end up on Settled For Estates or Poverty Row. I don't believe that it's a matter of "taking" the right road.

Your performance, your results, your success is determined NOT by the road that you take, but by the road that you make!

What kind of roads are you making in your mind? I used to tell my nephew that you become like the people that you associate with. It's important to pick the right friends as a young person, but it's even more important to pick them as an adult. You see, your friends will assist you in creating your roadways. You will learn to think like your friends if you are not in constant control of your thought life.

Here's what we can do...

  1. Hang out with the people that we want to be like. When we are not consciously choosing to form thought habits, we will still be forming the good habits of our good friends.
  2. Decide to decide. Start today! Make conscious choices about the neural pathways that you are creating in your brain. The roadways are going to be formed whether you like it or not. Why not be in control?
  3. Don't worry about taking the right road. Be courageous and MAKE the right road for you and your life. You really can do it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Challenge of Change

Do you know about Biosphere 2? It's really a pretty cool place.

Biosphere 2 was a structure built to be an artificial closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona USA. Constructed between 1987 and 1989, it was used to test if and how people could live and work in a completely sealed and closed biosphere. It explored the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization, and also allowed the study and manipulation of a biosphere without harming Earth's. The first sealed mission was from September 26, 1991 to September 26, 1993. Medical doctors and researchers entered and were sealed into Bio2 where they attempted to sustain themselves entirely off of the mini-earth that the engineers created.

So, what does that have to do with the challenge of change? Well, as you can see from the picture, there was a lot of glass used and everything was totally sealed. Many times we try to do this in our lives. We try to create an environment where we are in control, where we are immune to the external forces of the world... like change. This world we try to create is one where we want to be able to see out through the glass, and yet be protected from what may be on the other side.

Think of it... The inhabitants had their own food supply (gardens of vegetables, fruit trees) and water supply. The solid waste was recycled or used as fertilizer. They had "rain forests" and "deserts", streams and pathways. It truly was as if these scientists inhabited their own little world. The planners and engineers of Bio2 had thought of everything... well, almost everything.

As time went on and the newly planted trees began to grow, a peculiar thing started to happen... The trees started to fall over. They just drooped and wouldn't stand up straight. Fruit trees would bend so much that the fruit would touch the ground. It seemed so odd because fruit trees outside of the glass did not bend over.

Why, then, why were the trees in Bio2 drooping? The researchers found that they had missed one very important part of the earth. It's understandable because you can't see it, you can't taste it. You can't even capture it. What did they miss? The wind. The scientists realized that the reason that the trees were able to stand tall on the real earth is because the wind constantly caused the bark on the trees to strengthen. The wind challenged and exercised the trees causing them to be strong.

All of us resist the challenge of change. It usually blows in the like the wind. You can choose to avoid it, moan about, gripe about it, but that will only leave you droopy. You can, instead, choose to embrace it. Stand up and face the wind head on. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how invigorating the wind can be. It actually adds to your life by providing you with the challenges that make you stronger.

Let me encourage you to embrace the challenge of change. Let the wind blow through your hair. Put your hand out the window and glide it up and down through the wind. Enjoy all the beauty and strength that it brings to your life. You and those around you will be so much better because of your decision to do so.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose

Well, since it's still football season, I seem to be thinking a lot about the game and how it is a reflection of life. Today my thoughts focus around the 'prevent' defense. How many of you hate it when your favorite team goes into the 'prevent' defense with a small lead at the end of the game?
I can't STAND it! Those Pittsburgh Steelers have gone almost 60 minutes playing their style of football according to their game plan and then just because the clock is running down, they stop doing what got them into the lead in the first place. Does anyone else have a problem with this? Why after all of the challenges and struggles of the game do they then play NOT to lose?
What causes us to play not to lose instead of continuing to play to win? Are we tired? Do we think we've done enough? Do we really think that the 'prevent' defense 30 yards off of the line of scrimmage prevents the other team from scoring any more than playing according to their game plan? What do we attribute our lead to? goodluck?
I am perplexed by this yet I see it in my life and the lives of my many successful friends. We get to a point where we're doing "ok". We think we're going to make our sales numbers... We think we're going to make our delivery deadlines... but do we really believe it?
Are our thoughts telling us that we don't deserve to win? Do we think that we are entitled to the victory if we just stay on the field until the time runs out? Are we afraid that we might lose?
Why is it that we hold back? We drive through our lives with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake. Dale Carnegie said, "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." What's holding you back and sabotaging your action?
Boy, I've asked a lot of questions today. I honestly believe that if we just focused all the way through our task and didn't get into a mode of coasting or sitting back and letting the game come to us, we would be so much more successful. So, how can we do that?
All of our actions, or lack thereof, comes from our thoughts. We could release the brake if we just knew which thoughts to believe and which thoughts to ignore. Have you ever taken a step back and analyzed how you think? Let me encourage you to do that with this shameless plug for my free assessment. Taking a free online assessment, and viewing and listening to the online debriefing can help. Click the link below to start the process.

Life is too precious to spend 'playing not to lose.' We need to grab the day by the horns and make the best investment of those 24 hours. We never get to go back and relive them again.
Make it a point not to slack or coast at the end of your day, end of your week, or end of your month. Play to win all the time, especially in the final moments - that's when your efforts may matter the most. Make the ending to each day a powerful ending and you'll never regret the effort - even if you come up short sometimes... we all do. Only by finishing strong will you know that you have laid the foundation for a terrific start in the morrow and the incredible victory that lies ahead.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Intimidated by 8th graders?

This morning I am writing the first half of this blog before I have to give a short speech to a class of 8th graders. I signed up to be a speaker for the Texas Scholars program. Business people from around the area go in to 8th grade classrooms and talk to them about the options they have when registering for high school courses. We're there to encourage them to take the recommended or distinguished courses that prepare them for post-high school education.

I'm amazed at how nervous I get before these things. I mean really what could go wrong. Even if they don't connect with me, I'm only going to be there for 40 minutes. But today the thoughts in my head are a little critical of me. What am I really afraid of? Are 8th graders intimidating me?

Well, I'm off to school - oh, maybe that's it. Maybe I don't like going to school any more. Yea, I hated 8th grade and high school. They say it's the best years of your life, but "they" also lie. More when I return...

Well, I survived and I think it actually went quite well. Isn't it funny how often we get caught up in the "what if" traps.

We attempt to plan and predict how things are going to go. We probably spend endless hours trying to make it just 'right'. The reality is that no one can ever hope to know all the challenges in advance, let alone figure out all of the solutions.

Most people (yes, me included) worry about things that never even come to pass. Or, if they do come to pass, they end up not being nearly as bad as our mind had envisioned. Even better, some of the most ominous circumstances often turn out to be nothing more than disguises for great opportunities.

When we stop to think about it, how often is the only obstacle to our success the stuff that we imagine or think up. We talk ourselves out of things that could be so enjoyable, so rewarding to us.

What have you recently talked yourself out of? What is it that you're afraid of? Do you catastrophize small challenges into enormous road blocks?

When you begin to realize that the only thing that is holding you back is your very own thoughts, you will be on the path to greatness. Mastering your own thoughts is the key to your success.

Napoleon Hill once said, "You are searching for the magic key that will unlock the door to the source of power; and yet you have the key in your own hands, and you may use it the moment you learn to control your thoughts."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Valuing Others for Success

I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but I wanted to share a situation (I've changed some of the players so as not to offend anyone, so this is not the real situation, ok?)

I was at my cousin's house watching an NFL playoff game and my cousin's all-time favorite team was playing. His kids were doing all sorts of things to stay busy and out of the way during the game. They knew that their dad would reprimand them when they walked in front of the TV. While they did interrupt a couple of times during the 3+ hours, no major infractions occurred.

Then, it happened... With time running out, Dad's favorite team was leading by 3 points and the opponent had the ball. Folks were on bended knee praying that the 'good guys' would hang on and win.

Then, the fatal error occurred. No, no, his team didn't allow the opponent to score... this error was far worse than that... his 4 y.o. son came in to ask him a question. Can you believe it!?! How could the boy do such a thing at this critical juncture in the game!! The fierce look on his face and the intense yelling that followed showed his son that the football game was far more important than he was.

How many times have we acted like dad? How many times have we allowed temporary situations to make a permanent mark on the ones we love, the ones we care about the most?

You see, often times we fall into a fantasy trap. We get so caught up in the surreal world that we tragically ignore the real world. Sure the football game was real, but the outcome of the game had very little to do with dad's future or the future of hsi family. In the big scheme of things, who would he say was more important to him, his favorite NFL team or his son?

Today I encourage you to take a look at your priorities.

  • Are you valuing the people in your life as much as you are valuing the things in your life?
  • In the big scheme of things, is that the way that you want it to be?
  • Do you value others for "who they are" or for "what they can do for you"?
  • Do your thought habits tend to pull you away from what you truly want to do?

You ARE NOT your thoughts!

You have the ability to take a step back and look at your thoughts. You can figure out what impact they are having on your life.

Some of your thoughts may be producing terrific results for you in your life. There may be others that are holding you back.

Until you are able to recognize which is which, you may not be as in control of your life as you think you are.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Interfering Thoughts

Have you ever said "What was I thinking?!?" in exasperation? Can you identify moments throughout your day where you are 'lost' in your thoughts and can't concentrate on what you need to concentrate on? I saw a classic example of that in the Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks wildcard playoff game on Saturday, January 6, 2007. Dallas was about to kick the winning field goal from less than 20 yards away with 1:19 left in the game. Yet, Tony Romo - the quarterback that saved the season bobbled the snap and ended it. All Romo had to do was catch the snap and place the football on its tip so Grammatica could kick it through the uprights. Romo had done it many times before. Yet on this particular instance, something broke his concentration and he failed to perform the simple tasks he was out there to perform. "What was he thinking?!?" is a statement that I'm sure many Cowboys fans were asking. Some people may say that it was a physical mistake - the ball slipped out of his hands. I believe it was a mental mistake. He lost concentration on his task and it resulted in the end of the season for his entire team. Luckily, we don't all live our work lives in front of thousands of screaming fans. Our mistakes aren't broadcast over the airways to millions more fans. Yet, our lapses in concentration can be just as disappointing, just as demoralizing as Tony's muffed hold. How can we avoid these lapses or, at least, lessen their occurrences? Here's one suggestion... by understanding our thoughts and learning to control those thoughts that are interfering with our success.