“Every day, you must stand guard at the door of your mind.” — Jim Rohn
Growing up within the confines of team sports, I would commonly hear this phrase uttered from my coaches: “The only way we lose this game is if we beat ourselves.” Unable to make sense of the context as an aloof thirteen-year old at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the rhetoric until adulthood — where the competition is you and you alone.
The war within our own minds is well-documented; perhaps even overblown. No matter how much we attempt to make sense of things, the reality is our brains are hard-wired for a distinct environment — and it’s not the one we’re currently in.
Technological advancements, environmental shifts, and lifestyle adaptations have not been able to do anything about what’s inside our heads. We’re at the mercy of mental devices equipped for the Stone Age. We can bitch about it (and simply be left with less energy) or we can discover some of the predisposed tendencies and how to get in front of them.
Below are 10 strategies you can implement right away to put down the shovel and cease digging the holes you consistently find yourself standing in:
1. Stop Collapsing Wants And Expectations
These are distinctly different and should be treated as such. Expectations to a certain degree are fine in life. It’s perfectly pragmatic to expect the light to turn on when you flip the switch or the car to start when you turn the key. No arguments there.
But beyond the trivialities in life — things that are essentially automatic — lies what you desire. And sometimes we allow that picture to get a little too clear and it starts having diminishing returns.
Your wants are your wants. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s perfectly fine to want things, even better to work to attain them. But bitching and moaning because you unconsciously transformed your wants into expectations (or worse, delineated your expectations as your needs) isn’t going to cultivate very many fulfilling relationships.
2. Generate Humility With Historical Referencing
Think of how many names you can recall from the 15th century. How about the 18th century? 19th? That’s what I thought. The same will be said about our sliver of time a couple hundred years from now, as well.
This isn’t to create resignation, but to allow you to not take yourself too seriously. Celebrities and Instagram models will eventually be forgotten just the same as you and me. Don’t waste your precious time touting the self-promotional shtick and instead focus on creating your own masterpiece within your respective day-to-day while you’re here.
3. Treat Your Mind Like The Pit Stop That It Is
Despite what the beginning of this article suggests, your mind isn’t actually a bad place. It’s your data-processing center and nothing that is created or fostered inside can be taken away from you.
But instead of hanging out in our heads all day like most of us do — subsequently moving from analyzing the past, the present and the future — leverage it for what’s best-suited for: a pit stop to re-calibrate the way you perceive the events of your life.
Like a race car driver, the pit stop is meant to short and purposeful. When you venture inside your think tank, avoid lengthy stays.
Stop in, dust off the cobwebs, and get the fuck out.
4. Save The Energy And Leverage Others To Better Understand Yourself
Frustration happens, I get it. You’re not going to walk around cool, calm and collected every second of the day. However, posturing yourself as above others by pointing out their every flaw is a bad look — not to mention the depreciating effect it has on the soul.
Everyone has a peak condition they achieve in life. For some, it’s after a workout. For others, it’s after an exceptional day at the office. And unfortunately for a decent-sized crop, it’s when they’re drunk. Nonetheless, you know you’re own peak condition is hardly ever interrupted by external circumstances — your confidence is sky-high and nothing is too important to interrupt that feeling.
So it’s pretty clear that the way we feel about ourselves determines the influence others have (or don’t have) on us. Instead of ignoring that, let’s take it for what it is and know that when we get upset, the solution is to invariably delve inward — the only area we have control over.
5. Don’t Trip Over Your Words
Language has the ability to pierce the conscious mind. What we say, no matter how senseless or laissez-faire, is stored information for the subconscious mind to repeat.
Far too often, we box ourselves in by putting the past in the present with our language — placing on a set of irrevocable handcuffs that can only be broken free via a new pattern.
It’s not the way you are. It’s the way you’ve been up to this point. Cease placing limits on the present and be very careful as to how you define yourself.
6. Utilize Sturgeon’s Law
Theodore Sturgeon was a science fiction author in the 20th century who was famously accredited with a revelation that shook people to their core. Upon science fiction’s unfavorable criticism that 90% of the genre was crud, he indifferently remarked, “Yeah, that’s because 90% of everything is crud.”
Not everything requires your attention or opinion. What you read, what you watch, what you listen to, most all is in alignment with Sturgeon’s Law. Hell, even your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and so on are all as fleeting and useless they appear to others.
So give yourself a breather and let the bulk of it pass — 90% of most everything is utterly meaningless.
7. Accept That Everything In Life Is Borrowed
Pride is a very empowering emotion when kept within a measurable grasp. It’s when it exceeds your reach that it becomes dangerous.
These days, defensiveness is at an all-time high while trust is at an all-time low. Evidence supports this, sure, but it’s not exactly making us very happy people. Much of society spends their days looking for reasons to be offended, where their rights are violated, and where they are trespassed against.
Adopting the mindset that everything you have in life, short of your thoughts and feelings, is borrowed can trigger an onset of peace. You came in with nothing, you’re going out with nothing. Your material possessions, the people in your life, the circumstances that surround it, all are temporary. Appreciate them while you have them, but don’t be so proud that you are blind to life’s randomness. Be happy with the loans you are issued.
8. Receive Criticism and Praise Indifferently
The presence of luck cannot be overlooked. Hard work occurs, yes, but so much of that ensuing is up to chance. Your genetic makeup, the area you’re born into, the people you’re influenced by growing up — all of which is outside your control.
Warren Buffett will argue that a good managerial track record is more about being in the right industry than being an exceptional leader. You can move the needle to some degree yourself but the seismic shifts occur across a vaster landscape. Don’t take it personal when you get hit with tough feedback or, on the contrary, receive an award. Be humble and grateful for the acknowledgement and go back to simply focusing on being your best.
9. Go Easy On Yourself So You Can Do The Same For Others
Life is hard enough as it is. This much we can agree on. When it’s running smoothly, we’re on top of the world. But when those breakdowns occur, panic follows closely behind.
You’d think with this understanding we could appreciate when faux pas are committed by others and meet them with encouragement. Unfortunately, that hasn’t shown to be our strong suit.
Much of it can be directed at our relationship with ourselves. In today’s world, you have to be one of the very best on the planet at what you do to receive honors and praise consistently. Because of this, expectations for our own success are set higher than ever. It’s no longer good enough to simply live a quiet and peaceful life. You have to show the world who you are.
Despite there being some nobility in taking on this challenge, it’s hardly a recipe for being a compassionate person. With as much demand as we place on ourselves, mistakes we commit are often met with ridicule and disapproval. This casts a wide net, as we do the same thing with others’ shortcomings.
Next time you make a strategy or behavioral blunder, keep a light heart about it. It will come in handy next time someone else really needs your most gentle support.
10. Regard Inner Success Over Outer Success
Once again, on the surface this appears to be one giant pile of resignation. Look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a difference or even change the world for that matter — that’s not what I’m saying.
What I am saying however, is you don’t have to put your happiness and fulfillment on hold until you achieve those things. Ultimately, you’re striving to accomplish goals to produce a particular feeling. As human beings, we adapt rather quickly and therefore our feelings are as fleeting as they are incoming. While you pursue what you’re after, cling to as many of those joyous feelings as possible — it’s not a race. You’re allowed to enjoy yourself along the way.
Whatever you’re after, just make sure you’re after it for the right reasons. If you want to achieve anything, my suggestion is to achieve a strong sense of security in who you are before you embark. Having been someone who chased external success thinking it was an innocuous pursuit, I wouldn’t wish the rude awakening of realizing your ego is at the source on anyone else.