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Last year, I visited with the management of a struggling team. They showed me their “mental-game manual.” It consisted of forty-nine concepts which players could turn to. All forty-nine of them required the player to do something in order to find peace of mind, avoid slumps, or build resilience. That’s forty-nine external strategies, practices, tools, and techniques. According to the team’s general manager, odds are that at least one of them would work if a player needed help.
It didn’t look that way to me.
In fact, I soon discovered that the manual originally had twelve options, then twenty-four, now forty-nine. And still, personal problems and wayward behavior, on and off the field, were mounting year after year for this team. Clearly, my role was not to add more pages to the current manual. My role, as I saw it, was to create a new (and simpler) manual.
First up, I pointed out the one crucial factor that the team was overlooking: Action steps (forty-nine in this case) are always counterproductive when it comes to finding mental clarity. Why? Because overthinking is the only reason that people experience mental clutter or struggle psychologically. And employing action steps—coping strategies, practices, tools, or techniques—requires people to think more. In other words, unbeknownst to them, the team was actually trying to help players find clarity of mind by giving them more to think about—an extremely common but always faulty methodology in the fields of sports psychology and mental coaching.
Here’s how the conversation went from there:
Me: “What if I create a mental-game program that takes doing or action steps off the table?”
GM: “Is that even possible?”
Me: “Yes. The manual that I’m proposing will merely guide the players in a direction (no prescribed steps), and they’ll each take it from there in their own way. It will contain two reminders only:
- 100 percent of a person’s feelings are coming from his or her thinking.
- This means that, although it often seems otherwise, circumstances—in truth—cannot cause a person to feel a certain way.
“I’ll also provide my contact information, so players can reach out when insights crop up. But that’s it.”
GM: “So, we’re going to strip away all the mental-skill input, training, and mantras and go back to the basics that all people are born with. I get it now. We’ve been putting more on our players’ minds. No wonder they’re struggling.”
Me: “Well said. We can make that statement the introduction to the new manual!”
GM: “Ha, thanks. I’m feeling better myself.”
Me: “Great. That’s what happens when we go back to basics. We stop filling our minds, so they can easily do what they’re designed to do: clear. This allows a better feeling to find us.”
GM: “So simple.”
Never forget: There’s nothing simpler, or more basic, than not looking outside for causes and cures when you struggle. This, and this alone, allows your inborn ability to self-correct to operate without interference or effort.
Why every single one of us have to power to change the world for the better.
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This past weekend, I read the following quote from a former college basketball coach:
“Coaches: Free your athletes up. Think concepts rather than absolutes.”
Whoa. I know this thinking is common, but the relationship between thought and performance actually works the opposite way. Nothing binds human beings up more than concepts. Nothing frees them up more than truths (absolutes). And I mention this today because this distinction is far more important than meets the eye.
A concept is someone’s personal opinion, someone’s idea of right or wrong. A concept does not work the same for everyone. Truth is, well, truth. It has nothing to do with someone’s personal opinion, perspective, or what works for them. It just is and always will be for all of us.
For example, since gravity is a physical truth, it takes the question of what will happen when we drop a heavy object off of our minds. While in the fields of mental performance and psychology, commonly suggested concepts (goal setting, modeling body language, self-talk, growth mindset, NLP, CBT, positive psychology, mindfulness, etc.) create doubt and insecurity because they don’t always deliver the desired outcomes.
Interestingly enough, I’m often faulted for using the word truth in my work. A critic once wrote and asked me: “Can’t you just say that you believe in what you teach? Why must you insist that it’s truth? It’s arrogant.”
I responded: “I’m sorry you feel that way, but the inside-out paradigm that I point toward has nothing to do with me. It’s not a belief or personal opinion. The only thing that human beings can ever feel or experience is their own thinking. This truth is at work 100 percent of the time, and seeing this, like seeing any truth, bolsters security and prevents people from living at the mercy of external events.”
Remember: Everyone conjures up concepts of their own. Everyone has their own personal beliefs. But trying to teach them to others is simply not helpful. Truths, on the other hand, are universal absolutes. They’re already at work within all of us. That’s why they’re so powerful and should be the only thing that mental coaches and psychologists teach. Truths remove doubt or uncertainty. They activate clarity. They cause peace of mind.
Jack Pransky: We would encourage everyone who is running any kind of program applying the 3 Principles understanding to what helps people improve their mental health to use this inventory that measures 3 Principles understanding and those insights into thought recognition and inner health via a clear mind that we were talking about earlier. Along with some other accepted measures of improved mental health we can build up a body of evidence using the same kind of scale that will eventually be able to make a huge difference in people’s lives. I just wanted to throw that in as an encouragement.
Tom Kelly: Absolutely, and if people are not sure what instruments to use because they may vary and probably will vary depending on the population you are training, please feel free to contact me (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). If I think Jack can help I will try to persuade him after I hear from whoever contacts me since he is so busy.
The other thing is if anybody knows of any other people in academia who are involved with the Principles who may be interested in joining with Jack and I and others on doing more research, I can’t tell you how much fun it was to be able to interact with Jack on this and with others. The problem is in order to do this right, in my opinion, at least up to this point, at this point now we have the instruments so somebody who doesn’t even know about the Principles could actually do a study using our instruments. But up until this point, it was necessary to have people who understood the Principles and also had some understanding of research. Those 2 were very important and I’m privileged and I know Jack, Linda Ramus and Judy Sedgeman are too, to be 4 people who have had somewhat decent amount of both of those.
You can find the 3Pi posted on the Three Principles Movies site: http://www.threeprinciplesmovies.com/resources/research/
Avoid being afflicted with Seriousness. It’s debilitating. It brings people down. It hurts. It takes all the fun out of life as long as you have it. It can linger a long time. It can lead to health complications. It’s much worse than the flu.
I talked to a client recently who clearly manifested that he had suffered from Seriousness for more than 40 years. He had the medical and life history to prove it. He cried a lot in the beginning of our session. His story included abusive parents, painful childhood, two abusive marriages; abusive girlfriends; abusive children; violence; deceitful friends — nothing and nobody good. He had just had another in a long history of surgeries and was finding recovery slow and painful. He couldn’t remember ever being happy or carefree. He had been in therapy for 30 of the last 40 years with all kinds of practitioners. But he had never talked to anyone who was a Mental Health mentor before. And he could offer no definition at all of mental health. Asked about it, he gave a definition that involved being marginally functional and able to survive despite mental illnesses. An example of mental health he came up with was being able to get to a doctor’s appointment while having a panic attack, even though the person who had promised to drive him let him down and he had to drive himself.
He didn’t know why he even asked to talk to me because, honestly, no one has ever been able to help. He had also done all sorts of New Age searching and tried all kinds of non-traditional activities. None of that had helped. He was sure he was born to be miserable. So he didn’t want me to feel bad if I couldn’t help him either. Several counselors in his past had refused to see him for follow-up after a couple of sessions; he figured I would do that, too, and he was already mentally prepared to be rejected again. He had no hope and no expectations that anything could or would change.
“Given all that, why haven’t you just killed yourself?” I asked. “What’s the point of going on?”
That slowed his whiny train of thought. “What kind of damn question is that?” he demanded. “Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I just haven’t heard you mention any reason to go on living yet, so I thought I’d ask.”
“Of course I have reasons to go on living!” he snorted.
And here’s how it went from there:
Me: “Great! Glad to hear it! What are they?”
Client: What are what?
Me: What are your reasons to go on living?”
Client: Well, you must know some. I can’t think of them right now.”
Me: Do you have any idea why you can’t think of them?
Client: They’re just not coming to mind.
Me: Why not?
Client: I don’t know.
Me: Do you want to know?
Client: Why? Do you know? How would you know that?
Let me stop here. The reason I’m telling this story is to illustrate that people can’t hear anything new when their minds are racing around the same old track. There’s no point talking to a suffering person about feeling better until they have at least a tiny inclination that they might want to hear you. It took me a long time to learn that. I used to think that just being in a good feeling and talking spiritual truth would lead our clients to change. But after a while, it dawned on me that the most unhappy clients who were mired in misery weren’t even remotely aware of how I was or what I was saying. I might as well have been a lamp in the room. They were just thinking, thinking, thinking of all their problems without a moment’s interruption. So what I’ve learned is, even if it takes most of a session, there’s no use trying to explain to people that you can help them until they get curious enough to pay attention to something other than their insecure thoughts.
This is the crucial thing people who work from the Three Principles know: People can’t be thinking a hundred miles an hour about the negative stuff they’ve always thought about and listen at the same time. But the secret to lightening up is that they are only one thought away — a millisecond away — from thinking differently. We can’t launch right into sharing new ideas until someone becomes curious enough to slow down and wonder. As soon as they do, things can change really quickly because the steady voice of their own wisdom breaks right through the din.
There’s no technique to that. I’m a former newspaper reporter, so I tend naturally to ask questions to get to the deeper point. Other people have other ways of going about it. The way is not the issue. No matter the intervention, it comes to us from wisdom in the moment, with the client, while we are neutrally listening to them. We need to keep listening until we get an insight about where to go with them. This is not burdensome because we don’t take their sad stories seriously and we know that the person is perfectly mentally healthy and has just lost sight of it. They can’t turn in a new direction until they notice that fork in the road. So until they stop high-speed thinking the way they’ve always thought in the direction they’ve always gone, our purpose is to care about them, “see” the health in them, listen to them, and know that the right intervention will come to mind.
The humbling part is that we are all very different and if you put the same client in the room with 50 different 3 Principles practitioners, the conversation would go 50 different ways. The common thread would be that the practitioner listened and had the faith to keep listening until his/her own wisdom revealed a direction. Anything we do and say from wisdom will work out. And once clients are turning towards their own health, instead of reviewing the history of their distress and their problems, they will start to change, and all we have to do is foster, nurture, and encourage that change.
The most fascinating part, to me, is that almost always, I am inspired to do something that causes the client to lighten up, that breaks the chain of Seriousness. Wisdom takes us towards lightheartedness. Thinking back over years and years of working with people, I realize that the best moments came when the client could laugh at something they had cried over only moments ago.
In the case of the client story I mentioned here, by the end of that first session, the client was laughing at the fact that he was supposed to keep his feet propped up when he sat down and had totally forgotten, and he could still stand up.
“Look at that!” he said, when he stood up at the end of our meeting. “I just stood up without my cane, and I hadn’t even propped my feet up while we were meeting. I must be getting better. Or something.” Then he laughed, “I suppose you would tell me it’s because I’m not thinking about how sick I am right now.”
Yup. That would be a great reason to go on living. Imagine all the things you can think about that you’ve never thought about before!
How to feel grateful even when you hate your life… with Tammy Furey Apple: Click here to listen on iTunes now Android: Click here to listen on Stitcher now Subscribe to The Born Happy Show Don’t miss out… there’s fresh episode each week, if you subscribe then you’ll get each new episode delivered to your phone every Thursday […]