5 Ways to Reprogram Your Mind

We become what we think about all day long. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

What do you think about? Do you ever pay attention to the song that gets stuck in your head? What about the video clip that seems to be burned into your mind’s eye hours after you watched it? Did you ever imagine the things you exposed your mind to on a regular basis could have a long-lasting effect on you?

Take any aspect of our current political environment. Regardless of chosen sides, every aspect can be perceived as negative. Consume enough political news throughout the day and soon you will be seeing the negative around every corner.

Now look at the videos, music, and social media you consume. Is what you are consuming in line with where you want to be in the future? Does it match your current set of values? If not, what are the chances of your values going to the same level as the media you consume?

Photo by neONBRAND on Unsplash

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become. –Buddha

Your mind is one of your most valuable resources. To get where you want to go in life, you have to ensure your mind is functioning at an optimal level. Fortunately, our minds are programmable. We can believe what we want to believe. We can consume what we want to consume. We can protect our minds from the media that is preventing us from achieving our goals.

In his book, Speaking to Win, Brian Tracey makes a great point about our minds and thinking:

The highest-paid and most valuable work in America is thinking. This is because, of all things that people do, thinking has the greatest possible consequences. The better you think, the better decisions you make. The better decisions you make, the better actions you will take. The better actions you take, the better results you will get, and the better will be the quality of your life and work. Everything begins with thinking.

With this in mind, here is a simple list to help reprogram your mind:

1. Define your values or what you want to value. This can be a goal, it can be what you want to stand for, or it can be who you want to be.
2. Program your mind by consuming the things that will help get you closer to your destination.
3. Discern what media is pulling you away from the path.
4. With discipline, turn away or turn off, the unproductive media. You have to learn to say no to the things that pull you away. They are vying for your attention and your time.
5. Do the work. Here is your call to action. Your mind, by this time, should be in the right place. But without working toward your goals and values, you will have only unused knowledge. What is the point of that? Take what you have learned, act on it, and see how far you can go.

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results. –Willie Nelson

Mistake Free

This is the fourth in a 7-part series comparing Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to youth wrestling and how we can apply these lessons in our own lives.

Click here for Part 1: It begins with Practice

Click here for Part 2: What are your Questions

Click here for Part 3: Winning with Ease

He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated. –The Art of War, Chapter 4:13 Tactical Dispositions

The wrestler that makes a mistake ends up on his back. The only way to not get in this position is to not­ allow the opponent an opportunity. Becoming mistake-free results in victory. If your opponent has done his research on you, he will know it when he steps on the mat. Your reputation will precede you, and your opponent will arrive already defeated.

As a mortarman in the Army, I couldn’t make a mistake. My team couldn’t make a mistake. One wrong move, one miscalculation, or one errant round could result in killing the people that counted on us for their protection.

Mistakes sink ships on the ocean. They kill businesses by damaging their reputation and the trust people put in them. Mistakes prevent you from going where you want to go.

It is difficult to be mistake free in life, but there are measures we can take to prevent mistakes. There are things we can do to offset the damage and not allow it to escalate into something we can’t fix. We can prepare, be ever-vigilant, and have a partner or coach that is looking out for us. Good coaches identify areas that need improvement. They correct issues early on so that they will not become a problem later on. They are there to prevent you from making mistakes. They are the checks and balances similar to the platoon sergeants and squad leaders of a fire team. They are there to watch, direct, and correct.

When I was younger, I thought I was alone. I isolated myself and listened to my own counselling. It wasn’t very sound, and to this day I am still paying for some of those mistakes. What I needed back then was someone to keep me in check. There were plenty of people out there that would have done it, but I wasn’t looking. It wasn’t until I was older that I started looking. By then my exterior was already hardened making it more difficult for others to get through. I am still working on this area, still working on becoming vulnerable enough to those closest to me. The good news is that I am working on this area and getting better.

It is hard to go through life alone and not make a mistake. We all need a partner, a coach, or a mentor that can see our blind spots. The influencers in your life cannot be afraid to offer counselling. And once they do, it is your job to trust them, listen, and take action. Only then can you come closer to becoming mistake free and establishing the certainty of your victory.

Words That Nourish

Take a moment and think about the words you use. Do you wish to inspire others to become greater than they are? Do you wish to be the motivating force that fuels this generation to action?

How powerful is your dialogue? What words strike to the core of your audience, leaving them with a lasting impression? Will your words be profound, or will they be profane?

Often one chooses the profane. It is radical and cutting edge. Fifty years ago, it was looked down upon, but now it is cool. These words are catalysts that cause an immediate reaction. They are not very creative. There is not a whole lot of effort required to use them. Do you have to think long and hard to ensure the word’s correct placement?

Consider the word, fuck. What is it?

  • Fornication Under Consent of King
  • An English Archer’s salute to the French with the middle finger saying, “I can still pluck you.”
  • A noun, a verb, an adverb, an adjective, or any other type of word when the user can’t think of a better word to use. Can it really be all those things, a modifier for all occasions?

Will you rob a strong word’s power through overuse?

Don’t get me wrong. I have let that bomb fly from my mouth too many times. When it has flown, it has the mark. I said it with intent and out of anger. With malice, I chose to cut my intended victim. Every time it came out, it was followed by regret. Not because I am righteous, high and mighty, or a goody two-shoes. No. I was lacking discipline.

I was being LAZY!

My vocabulary is strong enough that I could have picked a more suitable word. Instead, I chose to go with crass. I didn’t want to stop and take the time to choose another. I didn’t want to use more brainpower than necessary.

Finding the profound word takes effort. It takes a little more thought, more time, than it does to find the profane word. But what would you rather be, profound or profane?

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. -Proverbs 16:24

Consider this proverb. It is not flattery. It is nourishment. It is using words that strengthen and edify the recipients. Pleasant words are not used out of anger. They are not rash, lazy, or weak. They hit their intended mark and leaves the hearer better off than before.

Winning With Ease

This is the third in a 7-part series comparing Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to youth wrestling and how we can apply these lessons in our own lives. This is how you win with ease.

Click here for Part 1: It begins with Practice

Click here for Part 2: What are your Questions

Winning with Ease

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. –The Art of War, Chapter 4:11 Tactical Dispositions

Wrestling is a difficult sport taxing one’s body, soul, and mind. In his second year, Alec has yet to put all three together on the mat. This is not a harsh statement. He is only six years old. How many boys his age has found this balance? Some of the older kids, who have been wrestling longer, have begun to put it together. It is noticeable when they walk on the mat. They look confident and fearless. When they win, they make it seem easy. Those are what the ancients would call a clever wrestler. It is the one with the experience, who has put in the hard work and has persevered.

In my forty-four years, I haven’t gone through this life with ease. Why is that? My road has been difficult, because I have not always put in the hard work when it comes to my body, soul, and mind. But when I do put in the work, when I persevere, life gets easier. When I neglect even one of these three pillars, my road becomes difficult to travel.

Want to be the one that not only wins, but excels in winning with ease? Learn from experience by doing the hard work. Keep grinding every day. Keep practicing. Persevere. Do this and you will find your Tao, your Way.

What Are Your Questions?

This is the second in a 7-part series comparing Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to youth wrestling and how we can apply these lessons in our own lives.

 

Click here for part 1: Begin with Practice

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. –The Art of War, Chapter 4:2 Tactical Dispositions

What are your questions?

The kids toe the line and shake hands. Once ready and in their stances, the referee blows the whistle to begin the contest. Having never faced each other before, both the boys have options. What they choose to do is based on experience and comfort level. Not knowing the other’s skill level, to shoot for a takedown from distance could be disastrous. If you can’t touch your opponent, the long shot truly lives up to its name in its chances for success.

Charging blindly into an unknown opponent is a recipe for disaster. There is a small chance you may surprise him with an opening bull rush, however an experienced opponent will have prepared for such a scenario and will be able to counter with ease. What is a better solution? It is better to probe for weaknesses and to look for the opportunities provided by your opponent.

It is foolish for a lawyer to cross-examine a witness with statements. Isn’t it better to ask questions? The more questions, the greater the chances of finding a flaw in the testimony.

You can take control of a meeting by spouting off all the things you know without getting feedback, but this will not solve the problem at hand. The meeting participants are not the enemy. The problem is the enemy. To find the solutions you have to ask questions. You have to probe. You have to collaborate. The solutions to the problem will eventually be exposed, and then you can attack.

The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life. –Tony Robbins

If the enemy is within, what should you do? How can you attack a problem if you don’t really know what it is? Whether it is a medical condition or a bad habit, the methods of combatting it are similar. Identify the problem. Ask the questions that can lead to a solution. If you can’t find the solution on your own, collaborate. As Sun Tzu said, “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands.” It is in your hands whether or not you choose to fight. Only through fighting will you be able make use of the opportunities provided by the enemy.

There are some things you won’t be able to cure. In that case, your only option is to live the best life you can. You do not have to be the victim. You can rise above and not allow the enemy an easy victory.

Lima Charlie? Check.

I sat in the morning Mass and listened to the homily. I couldn’t understand a word the priest was saying. His accent was too strong. His command of the English language was too weak. My mind wondered. Why am I here? How is this edifying my spirit? I was reminded of the church’s history. For centuries the Mass was given in Latin. The people listening did not speak Latin. What were they getting out of it? A few years ago, there was a push to go back to Latin services. Why? How would this help any non-Latin speaking church-goer?

There is a colleague I work with who likes to use big words. There is nothing wrong with big words unless his intended audience doesn’t understand what he is saying. Some of the words are outdated and are no longer used. Along with his big words is a whole array of adverbs and modifiers. A word to him cannot stand on its own. It has to have a very, an amazingly, an interestingly, or some other –ly ending word preceding it. He takes what should be a simple statement and elaborates to an extent that the meaning is lost.

I had a conversation last week in which I was told my words were stupid. I thought I was being clear. I thought I was being concise. It didn’t matter what I thought. My message was not getting through.

In the Army, we learned how to use the radio. There were two main parts to communication: the sender and receiver. Either you were coming in Lima Charlie (loud and clear) or you were broken and distorted. If you were broken and distorted, your message was not getting through.

If we cannot communicate in way that is understood by the recipient(s), what is the purpose? It is a reminder and a challenge that I have to give to myself. Write in a way that is clear. Speak in a way that my audience understands. The best communication should be simple. No hidden messages, no innuendos. Clear and concise.

What Good Have I Done?

Last night I opened up Twitter and in my notifications was a question that made me pause and think. “Now that the day has passed, what good did you do today?”

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I will keep constant watch over myself, and, most usefully, will put each day up for review. -Seneca

A new habit that I am working on is writing in my journal before going to bed. What am I writing about? I’m putting my day up for review and noting my short-comings. I am looking at where I went wrong and how I can do better in the future. Did I allow my temper to get the best of me? Did I not do the things I wanted to get done? I look at where I went wrong, but there is a question I don’t usually ask myself. What good did I do today?

Yesterday, I did a lot of good things for myself. I got up early. I exercised, read, and wrote. I drafted a future post on the virtue of Temperance. I went to work. I went about my day as usual and did a lot of good things -for myself. To my knowledge, I didn’t do anything evil. I don’t even remember having any bad thoughts. But did I do any good? I did what I felt was right, but is this enough? I didn’t see an opportunity to do a good deed, but was I really even looking?

Virtue consists more in doing good than refraining from evil. -Aristotle

When I came home, I found out my son got in trouble at school. He hit someone for no reason. I asked him why. He said because he wanted to. He was not provoked nor upset by the other person. He, for no apparent reason, wanted to hit the other boy. I did my duty as father.

What is my duty? As a father, it is my duty to raise a boy into a strong and productive man that can contribute to society when he gets older. He has his name and reputation to protect, even at the age of six. He cannot do that if he is being a bully. He must actively do good and not only refrain from evil.

The rod of correction gives wisdom, but uncontrolled youths disgrace their mothers. Discipline your children, and they will bring you comfort, and give delight to your soul. -Proverbs 29:15,17

“What good did I do today?” It is good that I did my duty. But if he did not get into trouble, would I have done any good? My plan after work was to play with my son. We were going to exercise a little, wrestle a bit, and then get into some Legos. My “good” was in being a good father and husband. It may not seem remarkable to some, but I view it as my sacred duty. Yet I could have done more on this day. I will catalog it in my journal and make the attempt to do more “good” tomorrow.

Again, thank you Chip for creating this awareness to actively do good.

10 Reasons to Slow Your Anger

Good sense makes a man slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. –Proverbs 19:11

It is not the easiest pill to swallow, but being slow to anger is the best medicine. Here’s 10 reasons why it is best to let it go:

  1. Winston Churchill said, “A man is about as big as the things that make him angry.” Let that quote sink in if the little things make you angry.
  2. Not getting angry is a true test of self-mastery. Do you have enough restraint over your mind to not give into your emotions?
  3. To not retaliate may be perceived as weakness, but this is the easy way. Isn’t it better to have the strength of a calm mind? As Marcus Aurelius put it, “The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”
  4. What is the offense? Does the offender deem this as offensive or are they acting in a way they perceive to be right?
  5. A city breached and left defenseless are those who cannot control their temper. –Proverbs 25:28. What’s the translation here? Without the proper defenses in place, you are vulnerable. An angry man does not make good decisions, and poor decisions are a liability.
  6. The high road, your glory, is to overlook it. When the offender realizes his errors, the onus is on him to make it right.
  7. The low road, which is shameful, is to point out the offence. Do this, and chances are the offender will care less about rectifying the mistake.
  8. Is this something you will be angry about tomorrow? Only if you stoke the fire.
  9. When anger rises, think of the consequences. –Confucius
  10. Take a deep breath. Count to ten or a hundred. Do what is right and you can’t go wrong.

Take Your Lumps, Learn

A boxer knows he is going to get hit. He may learn how to take the hits and minimize the damage. But he knows that if he is going to fight, he is going to get hit. Does that prevent him from stepping into the ring?

The pain of getting hit should be a powerful lesson. We learn from pain.

The way of fools is right in their own eyes, but those who listen to advice are the wise. –Proverbs 12:15

There is a repeated lesson in Proverbs concerning the wise and the foolish. The wise listen. They take in knowledge. Fools, however, don’t shut up. They keep talking. They don’t learn.

A wise son loves correction, but the scoffer heeds no rebuke. –Proverbs 13:1

Nobody begins with wisdom. We have to learn it. As children, we should be corrected for our foolish words and acts. The correction should be strong enough that we learn and do not repeat the error. This should be a continuous process until we become refined adults able to function society.

This is what should happen. But often, the correction never comes or is not severe enough to deter the child from this foolish behavior.

Those who disregard discipline hate themselves, but those who heed reproof acquire understanding. –Proverbs 15:32

Discipline is not a bad thing. You put a hand in the fire. You get burned. You know in the future to not do it again. You say something offensive among your peers. You get called out or ignored. In the future, you will either curb your tongue and provide something meaningful or you find a new group. You find what works and what doesn’t. You take your lumps and you grow.

The rod of correction gives wisdom, but uncontrolled youths disgrace their mothers. –Proverbs 29:15

The rod of correction. Sounds horrible, mean, and abusive. In the old days, fools got whipped. Why? What is the reasoning? To get better. To learn. If you knew you were going to get whipped for foolishness, wouldn’t you stop being foolish? Wouldn’t it be better to take the correction and learn?

We all get the rod of correction sometimes in our life. Whether it is physical or psychological, from our parents or from society, we cannot escape it. It is up to us to learn. It is up to us to test the waters, get in the ring, and try our best not to get punched in the face. It is okay to be ignorant. It is not okay to stay ignorant.

If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn. –Ray Bradbury

Without Hope, We Have Nothing

Much has happened since I first wrote this last Sunday morning. The message came a little closer to home than I was prepared (more on that later). It is the glimmer of hope that moves us away from despair.

On occasion, my son and I will open up an old treasure chest that has been passed down through the generations. The chest is filled with old coins and currency from around the world. Alec loves looking at the coins that will someday be passed down to him.

One evening, Alec started to ask a question. It began as, “Daddy, when you pass…” I had a look of shock on my face, and he began to cry thinking he said something offensive. I reassured him that I was not upset. Later that night, he asked me about death. We talked about this reality and that, even though it is often filled with sadness, death is something none of us can escape. I found his knowledge on the subject remarkable for a six year-old. One of the points he was quick to make was that we can live for weeks without food, days without water, but not very long without air.

When the panic sets in. When we are hit with an overwhelming anxiety. What is often the best cure? Air. As our heart is pounding away in our moment of distress, it is the air we breathe that has the ability to take us off the ledge. When the worst is upon us, it is the simple act of breathing that brings rational thought to the forefront of our minds and allows us to move away from the danger.

Without air we cannot hope to live. The air gives us hope.

General Patton said success is how high we bounce after we hit bottom. But often the bounce back up is not immediate. The bottom is filled with misery. It is hard to breathe down there. It is hard to see. Very little light, very little air. Hitting the bottom hurts. It is called rock bottom for a reason. It is hard. Nobody wants to be at the bottom. But even here, when death is lurking around the corner, you still have life. Maybe not much, but yet there is still life. There is still air. There is still hope.

Hope is a seed. It is a dream that begins in the darkness with little air. But once nourished can grow into something magnificent and beautiful. Dreams don’t come true overnight. Neither does success after hitting the bottom. You have to cultivate the seedling. You have to work. If it grows too fast, the little plant’s root will not hold. So you cut it back. You slow down the growth until the foundation is stronger. As you continue to work, the plant grows gaining more light and more air. In time it may bear fruit, and  it all began with hope.

There is an amazing thing about seeds. If preserved correctly, they can still germinate when they are really old (even a 32,000 year old seed brought back to life). There is an amazing thing about some of us as humans as well. We have the ability to dream and the ability cultivate that dream into something meaningful and fruitful. Regardless of age.

When you cease to dream you cease to live. –Malcolm Forbes