As a kid, I was so fascinated by the notion of mind control. I remember so desperately wanting to do Jedi mind tricks. To be able to wave my hand as if it were some sort of magic wand to get people to do what I wanted. Whether it was my parents not making me mow the lawn or making them buy me a Nintendo—please, for the love of God! (That’s a whole other story… I digress)—I wanted to be able to sway people; I wanted control over their minds.
But the more I got into psychology and the more I understood the brain, the more I realized the only brain that I needed to control was my own. Everything else was a construct of what I believed to be true.
Your brain is lying to you.
Think about it. Your brain is trapped inside a box of bone covered in skin. It never sees the light of day. It never actually encounters sound. It receives electrical and chemical impulses, and from them it paints the best version of reality that you see around you. It’s not a real representation. It’s just a good-enough representation that you can walk around without bumping into things.
Our belief system. The things that hold us back. All of the negativity. The voices in your head that tell you that you can’t do something. It’s you making your best stab at how to get ahead in the world. All of it is a made-up construct.
Recognize that all those things are merely representations that your mind has chosen to give you; they’re not objectively true. Accept that there’s a crack in that door of subjectivity that is within your power to control. Once you recognize and accept that, you begin to realize that you can construct your beliefs around something that serves you.
You’re creating your reality right now. But chances are you’re not being very intentional about the reality that you’re creating. Remember, reality is subjective. If you realize that it’s a construct, if you realize that you are choosing to believe something, then you can choose to believe that you can do something about it.
Write down the beliefs that you have about yourself. On one side, list the things that empower you and move you forward. The things that make you more confident, that give you the courage and the audacity to move forward. On the other side, list the things that demotivate or demean you and move you away from your goals.
Let’s say you want to be a public speaker, but you get nervous every time you’re about to speak. You begin to develop what is known as Pavlovian conditioning, where you convince yourself to associate anxiety with public speaking. But you can interrupt that pattern. Your mind begins to lay down patterns over time. Neurons that fire together wire together. Even something as simple as changing your posture can create a different internal reality.
If you’re slumped over and allow your face to take on a droopy, sad posture, what you feel is very different than if you take an open, confident posture. You will feel a definite change if you hold your face in a very optimistic, upbeat way. Go ahead; try to be angry while laughing. I dare you! It just doesn’t work.
Understanding that all of that stuff is intentionality at play. It’s you choosing what you think. It’s you choosing what you believe. It’s you choosing what you feel. All of that stuff has a material impact on the world around you.
You can choose to believe things that empower you, and you can choose to ignore the things that move you backwards. It’s all a construct.
I eschewed meditation for years. I thought it was the dumbest thing in the world. I tried it and it didn’t make any sense to me until someone explained what I was really doing. I was gaining control over my autonomic nervous system.
So much of our lives happens in the subconscious. The vast majority of the data that your brain processes is done subconsciously. There’s so much neurological activity going on: things that are known, things that are discarded and things that we move toward. And despite the fact that your conscious mind is going to take credit for all of it, it’s actually the last to know.
Being able to take control of the autonomic nervous system through meditation is so powerful. It’s going to allow you to center yourself before giving a speech. It’s going to allow you to calm yourself before taking a test. It’s going to allow you to perform at a higher level.
Even the Navy SEALs teach breathing exercises and meditative practices. When you get into a combat situation and things are flying and moving quickly, it is literally a life or death situation and you have to learn to calm your autonomic nervous system. If you can’t do that, if you can’t lower your rate of breathing, if you can’t calm your heart rate and push the blood back into your prefrontal cortex so that you can quickly make the right decisions, you’re screwed.
So many opportunities arise when the construct that you build in your mind about yourself is one that is powerful. One that gives you confidence. One that propels you forward and makes you courageous enough to act. You can also use the afterglow of meditation to solve the toughest challenges in your life. Then you’ll be able to do what other people think is impossible.
Build a superhighway.
I don’t know about you, but for me it is incredibly exciting and liberating to know that I’m making all of this up. That I’m building this world in real time. The beliefs I have about the world and myself are all things that I have chosen to believe. That I’ve repeated to myself. That those neurons that wire together as I tell myself that story repeatedly become real, and they become a superhighway to something beautiful in my life.
What you choose to build a superhighway to is completely up to you. Your superhighway is going to be built by the thoughts that you think over and over. If you think to yourself:
- I’m stupid.
- I’m dumb.
- I’m lazy.
Those things will become true, even if they didn’t start out being true. On the other hand, if you think to yourself:
- I learn faster.
- I grow more.
- I’m never worried about being right or looking stupid.
- I’m going to figure this out.
- I’m the guy that doesn’t quit.
- I keep going long after everybody else gives up.
Then those neurons will wire together and you will have a superhighway to empowering beliefs.
If you focus on the things in your life that are going wrong, if you focus on the things that are bad, if you focus on the things that make you sad, then you’re going to get more of that. And your life is going to be sad. It’s going to be depressing. You’re going to feel trapped. If you’re not where you want to be in life, you have to focus obsessively on things that you are grateful for.
I’m sure there are things in your life that you’re incredibly grateful for. A mere breeze on your face can be something to stop and be grateful for. If you have somebody that you love, be grateful for that person. If you don’t have somebody that you love but a book that you’re into is really touching you, be grateful for that book. If your leg is broken, focus on the incredible technology of a wheelchair.
Focus on the beautiful things in your life, and all of a sudden, your life will be happier. Remember, your life is ultimately a construct of what you believe. Choose to believe and it will be filled with more beauty.
Make your impact.
Once you realize that you are actively constructing the world around you. That you are painting all of this in your mind. That everything around you is completely subjective. Then you realize that intentionality becomes a critical component.
It all comes down to the things that you choose to believe. It all comes down to the things that you choose to focus on. Focus on things that move you forward. Focus on things that make you feel good. Focus on things that move you toward your goals. Do and believe whatever moves you toward your goals. Don’t do or believe anything that moves you away.