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 Point of Culture

Culture is a hot topic these days. It seems everyone wants to weigh in on its importance and how you are the average of your five closest friends. I agree, people tend to run in packs, but we certainly do not just end up the average of our five closest friends. So you need not ditch a lifetime friend who is down just to free yourself from his anchor. You cannot actually be buoyed by a new, higher rising friend. Change comes from within, and you have the potential to grow no matter who your friends are. Don’t buy the illusion.

Here is the point of culture: The point. The point of culture is to get as many people as possible constantly pointing in the right direction.

Remember that nothing from the outside controls our thoughts and feelings. We certainly have many consistent reactions that we seem to have conditioned over the years, but if you consider the physics and mechanics deeply, situations do not force us into any particular thought or feeling. There is always a possibility to override our past.

However, we forget this fact. We act as if we are forced into feelings or thoughts by some Jedi Mind Trick. We act as if this or that pissed me off. We believe momentarily that this challenge is too big for me. Each of us have moments when we feel like I can’t take it anymore. They are all illusions. The only Jedi Mind Trick that exists is the one we play on ourselves.

This happens because we don’t control our minds, and we forget things. We have limited capacity to think at any one time, and sometimes we are preoccupied with other thoughts. It’s natural, normal, and not to be fussed over. In those moments when we forget our own influence, it pays to have a culture around us that points in the right direction and reminds us what we consider important.

Being aware of illusions of control is essential in creating and building a culture. If you understand illusions of control, you understand that great cultures can’t be forced. The world of thoughts, emotions, and cultures is different from Newtonian physics. Physics can be forced. Discipline can be enforced. Doors can be shut. Gates can be closed. But these methods do not work in culture-building. Great cultures cannot be forced.

Great cultures evolve from the inside-out. Great cultures are created when members understand that the best they can do is point toward what can be accomplished, and this is no small task. Great cultures point in the direction of the inspiration, motivation, and greatness that already exists inside of us.

Rather than contemplating what rules they can enforce upon one another, individuals in great cultures look toward each other and ask, “What can I do for you? How can I demonstrate what is possible for us? What plays can I make for the team today?”

Great cultures point through writing, speaking, doing, and even silent proximity. Sometimes just being present with someone is enough to communicate volumes about our fundamental connection as living beings. We are not alone. We are powerful. We have purpose. Culture can serve as a reminder of those facts – not by force – but by pointing in that direction.

I don’t mean this as a commercial, but any one of these 3 elements can influence a culture that has slipped into blame, control, limits, and conditions.

Be aware of illusions of control. Nothing outside you controls you, and you are fallible. It’s part of being human. You are unconditionally important, powerful, and influential. Move along now.

Be awake to possibilities. What can you do?

Be alive with action. Do what can to make a play. Then make another play. Get after it with reckless enthusiasm. Point others in the right direction with words, action, and presence. Be a part of a great culture today.

Feeding Your Self(-Talk)

As I more often understood and remembered that my thoughts or feelings are free from external control, it occurred to me that I wanted to change my vocabulary. Or perhaps more to the point, I realized that what I said to myself and others contradicted my messages when I used certain phrases that I have used for the majority of my lifetime.

One of those changes is that I try to remember not to say anything like…

  • that makes me happy,
  • that drives me crazy,
  • this makes me angry.

The word makes implies external control, and that doesn’t exist.

Instead, I try to use phrases like, I am happy about that or I’m upset about that. The word about is the key for my mind (you may have others that seem to work better for you).

This recognizes that the thought/feeling is mine and free from external control. Nothing makes me feel a certain way, but I am free to feel any way about anything.

After that, I try to remember that I don’t truly control my reactions either, so there is no need to cast self-blame and fuel further frustration over a reaction I don’t control. For example, I find many people are not only upset about a situation, they are further upset about being upset. Having too many thoughts and feelings about feelings seems to be quite exhausting, particularly when the thoughts and feelings are negative***.

My reactions are what they are based on a number of factors, some of which I am aware of, some of which I am not. No matter what my reaction, I try to find my influence, which is my can do thought or action that makes the most sense to me.

I like to think of finding my influence as feeding (or fueling) my self-communication, and I try to be as nutritious as possible (with a cheat day thrown in once in a while because, hey, I’m human and imperfect).

If I like my thoughts and feelings, cool. I usually find that I can keep feeding that state with more positive thoughts.

If I don’t like my thoughts or feelings, I try to starve them by replacing them with the understanding that a feeling can’t hurt me or control me (mentally, emotionally, or physically), and I try to keep my composure. Composure and emotional control aren’t the same thing, although I do suspect many people think of them and use them interchangeably (and that’s fine, although I would contend not optimal). True emotional control doesn’t exist as far as I can tell. Composure is keeping a calm, cool demeanor even though you are boiling emotionally. Put yet another way, composure is knowing you have influence and believing you can even when your emotions or the circumstances seem to be pointing to can’t.

The more I trust I am allright and free to change my mind, the quicker the unpleasant thoughts and feelings seem to leave. After remembering that I am free from all types of control, internal and external, I then try to awaken to my own influence. What can I do about this? What thoughts come to mind? If I don’t like this thought or feeling, fine…..can I change my experience in this moment by having a certain thought occur to me?

If a positive thought occurs to me, I try to feed it and see where the feelings go from there. Sometimes the thoughts are familiar to me, and sometimes they are true insights, new and unique ways of seeing the world. In any case, I try to see if I can feed the positive and starve the negative.

Of course, I make mistakes and buy into illusions of control at times, sleep on possibilities, and screw up plays on a daily basis. When I catch myself doing so, I try to starve the negative and feed my self-communication nutritiously again with as much positivity as occurs to me. This cycle repeats as I try to live a life aware, awake, and alive to making plays.

I happen to believe that our self-communication is one way of feeding our thoughts and emotions, so it seems important to feed it nutritiously. Pay attention to your vocabulary and the implications your words point to. I think you will find that your vocabulary points either toward or away from illusions of control, awareness of possibilities, and influence to make plays. Here’s to hoping you frequently find self-talk that feeds a sense of freedom, mental clarity, and personal power.

***Truth be told, I am not a fan of the terms positive and negative. I am using them here because other people are fans of them, and frankly, I can’t come up with anything better at the moment. Please realize that positive and negative are vague terms open to personal interpretation.

An Invitation to Possibility

You can’t make anyone think or feel a certain way, but not everyone you speak to is always aware of that fact. Some people may blame you for their thoughts or feelings. That means that when you encounter someone, they will project their current mindset onto you and your message no matter what you say. Essentially, no matter what direction you point, they will project their current mindset onto it and interpret it through that filter. If the direction you point to or the way you point contains any hint of being upset, it will only provide more fuel for the other person to think in upset ways.

Effective communicators have found that pointing in any outward direction is ineffective. Instead, they perform a type of reflection. They calmly and simply direct the other person back inside their own thoughts.

Simple phrases to help accomplish this reflection include:
“How are you?”
“Give me your thoughts.”

Each of these simple statements has the effect of directing the other person back into his own thoughts. This gives an opportunity to be introspective, and when the focus is internal, possibility opens up.

Why is it that introspection opens up possibility? It’s because being open is very natural and our default setting. We are curious beings and our thoughts are meant to flow. With time, thoughts always flow and change. However, if someone is stuck on the illusion of external control and is actively feeding that illusion, keeping them focused on that illusion will only feed it and keep it alive. It’s better to remove the focus from it through encouraging reflection.

After encouraging reflection – and inevitably finding some type of blame going on – you can then see if you can point to possibility. But try not to point directly. Throw out an invitation for the other person to create their own possibility. Inviting open ended possibility is often received much better than giving specific advice.

Here are some ideas on how to do invite possibility:
“Is there another way to see (the situation described in the person’s own terms)?
“How would ___________ explain the situation?”
“If you ignore it, do you think this problem might look differently tomorrow?”

Opening up to possibility is a relatively simple way to start effective communication, especially if you sense someone is in a very blocked, cluttered mindset. It’s an honorable way to seek to understand before pointing in an uninvited direction, a direction that is likely to be interpreted in an unintended way.

The Way We Point Matters

As I noted yesterday in Leaving It Blank, one problem with communication is that we point in too many directions, or the words we use to point are unclear. Another problem is that we don’t always understand that we often point with various methods. In other words, what we point to matters, and the way we point matters.

For example, when we speak to someone, we point with our words, and we also point with our tone of voice, facial expressions, body posture, and other forms of messages. To be clear, none of what we point to or the way we point makes anyone interpret a message in a certain way, but people are pretty reliable. Communication is possible because certain messages tend to be interpreted in consistent, reliable ways.

A verbal message said in the wrong tone of voice often points in a different direction than the one we intended. If you want to be effective in your communication, it helps to understand the mindset of your audience (seek first to understand), and point in a certain direction as clearly and consistently as possible. This entails considering what your audience can see, hear, feel, smell, taste. You certainly might not use all of these senses, but you might. Consider as many senses as you need to, and communicate accordingly.

Keep in mind that people are often very good at picking up on subtleties in voice, eyes, and body posture/movements. What they think about your complete communication package will create their experience of you, and one of the best ways to make sure you communicate consistently in all possible ways is to communicate from your love, passion, compassion, light, etc. The more you know your basic self, and the simpler your intention, the greater the match between what you point to and the way you point to it.

Leaving It Blank

As you have been reading in my posts (such as Be Aware and It’s a Great Day to be Alive), we can never force another person to think or feel any certain way. Therefore, it is extremely important to be clear with communication that points in a direction others understand for themselves, and because we aren’t always clear in our communication, sometimes what is not communicated is as important as what is communicated.

My friend and colleague Dr. Rob Bell has a great way of communicating this idea. As he explains it, in printing manuscripts, pages are often intentionally left blank for various reasons, including that information may be added at a later time. This is a great concept for human interactions. Sometimes we should leave communication intentionally blank. (You can read his excellent article here http://drrobbell.com/why-coaching-should-be-intentionally-left-blank/. Thanks to Rob for letting me link to it.)

For example, in my coaching, whether as a mental game coach, football coach, or basketball coach, I have learned that I am always best off waiting to speak until I can communicate my ideas clearly. As I progress in my coaching and make certain points over and over, I am constantly trying to refine my words and examples into clearer, more concise versions. I strive to be parsimonious in my communications.

Of course, I am not perfect. I make mistakes, but I reflect on those mistakes and consider how to do it better. This often leads to planning for my next round of coaching, and this leads to personal improvement.

Sometimes, if I know I need to communicate something but am not sure what I need to communicate, I do what I recommended in Pointing in the Right Direction: I ask questions to clarify what my athletes already think/believe/understand. This often helps promote thinking about two things: a) what they know, and b) how they know it. Thus, it’s both review and an opportunity to pause and let insight occur.┬áThis helps me leave blank what does not need to be communicated, and when something does need to be communicated, it typically leads to me pointing in a direction with a clearer, shorter, more easily understood message.

As messengers, when we try to point in a certain direction but do so with a lack of clarity, it is highly likely that receivers will be confused about the message. Obviously, confusion isn’t the goal, so please remember to consider that the art of good communication involves two pathways for the messenger: What is communicated and what is left blank.

Pick ‘Em Up

My college coaches didn’t allow us to practice in silence. We were supposed to be loud with encouragement and communication. When practice fell silent with apathy or self pity, we were sure to hear a certain phrase: “Pick ’em up!”

Pick ’em up was our command to get loud with encouragement and enthusiasm. Of course, the command did not need to be issued by coaches. Players could just as easily sound the command to pick ’em up.

The idea was that when we were silent, we were probably too focused on being down in someway….

  • down on the scoreboard,
  • down on our playing time,
  • down on the weather conditions,
  • down on our conditioning, or
  • down on our selves, coaches, or teammates.

When we shouted encouragement, we were picking each other up. Now, based on what I’ve written lately (see It’s a Great Day to be Alive or Pointing in the Right Direction), you should understand that nobody can actually force another person to increase their own enthusiasm. However, we are reliable beings with working senses, and if someone is shouting encouragement at you, it’s hard to ignore.

It’s also hard to ignore the messages we send ourselves in a loud and clear fashion. If I am yelling, “Come on! Let’s go! We’ve got this!” at you, it’s also hard for me to ignore my own voice, and it tends to feed my own enthusiasm, even if I initially had to fake it.

In yelling encouragement, it is very likely that I will pick up my own enthusiasm, and it’s also likely that anyone hearing me will connect to my enthusiasm. The reason they connect is not because I forced them to be enthusiastic. That’s impossible. What really happens is that I am pointing in a direction that they understand. As with Coach Egnatuk reminding me that it was a great day to be alive, the enthusiasm is in them already, and they simply recognized or remembered it when I pointed it out. Their fire was never out. It was just forgotten momentarily and only needed a reminder to be stoked into a raging blaze.

This is great to know because it means that if we ever feel as if someone else motivated us, the motivation was within us all along. The implication of this is that we never really need anyone else to pick us up. We only need a reminder, and that reminder can come from inside or outside.

When you get many people together on a team who understand this, enthusiasm appears to be contagious, and indeed, some people may describe it that way. One person points in a direction, and two or more people connect to it and follow that direction. It can be an incredible experience.

So when life seems like it is driving on your team and about to score, remember to point in the right direction for your teammates and pick ’em up.

Pointing in the Right Direction

Because external control of another person’s thoughts and feelings doesn’t exist (there is no real Jedi Mind Trick that I am aware of), it pays to think carefully about communicating with other people. Many of us communicate as if we can make another person understand what we are saying. Very often, we try to persuade by force and relentless hammering away at them with what we consider a good point.

I’m raising my hand at this one. I was that guy. I am that guy at times still, and I’m probably an outlier on the side I’d rather not be on. But the more I understand that I can’t make anyone think or feel anything, the more I try to consider another person’s possible perspective, or perhaps more importantly, her likely perspective. While I think I have always been very empathic (being raised by a social worker pointed me in this direction, thanks Mom), I find that this new understanding has taken me to even greater levels of empathy.

When I’m thinking clearly, instead of thinking more about the validity of my point or the holes in the other person’s misunderstanding (misunderstanding here means according to my thinking at the moment), I start thinking about commonalities. What does this person believe? How is what I am pointing to similar to what they already believe? Clearly my approach isn’t working, so what can I point to that will be closer to something that they already understand?

As I start thinking in this way, new questions often occur to me, and it often leads to me asking questions that help clarify the person’s current understanding (as opposed to hammering away with my next good point). The great leadership expert Steven Covey called this first seeking to understand.

Once I have a clearer understanding of the person’s beliefs, I am then usually able to communicate in a way that honors their own current understanding. I am then able to point in a certain direction, one that they are likely to understand.

First seeking to understand so that I may make a better point in a certain direction typically improves my communication in the following ways:

  • Allows my own empathy to rise.
  • Honors the other persons right their own beliefs, opinions, and feelings.
  • Creates a clearer picture of a new path for mutual understanding, one pointed out by me and possibly understood by them.
  • Often leads to me pointing in a direction that helps both of us realize our inherent connection.

Because we do not have external control, all we can do is point in a certain direction. It is up to the other person to see what we see or not, but before they can accept it, they must understand it. This is why it is so important to start from their understanding. Even very disparate ways of seeing the world have commonalities, and these commonalities breed acceptance. Once understood, an idea is accepted only to be later confirmed or rejected long term.

Trying to make someone else accept your point seems a bit like saying, “You will understand my point or be ignorant of it.” All this does is point to my own foolishness. In contrast, it seems that pointing in a certain direction is like saying, “Ok, I think I understand what you see. Now please, look over there. Do you see what I see?” More and more, I am finding that I am capable of the latter, and it has improved my communication.

I hope my pointing in a certain direction about pointing in a certain direction helps you understand communication a bit better. Thinking about pointing in the right direction should help you make a good point (an act of pointing in the right direction for yourself and others) rather than focusing too narrowly on your own point (a position in your own thoughts).