I’ve Got You

Individually, we create our experiences of situations (including the emotions we experience) from our own perceptions and thoughts. The outside world is a canvas against which we project and check our own thoughts and emotions. Therefore, we are creators of situations, not passive victims. I’ve called this our mind over matter existence in past writing. We use our minds to create the matters (situations) of the world we perceive in front of us.

While this helps create clarity, freedom, and possibility within individuals, dealing with others is a different issue. Even well-informed people forget the nature of our mind over matter existence and see the world as a mind vs matter power struggle from time to time.

For someone locked into this mindset, blame is a common is a common thought, and people are not always ready to hear about their wrongs. If you try to help a teammate who is locked into a power struggle and blame them for not seeing the world with the clarity you currently posses, you are only pointing toward more blame, and you are likely to become a target for the blame they are hurling at the matters of the world in front of them.

If you are seeing the mind over matter world clearly, you will realize that you can’t make them understand what you know to be true. All you can do is to point in the right direction. As team members, we will all have off days, and as teammates and leaders we need to be ready to pick up our teammates without casting blame.

Instead of blaming them for being off, see if you can point in the right direction. Sometimes the best we can do is to say, “I’ve got you. I’m going to step up and make plays. Join me when you can.” You may not even need to say a word. Demonstrate your love with action. Point in the right direction by making a play with effort and enthusiasm.

Understand that while we live mind over matter, we don’t always remember that fact. Blaming someone for forgetting it is a losing battle.

The Unmagical Trophy

I often get asked about participation trophies. More specifically, people often share their comments about participation trophies with me.
The truth is, I’m not a huge fan of participation trophies, but it’s not for the same reasons most people don’t like them. I simply don’t believe we should attribute magical powers to any trophy.

The World Doesn’t Give a Sh!* about Your Should

A friend and I had an interesting conversation the other day. This friend lives by a strong ethical code. His moral compass points sharply and consistently. It’s part of what makes him very good at his job and a number of other endeavors.

Codes are not laws of the universe. Codes are ideas and principles that describe what should happen for societies and cultures to run smoothly. Codes are necessary, but they can also be a personal source of misery.

“The world doesn’t give a shit about your should,” I told my friend, pointing to the fact that the laws of the universe and human nature don’t behave according to what he thinks should happen.

He laughed. He knew it was true.

Look, I’m not suggesting you should change your codes. Societies, cultures, organizations, teams, families, and individuals should codes. I’m simply pointing out that if you believe the rest of the world is going to conform to your code or even care about it, you might be in for some self-created misery.

If you try to map your code of what should have happened onto what exists, you are in for a particular brand of misery. What has happened and what exists are perfect expressions of the conditions that preceded them. If you want change, do what you can right now to bring about the new conditions you desire. Wishing away what is for what should have happened won’t work and will only serve to increase your own misery.

Wishing away what is for what you believe should have happened is constricting. It takes the mind to another time and situation. It clouds perception. It closes off awareness to the possibilities that exist right now.

A recent example of this was Sergio Garcia’s play in the Masters on Sunday. After losing a 3 stroke lead to Justin Rose, the wheels appeared to be falling off his round. Matters appeared worse when he hit his 13th tee shot into an unplayable lie and had to take a penalty stroke.

In the past, Sergio would have blamed the world for not producing what he thought should have happened. Sunday, he told a different story.

“In the past, I would have started going at my caddie, “Oh, you know, why doesn’t it go through and whatever?'” He took a different approach Sunday. “I was like, ‘Well, if that was supposed to happen, let it happen. Let’s try to make a great five here and see if we can put a hell of a finish to have a chance. If not, we’ll shake Justin’s hand and congratulate him for winning.'”

With expectations that what happened was meant to happen, Sergio remained composed, stayed open to possibilities, and made a play. He saved par, made birdies on the next two holes, and went on to win his first major in a one-hole sudden death playoff (with a birdie no less).

What I love best about this story is that Sergio was prepared to give his best and accept the consequences even if they didn’t conform to what he wanted, what he believed should happen. This openness and acceptance creates clarity, freedom, and possibility. It is a sign of trusting yourself and the order of the universe.

You should give a shit about your should. Just don’t expect the world to return the favor.

Possibilities

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t. 

-Thomas Edison


If, for a moment (or longer), we believe in matter over mind, then we are likely to believe that situations are too big, too small, or just right for us. Typically, this mindset severely limits our engagement. We tend to devote relatively low effort to activities we believe are too challenging or too boring for us. Further, if we believe in matter over mind, we believe our engagement is an effect of the outside world, so why give an effort to change what we are experiencing if we believe we are being controlled by something outside of us?

In contrast, when we understand that we live mind over matter, that the boring, daunting, or just right challenges in front of us are creations of our own minds, we gain freedom and possibility. In a mind over matter understanding, it is quite possible to be aware that if we aren’t controlled by the outside, then our thoughts and feelings of boredom and challenge are self-created. This can be the impetus for awakening to the idea that change is only a thought away, and with this understanding, we can begin to see what we can do to engage in the present moment.

Thus, attributes such as grit and perseverance are states that flow from the mind over matter understanding. Over time, as we persist with the understanding that nothing is too big or boring for us and attack life with the effort that flows from it, we appear to have grit and toughness.

The key understanding is this: The mindsets that create grit and toughness are available to us frequently if we understand that we live mind over matter. The more we believe we are bound by matter or matters, the more will will see limits in our lives, the more likely we are to quit. At these times, it pays to remember and believe Edison’s words: When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.

Mind over matter results in moments of clarity, freedom, and perhaps most importantly, possibility. When these moments are strung together, they appear as grit, perseverance, toughness, tenacity. Be awake to possibilities. They are endless.

There Are No Mistakes

Do not fear mistakes. There are none. 

-Jazz great Miles Davis


If you want to change or improve, belief is important.

If we see mind over matter as a power struggle we must win, we will often believe that matter is winning. We will believe toughness must be built. We will believe that we progress and regress constantly, at best moving slowly but steadily toward our goal destination in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

While this a reasonable view, it’s not necessarily accurate.

Matter is never winning. It just seems that way because our thoughts rise and fall like a roller coaster. This ebb and flow of thoughts creates different characteristics of thinking, and we project these characteristics onto the world we see in front of us.

Beliefs are certain type of thought. Beliefs are enduring thoughts that occur to us over and over across relatively long periods of time. Beliefs do not dictate our thoughts. We can be very inconsistent, but for the most part, beliefs endure.

If we believe mind over matter is a fact of our existence, which is an accurate belief as far as I can tell, it’s possible to see progression and regression as states of mind. Therefore, it’s possible to understand that there is no real progression or regression, rather, there are only changes in the way one is thinking in the moment.

While this might seem like a bland, neutral, vanilla position, it can actually be quite liberating and thrilling. Understanding the neutrality of the world can help free us from the belief that the world has shackled us with limits it imposes from the outside. Freeing yourself from the tyranny of matter can lead to breakthroughs.

Rather than believing there is a goal destination that will do something to us or for us (this is a matter over mind belief), you can see goals within each moment, what I like to call plays to be made. When we live with an accurate understanding of our mind over matter existence, we can see plays to be made every second of every day. This is not bland at all, and indeed can be quite awe inspiring.

As our experience progresses and we make play after play after play (sometimes missing them but always remembering another play to be exists right now), we improve (based on outside perspectives such as a scorecard or scoreboard), sometimes dramatically.

When we don’t improve based on outside perspectives, if we give in to matter over mind, we start to buy into the power struggle and see ourselves as losing . While we sometimes thrive on this challenge, we sometimes see it as a daunting struggle we can’t win.

If we understand our mind over matter existence, we will begin to see that lack of improvement is simply a projection of our own thoughts. If we can do this, we are more likely to value each experience for what it is. This is where the idea, “We learn from our mistakes,” comes from, and if we extend that outward, we might arrive at the conclusion, “There are no mistakes.”

In a matter over mind world, we are oppressed or rewarded by the outside world. In a matter over mind world, we are at its mercy or benevolence. In a mind over matter world, we are free to make of it what we can. Imagine what might be possible if you knew there were no mistakes and focused on doing what you can in each moment.

The Accuracy of Influence

A couple of days ago I read an article about a pitcher who was changing his mental focus to only what he could control: His mechanics (throwing the ball).

I thought this was interesting. If he is so certain that he can control his mechanics, why would he ever have a problem with them in the first place? Doesn’t he control them?

Was he not able to control them before and now he can? If he controls his pitches now, should we expect that he will never throw an errant pitch from this point forward?

Then today I read an article that suggested I shift my mindset to one of personal control in order to avoid blaming the outside world for the circumstances of my life. I thought this was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough.

Here is why personal control is a broken concept. If I take the concept of control strictly, I must do two things when I make a mistake: 1) Blame myself, and 2) engage in denial, repression, avoidance, and other types of magical thinking in an effort to ignore the obvious: I don’t have control.

I understand self-blame is often viewed as a position of strength and personal responsibility, but it really isn’t. Certainly it’s stronger than blaming others, but it isn’t nearly as strong as an accurate understanding of our limited influence. And this is where control is weak. It stems from a fear of accurately understanding our limits.

The truth is that control is a relatively weak, insecure position relative to influence. Think about it in terms of relationships. Does anyone like being in a relationship with a controlling person? Only people who are feeling weak and insecure in relationships feel the need to try to control. To counter the weak, insecure feeling, they react in an opposite direction by trying to exert control.

The alternative to forcing control is trusting influence. Do you like being in trusting relationships? When we trust, we feel no need to control. We sense that influence is adequate. We simply trust things will work out even if they do not unfold perfectly according to our wishes. With trust comes incredible confidence.

Back to pitching and other actions. Personal influence over one’s body is a type of relationship. Often, it works exactly as intended. For example, the other day I had a physical examination. My blood pressure was the best it’s been in 25 years, and my blood numbers were all better than least year. Thus, my body’s health is working the way I intended in many ways.

Despite my influence over my body, I am acutely and accurately aware of the limits of my control over it. If my body was under my control I’d be much stronger and faster than I am. I’d be a 43 year-old NFL football player, and I wouldn’t have chronic numbness or weakness in my left leg. For that matter, if my body was under my control, I would not have hit numerous slices and hooks the other day at the driving range.

But I don’t control my body. I influence it. When I forget my influence, which is normal, I blame the world for my thoughts, feelings, and imperfect actions. When I overstep my influence and find myself yearning a desire to control, I get confused and frustrated when things don’t work as I intended. When I see my influence accurately, I trust that things have worked out very nicely for me so far and will continue to do so, until they don’t, at which point I will do my best to deal with it.

Unless we live with pathological denial, each person experiences a moment in life when he or she confronts the illusion of control. This moment can be met with horror and panic, or it can be met with trust, confidence, and the knowledge that errant thoughts, feelings, and actions don’t really exist. There are no mistakes. Every effect is perfectly aligned with its causes, and every cause is an effect of something that preceded it. We are constantly moving thoughts, feelings, and actions in a world – and a body – we don’t control but do influence.

When we clutch control too tightly, we may experience a momentary increase in confidence and focus, but we are setting ourselves up for eventual failure. When we understand the limits of control and the accuracy of influence, we set ourselves up for trust, confidence, understanding, and personal power.

Expectations and Responsibilities

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Expectations are goals or thoughts about what should happen.

Sometimes specific expectations can very good. I think most of us can see the value in very clear goals. But other times, the goals we have in mind can serve to disconnect us from the moment at hand and actually hinder performance.

As I’ve noted in relatively recent posts, more and more I am becoming a fan of a range of expectations or even what I call open expectations, which is basically the idea that no matter what happens, I can deal with it. To me, it’s not a version of setting a bar low. Rather, it’s a version of the ultimate confidence, the knowledge that we live mind over matter.

Responsibilities aren’t the same as expectations. Sure, they often flow from expectations, and sometimes I think we label them as expectations, but irrespective of labels, the concepts aren’t the same.

Responsibilities are about what gets done by whom. Responsibilities are about being accountable.

Some recent thoughts and questions have come to mind about expectations and their relationship to responsibilities.

How do you set expectations?

How do you communicate expectations within a family or team? Do you speak about them directly? Do you post them as constant reminders?

Are expectations and responsibilities one in the same for you, or are they different? How do they differ? How does your communication about each differ?

If expectations and responsibilities are different, how do you handle when each is met or missed? For yourself? For others?

I would love it if you’d share some of your thoughts and observations. As you explore these questions, I think you may find some interesting answers about how these concepts get confused, and how you can seek clarity about them.

Influencing Others

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When we understand that mind over matter is not a power struggle we must engage in, that it isn’t a cage fight we have to win in order to be victorious, then we can live with exceptional clarity and strive toward optimistic thoughts and positive feelings without feeling anchored and restrained by the world around us. This is true freedom, and with freedom comes possibility.

But negative thoughts and emotions are completely normal and happen for good reasons. They happen to all of us. They shouldn’t be feared or avoided, and the person feeling them isn’t broken.

If you want to try to change someone’s thoughts or feelings, it pays to remember that you do not have that power. Their mind over matter existence isn’t a power struggle one of you will win by force. It’s a fact of the human condition. They can resist you. The more they are dug into their position, the more they can resist.

Of course, they are not necessarily going to be completely aware of their mind over matter existence at the moment. They may very well blame you for their thoughts and feelings, and if you show them anger, fear, and irritation, they are only going to respond by believing that you caused their anger, fear, and irritation.

All you have the power to do in any situation is provide a reminder. So if you are trying to get someone to understand your point, you need to point in the direction you want them to go. You won’t be able to anger an angry person into a loving state. Only pointing in the direction of love will do that. You wont be able to urge someone into patience. Only showing patience will encourage patience.

I’m not suggesting that everyone go around smiling, whistling, and skipping all day. As I noted above, negative feelings aren’t abnormal, and the less we engage them in battle, the less fuel they will have to burn hotter.

What I am suggesting is that we live mind over matter, but we don’t always remember it. If you want to influence others, you must point in the right direction.