Mental Mechanics: Life is a Game of Chances

“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”

– Mark Twain

Taking chances in life can be scary, period. But, if we ever want to achieve the life we have always dreamed of, we undoubtedly have to take constructive, calculated chances. As you look back on your life to this point, are there times that you wish you’d been a little more daring, a bit more trusting of your abilities, and less cautious in the chances you took? Many of the individuals that I work with say that if they ‘had it all to do over again,’ they would have been more courageous, settled for less, and taken more risks. Many times we know what it is we want, but we still don’t go after it because of the perceived gamble involved. We over-estimate the likelihood of something going wrong and tend to ‘catastrophize’ about what ‘might’ happen, imagining a worst-case scenario. We focus on the potential of loss, more than any potential for gain. The benefits of taking an educated, calculated chance are many. It can: open us up to new challenges and opportunities, require us to learn and grow, empower us to establish new limits in our thinking, give us clear understandings of what we want, and help us break free from our average way of living. Take time today to explore your own situation. How do you approach taking chances? Is there something you have been avoiding, because you were afraid of the potential “What ifs?” involved? How will this avoidance affect your life one year from now? What would you go for, today, if you were to be more courageous? It is necessary to take chances to achieve anything significant in life. You will never know what you are capable of until you try something you’ve never done. Go for it!

Mental Mechanics: A Dream Week

“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

-Jesse Owens

Something special happened to me this week. I fulfilled a childhood dream. I ran onto the field after Game 7 of the World Series; I celebrated with a group of individuals that motivate me every day, I lifted a World Championship trophy in champagne-soaked clothing. I also rode in a victory parade for around 1M people. Not bad for a boy from a town of about 1500 people. This amazing week was the result of a lifetime of having concrete goals, working hard, sticking to it when things get tough, and staying grateful along the way. If you want something, dream big, but make sure you are focusing on each step along the way. On to the next incredible dream…

Mental Mechanics: Embrace the Journey

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.” 

  –     Louis L’Amour

One thing I know for sure is that we all have dreams. We all have an idea of a better life situation and a vision of things we hope to accomplish. Life is full of opportunities, and we are hard-wired to seek them out and try to succeed. We live in a forward-looking, goal-pursuing, results-focused society. We are living in a box-checking culture, one where results are easier to measure and evaluate than the processes we use to get there. It would seem as though the best way to reach a desired result would be to place intense focus it, keep driving toward it and judge progress by how closely we continuously are. While this may get us closer to our outcome, this approach is far from optimal and opens the door for challenges.

One of the biggest challenges we often face is focusing too much on receiving happiness from the outcome, and missing out on the glories that we can experience on the journey. If we focus our attention and effort less on the results and more on the processes and techniques we use to move forward, we will learn faster, become more successful, and be happier with the outcome. Focusing on process will let us fully engage with the present and experience it more completely, which helps us to truly experience life. I love to hike, and I have learned that each time I figure out how to work around a boulder, or climb over a downed tree, it makes it easier to approach the next one. By learning along the way, and focusing fully on the trail itself, it feels that much sweeter to make it to the summit. Take time today to explore a big goal that you are working toward. Are you focusing more on achieving this goal, or on the journey itself? What can you learn from your journey that will allow you to be successful, not just with this goal, but with other areas of your life as well? We have only partial control over whether we reach a specific external goal. However, we have complete control over the processes we use and our reactions to the journey. We are in control of the level of effort we give, the amount of focus we have, and the resilience we show when things get tough. This is your life; make it look the way you think it should. Dream big, work hard and enjoy the many lessons along the way.

Mental Mechanics: Create the Life You Want

“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend A LOT of time dealing with a life you don’t want.”

–  Kevin Ngo

We all want to do, be and have great things. We want a life full of love, success, financial freedom, memorable experiences, and happiness. Yet far too often we simply aren’t creating the results we want. One thing that we, as humans, are really good at is blaming our lack of progress on outside forces.  In actuality, it is simply up to us to create the type of life we want. We all have the ability to make this happen, but we need to understand what it takes, and how to do it. There is not magic formula for success, but there are a number of common practices that the most successful people share. The first is having a clear vision of what your ideal life looks like. Experts support the idea that creating a clear, compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving it. We have all heard success stories that support this. Another important factor in creating the life we want is the ability to focus on what is most important. Life is full of distractions, trying to pull our attention away from what matters most. By keeping the clear vision of what we want, and focusing on the process of getting there, we can learn to minimize those distractors. Learning to live in the present moment will also allow us to keep our focus on what matters most. By always looking ahead, or holding on to what is behind us, we will most likely miss out on current experiences that help us move toward our ideal life. Take time today to explore your own situation. Do you have a clear vision of what your ideal life looks like? Are you focusing on the process of getting there? Do you allow distractions to keep you from reaching your goals? What can you do, today, to help you get to where you want to be tomorrow? Our success in life lies squarely on our shoulders. We definitely need the support of others along the way, but they cannot do it for us. They can help us set up the canvas, and give us input on which colors to use, but we have to paint the picture. Get started on your masterpiece today.

Mental Mechanics: Facing Adversity

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.”  

–  Haruki Murakami

We all face adversity, in one form or another, every day. That is part of the human experience. This “storm” can present itself in any size, from the alarm clock not working; to traffic that makes us late, to a serious illness. In the moment that storm can feel never-ending, and can consume our energy and focus. Trying to avoid it is a wasted venture. It is as much a part of our lives as air, or sunlight. Some days we see more of it than others, but the one guarantee is that we will see it. How we choose to deal with adversity, when it does happen, will determine our levels of success. I have worked with thousands of individuals on managing adversity. I have noticed some commonalities in how the ones who are most successful choose to experience adversities-both big and small. The most successful understand that adversity is a normal part of the journey, and that it does not have to end it. They find ways to manage, or even leverage those moments. As one client said, ‘These past few weeks of rain have been really tough, but I know my garden will grow stronger as a result.’ These individuals also focus on the things they can control, letting go of those things that they can’t. The only thing we can ever really control is ourselves. If we can’t control something that we are facing, we can always control our reaction to it. Take time today to explore your situation. Are you currently facing a “storm” that seems overwhelming? What aspects of it can you control? How can you control your reactions to what is happening? What aspects of this situation can make you better? Be proactive in handling adversity, learn as much as you can from it, and apply those lessons to your life. It can truly be whatever you decide to make it. You will have periods of sunshine, and periods of rain, but you must be willing to keep traveling on this journey no matter the weather.

Mental Mechanics: The Power of Choice

“At any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.”

 –  Abraham Maslow

Many things shape the quality of our lives? One, in particular, gives us the power to change everything, every day? I am a big believer in the power of choice. It is one of the most basic abilities that we possess, as humans, and lies at the very core of everything we do…and don’t do. Even when we can’t control what is coming at us, we can choose to control our response. In any Psychology 101 class, we learn that we do things to either avoid pain or gain pleasure. That is our choice. I’ve had the privilege of working with an incredibly diverse group of people, from professional athletes to leaders of industry, to members of our Military. The one thing that consistently makes them successful is the power of the choices they make. Success is a result of making good choices; good choices are made as a result of experience, in most cases. We must begin looking at both our victories, as well as our defeats, as opportunities to learn. We can use that knowledge to grow. Take time today to explore your own situation. How often do you think about the choices that you have made? Are you currently facing a situation that is demanding a significant choice? What have you experienced in the past that will allow you to make the right decision? How will your life be affected by the choices you could make? What would happen if you chose to remain where you are, and do nothing? No one ever made the winning play, by standing on the sidelines where it is safe. Everything you have ever accomplished has been the result of the choices you have made. Don’t be afraid to move forward toward the life you want.

It is important to remember that taking risks may be a necessary step in actively pursuing personal success. Try reframing your thinking, to view risk as an opportunity to succeed, rather than a path to failure. Your life will ultimately become what you decide to make it. Get a clear picture, create a workable plan, and allow yourself to succeed.

Mental Mechanics: Risk Taking

“Those who won’t take a chance don’t have a chance.” – Zig Ziglar

Risk-taking is scary for most of us because there is always the potential for loss. We’ve been taught to be careful and avoid taking any unnecessary chances in life. Instead, we are often cautioned to ‘play it safe’ and take small steps toward our dreams. The inherent need to feel safe and secure is one of the things that keeps us from taking risks.

We, as humans, like to stick to those things that are familiar and comfortable. While this approach does tend to ‘feel’ safer, there can also some disadvantages. We can’t build momentum by holding ourselves back. The longer we hold back, the harder it will be to move forward. Society teaches us to view risk-taking negatively, creating a sense of danger. Some risks certainly have more consequence than others, and the process should never be approached haphazardly. We should always ask ourselves what the potential negative consequences could be, and make a truly informed decision. We should also list the rewards associated with the risk. What can you gain that will allow you to be a better version of yourself? We generally don’t benefit from taking these chances, without educating ourselves on potential outcomes and preparing for both.

Take time today to explore your own situation. How do you view risk? Have chances presented themselves to you recently that you have been afraid to take? Are you facing a similar situation now? What are the potential downsides? What could you gain by taking this risk? What will ultimately move you toward the life you want?

It is important to remember that taking risks may be a necessary step in actively pursuing personal success. Try reframing your thinking, to view risk as an opportunity to succeed, rather than a path to failure. Your life will ultimately become what you decide to make it. Get a clear picture, create a workable plan, and allow yourself to succeed.