If you haven’t read my article ALL ABOARD: Now departing Grand Central Station, a new look at Mental Performance, the you might want to hop over and read that first but if not, definitely read it after. These two topics go hand in hand.
I am on the range one day with my good friend Doug Brackmann, PhD, actually PhDx2. Yes, he’s a double doctorate PhD, which means he’s got a ton of education but I respect him because he’s been through it. He’s gone through hell and back in his own way. He’s fought hard and humbled himself in order to understand more about each of us. He’s the furthest thing from a therapist when he says stuff like, “a guy walked into my office the other day and said he’d like to kill himself,” to which he replied, “great! let me show you how!”
You see, Doug get’s it at a level most don’t. He understands that our sense of self, who we are, is made up of stories upon stories trying to make sense of this crazy world we live in every single day. He outlines that it’s not who we are but what we are that enables us to have real power in accomplishing anything we want. Not who, but what. I was intrigued.
We all have an identify we’ve created, a persona, an idea of who a Jeff is or who a Doug is but that identity only lives in our heads. It’s not real. What matters is the what. “We are what we’re doing?” he asked. “Right now, I’m a teacher; I’m teaching you something new and leading you on this experience. I choose to be in what I’m doing, rather than the narrative in my head.” As he explained further I understood that moving from who to what also transitions our perspective and our listening. “If I’m being the best teacher I can be, then I have to be here, right now, connected to you,” he continued. “All that matters is you get what I’m saying and you allow me to guide you through this experience. If I’m stuck in the argument from this morning or thinking about having to make dinner tonight then I’m not here; I’m wrapped up in this idea that I have to be everything to everyone. But, if I just focus on what is happening now, then I’m here and… I’m a teacher.”
Doug had asked me to join him that day in running one of his meditation – shoot events he had been refining over the past year or so. I sat and listened. I watched as people began to understand what he was saying. It started to make sense and sink in. There was an ire calm that came over the group. Almost a sense of relief as you watch people transition from the who to the what. Doug continued and shared that a deeper understanding leads us to the third element of self.
Sometime in the 6th Century the great Buddha realized that we have two systems at constantly at work, sometimes in harmony and sometimes in conflict. The body, which is connected through sensation and the mind, which is connected through thought. As he pondered this interesting dynamic he began to realize that the body was much like an Indian Elephant and the mind, a bunch of monkeys trying to control the elephant with sticks.
Think about January at the gym. Everyone has created these amazing monkeys (with some growing into gorillas) that beat the elephant into submission to go to the gym. “You’re going to do it!” they say. “This time it will stick!” they continue. And off to the gym everyone goes. New plans, full of excitement, motivated, and completely inspired. Then somewhere between four to six weeks the elephant begins to resist. It’s tired. It’s sore. It’s uncomfortable. “I don’t like this,” it says. “This is not normal for us.”
The elephant triggers its best tool, sensation. It sends messages to the brain that creates a new set of monkeys to argue with the others. “Just go tomorrow,” they start. “You’ve been doing so great, you can take a break today,” they continue. And then again and again. Before you know it, all that motivation, inspiration and excitement has faded away. At this point one of two things usually happens. First, you may look for outside sources to help re-motivate you, which, by the way, will not work – or you stop going. You give in to the elephant and return to your familiar pattern of behavior.
So the great Buddha question… which one are you? Are you the monkey’s or are you the elephant? Do you stay in the rattle in your head or do you give way to the elephant.
The answer my friend is both, AND… neither. It’s the neither piece that holds all the power in your ability to perform in ways you never imagined. The neither gives us the power of observation. A chance to observe ourselves and what is going on, free of judgement and strongly grounded in noting but curiosity.
If you stay in the track of “I am one or the other,” or even both, what unfolds is a battle of the systems. Constant chatter, noise and conflict. The monkeys want new, fresh, exciting and the elephant will always want familiar. And… the elephant will always win.
The power comes in curiosity. When you get curious about this constant battle you can begin to see things as they are and as they are not. You begin to rewire the way your brain works and you are able to shift how you perceive things.
In my math equation I use to explain what an Operational Mindset truly is, C3=(Fx x Ex)O, O is the determining factor in performance (C3). You see, the O is Openness and Openness is a calculation of Curiosity, Humility and Imagination. Without O, you only have a one for one exchange. You learn something and that’s it, you experience something and that’s it. When you get curious, it triggers the process that says, maybe you don’t know everything (humility) and imagination gives you the ability to step outside yourself and view what is happening. Without Openness, you wind up in a very fixed, almost rigid state of expectations and you have what I like to refer to as a case of the should’s (it should be this way, you should do this, etc.) But, when you add O to the mix it has a radically compounding effect.
The O is what puts the exponent on your Foundation (F) and your Experience (E). It magnifies things in an unlimited way and enhances your C3(Comfort, Confidence, Creativity), all the components necessary to navigate anything life throws at you.
Take a moment and use the observer, be open to seeing what’s happening now and get curious about it. Just observe, don’t judge. There is no way it should look or it should be. Just be with it as it is and nothing else. If that’s really the case, then what’s next? What needs to be done? What action is there to take? What avenues open up? For now, just play with it a bit…