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Gordon Deal interviews Andrew about handing stress, the way the brain works and how to be mentally tough.
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Gordon Deal interviews Andrew about handing stress, the way the brain works and how to be mentally tough.
As a consultant/coach, the biggest issue I deal with when helping an organization or individual is a limiting set of beliefs, not the lack of time management. Not that goals can not be reached, not that success can not be achieved, but not for them, always for others. Maybe some day, they’ll get lucky and their ship will come in. The struggle is “just making it” day to day. This is true of my clients that want to lose weight or get in shape for swimsuit season, or the sales organization with reps struggling to make quotas, or home-based business owners who can’t seem to get any forward traction in building their businesses.
If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to do is to replace that limiting belief with a belief that you not only can reach your goal, but you will blow it out of the water half way to the next benchmark!
“How can I do that, Andrew?”
Glad you asked. It’s actually very simple, but you have to constantly stay on top of the process, which happens in three steps.
1)Thoughts – you must identify every thought which pops into your head. You have to be the “Thought Police” (for yourself, not somebody else…tried it, it doesn’t help them). Set up a border crossing check-point in your mind, like out of a James Bond movie. Post guards, give them a barricade and some machine pistols….and some cool looking uniforms. Check every thought’s passport and visa, if it’s a positive thought, give it entry into the country of your mind. If it’s a negative thought, arrest it, handcuff it, and then deport it. If it keeps trying to sneak back in, just go ahead and shoot it.
2)Imaginations – you must not only let the positive thoughts into your borders, you need to invite them to move in with you. Play them out in a movie clip in your mind. Make it 3D, with a great sound track, awesome special effects, produce an award winning movie….and then watch it over and over and over and over again. Then watch it again and again and again. I discovered this trick a long time ago, when my wife and I had no washer and dryer, we had to go to the laundromat. Yuck!! That’s a bad way to spend a Saturday. So, I produced a movie in my mind that starred a washer and dryer in my house!! I had every detail of that dynamic duo pictured, and the sound track to go with it. The washer would become unbalanced and shake the entire house, I would run upstairs and fix it. I put saw myself putting in the Snuggles fabric softener. I cleaned out the lint filter on the dryer. And most importantly, I didn’t have to spend 3 hours at the Super Suds-n-Spin every week.
3)Belief – after watching that movie clip about you reaching your goal, ad nauseam, a weird thing happens, you actually start to believe it. Then you begin to talk about it. People got tired of me talking about the new washer and dryer I was getting. I think my friends were happier than I was once we finally had them in the house, hooked up and washing away!
Tomorrow, I’ll help you with an easy trick to identify the negative thoughts from the positive one. You won’t want to miss it!
When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
Gilbert K. Chesterton
As we have seen, there are many Mental Toughness tools to pressure proof ourselves. I have saved the most expedient and powerful for last, GRATITUDE. This is the howitzer of all the Mental Toughness pressure proofing weapons. Gratitude provides instant stress reduction.
Be aware, it takes an enormous effort to fire off a salvo from this weapon when you are miserable. If you are stuck in the mode of self-pity, of complaining, whining and moaning about your circumstances, your job, your relationships and life in general, you absolutely will not FEEL like performing a gratitude bombing run on yourself….but being grateful is extremely effective. Being thankful and appreciative of all the good things in your life, is akin to a nuclear strike on stress, pressure, and any heaviness enveloping you.
It’s not enough to NOT complain, to NOT whine, to NOT moan about stuff. To get results, you MUST speak out loud, so your own ears can hear you, language that expresses and acknowledges gratitude. It works even better when other people’s ears can hear you too.
Here is the beginning of my own list:
I am so thankful for indoor plumbing, especially hot running water for a shower, and toilets that flush. (And all the grunts out there said, “AMEN”.) If you ain’t thankful for indoor plumbing, spend a few months out in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other location off the grid. It might be good for bears to go in the woods, but that’s because they don’t know what they are missing.
I am grateful for a warm bed with an actual pillow and mattress. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to lay my head on my gas mask instead of a rock, and to have a poncho liner to cover me up, but the Bed, Bath and Beyond stuff is soooooo much nicer.
I am thankful for food that hasn’t been dehydrated or flash frozen and packed in a tin foil toothpaste tube. I appreciate having a meal, any meal, but especially food that wasn’t processed three years before I was born.
I am grateful for fresh and clean water, the kind that is safe to drink. Thanks to all the water treatment specialists who spend their lives ensuring that I don’t get sick from brushing my teeth in the water that comes out of the faucet. (A standing ovation for toothpaste and toothbrushes too, while I’m thinking of it.)
Garbage pick-up. Thanks to the all the folks who, in any weather conditions, remove the trash from my home and sanctuary.
And I haven’t even started on the really important things like my family, friends, and electricity.
Write your own list and read it out loud. Go NUCLEAR on pressure and stress!
“Humor can alter any situation and help us cope at the very instant we are laughing.”
Here’s an instant fix when the stress and pressure of the moment gets to be too much – laughter. It might sound pedestrian or a little worn, but finding the hilarity in any situation has been one of my greatest pressure proofing weapons. Humor is one of my go to Mental Toughness tools. I love laughing, I love a perspective that finds the funny side of things.
Any professional warrior will tell you the same thing, laughter is a coping mechanism that allows us to perform at our peak when we need it most, under fire. Some of the hardest belly laughs I’ve ever experienced (the kind that feels like you just did 1,000 sit ups and leaves you with tears rolling down your aching cheeks), have been had just prior to a mission or coming off of one. This feat is usually accomplished by some hilarious one-liner ripping into a fellow team member’s idiosyncrasies. The funniest ones are the ones that have been directed at me and pointed out my ludicrousness. What I call my Clark Griswold moments. (Hah! The very mention of Clark Griswold makes me laugh.)
Laughing at myself has the effect of immediately removing the pressure and stress, and frees me up to perform at my peak, because at that point, I’m having fun. Have you ever seen a sporting event where one team is “white knuckling” the game (usually because they have so much to lose, if they don’t win), and the other team is loose and smiling and joking around…i.e. having fun, and just crushing the other side?
In today’s world of high tech, you can instantly find a funny movie clip to artificially inject humor into your circumstances if you are having a hard manufacturing it organically. I’ve already mentioned one of my favorites, National Lampoon’s Vacation movies, with Chevy Chase. Others include, Tommy Boy, with Chris Farley, Meet the Parents, with Ben Stiller, Oh Brother, Where Art Though?, with George Clooney, and on and on.
In the words of Han Solo, “Laugh it up, Fuzz Ball.” ( Oh, that reminds me of Space Balls, with John Candy, there’s another one.)
“Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Yesterday we looked at anticipation in pressure proofing. Preparation goes hand in hand with anticipation. In fact, without preparing for what you anticipate, there is no point in wasting any time or energy “keeping your eyes up” or trying to glimpse that bird’s eye view. Why bother to recognize a collision course if you aren’t going to take evasive action? Unfortunately, the vast majority of folks do this very thing, and then cite “how lucky” the ones who avoided the crash were.
Well, luck, chance, or happenstance favors the ones who are prepared. When I was the lead advance agent for Senator Joe Lieberman’s security detail, my job was to precede him, by two days, to every city in which he travelled. This was especially challenging during the lead up to his presidential run. I had to not only anticipate the scheduled events, any contingencies and all possible threats, but to prepare an action plan, in the event exigencies became realities.
I literally had to learn each city and venue like the back of my hand, or more accurately, like a local native of the area. I remember one trip to a large Midwestern city that was a last minute add on to the Senator’s itinerary. I landed late in the afternoon, the evening prior to his arrival. I never did go to sleep that night. I advanced each of the event venues first, and pushed off the route planning to each site until after midnight. I made arrangements for marked police escorts to lead the way, but what if the escorts were late or didn’t show up, or there was construction along the way, or a wreck? I had to prepare, and the only way to do that was to stay up and learn the routes myself. I spent the grave-yard shift driving the primary routes and multiple alternates.
Sure enough, the next morning, the police escort made a wrong turn. I didn’t follow him, the Senator noticed and asked about it. I reassured him with a calmness that only comes from the confidence of the prepared, and drove to the next stop.
Can you imagine the pressure I would have felt if I hadn’t prepared for that contingency, and just went to sleep instead? My anticipation of such a turn of events led to my preparation, and boy, was I lucky….Not so much. My preparation directly fed into my level of confidence. I had no second guessing, I wasn’t “winging it”, and therefore didn’t need luck.
You don’t need luck either, just some good old fashioned prep work.
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
Yesterday we looked at pressure proofing by raising our level of confidence. Today, I want to focus on anticipation. A large part of reducing stress and inoculating yourself against the kind of pressure that stymies performance, is being able to see ahead and execute. In order to anticipate problems or mere course changes, one must raise their perspective to the 50,000 feet level.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be trained in vehicle dynamics and evasive/protective driving skills. One of the primary axioms of my driving instructors was to “keep your eyes up”. The effective and proficient driver must keep his/her eyes as far into the distance as possible. Taking the long view helps the operator to anticipate problems or mere course changes.
One of the training evolutions I participated in, was in fact, a racing school. The instructors taught us some wild moonshiner-type moves, the kind seen in the movies. They also taught us that during high-speed progressions, if there was a wreck in-progress, to drive into the wreck. At high speeds, when cars collide, they will keep moving beyond the point of impact. In steering to the point of impact, my vehicle would clear the wreck, and make continued evasive/protective action possible.
The same is true for the deer hunter. The rifle must be aimed at where the hunted game is going. Shooting where the game is, instead of anticipating where it’s going to be, makes for an empty freezer.
When you get up out of the weeds and get a bird’s eye view of things, you give yourself an enormous vaccination against pressure and stress. Why? Seeing things in the distance gives you tons of reactionary time, so much so, that you actually become proactive instead of reactive.
Ahhhhh! Pressure free living. (If you think I’m kidding, try anticipating the rush hour commute tomorrow and leave 30 minutes early and watch your stress level melt away.)
“Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Over the course of the next few days, I want to look at pressure proofing ourselves, or answer the question, “How can I be more stress resistant?” Have you ever felt the washing machine effect of getting wiped out by a large wave at the beach? What about in life?
I have experienced both, the physical wave and the stress wave. A large wave, usually brought on by a storm in the distance, can be exhilarating or devastating. In either case the wave is the same, which result it brings depends on you. Have you ever seen those crazy surfers riding 80 foot waves? How can they do that and survive? They have studied waves, how they break, their characteristics, their power and force. The big wave surfer has supreme confidence in his/her own knowledge, skills, and abilities. The big kahuna has enormous respect for the wave and its destructive force, yet has learned how to ride the thundering power, bringing a thrilling experience that can only be understood by those fellow surfers with a comparable level of confidence.
Bringing it to the shore, one of the fastest ways to raise your level of confidence is by knowing what you’re doing. As a Marine grunt, training in firearms, tactics, self-defensive, first aid, and an extremely high fitness level, did wonders for my confidence. In fact, my confidence in my training was the key to pressure proofing myself when under fire.The same holds true during my time as a federal agent. Being responsible for the safety and security of high ranking government officials (i.e. targets), required supreme confidence in being able to handle whatever threat or situation popped up. I didn’t start out with supreme confidence. I spent hours of my own time (beyond the required training), reading, studying, watching footage of assassination attempts, bombings, terrorist attacks, and even natural disaster responses.
Amazingly, when the stress levels go up, and the pressure cooker of crisis starts to spew its scalding steam, I get calmer and my performance actually gets better. Why? Because I know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it….I have supreme confidence in my training, my knowledge, my skills and my abilities.
Go to work and build upon your current confidence level. Start with fitness, then read for professional and personal development. Put the chips down, turn off the TV, and invest some time into pressure proofing yourself by raising your confidence.
Copyright © 2017 Andrew Wittman ·