powerful lessons from simple steps

shortly after the Oscars, the following mural appeared on a stretch of La Brea Avenue in LA: 

oh, so cool” i thought.  then…“but it’s not like Di Caprio: crawled out of a dumpster holding a discarded casting call, scored soap at a gas station, showered at the Y, borrowed clothes, auditioned, landed the leading role in “The Revenant,” then won the Oscar.  he’s been successful for ages.”

glass half empty much?  sheesh.

Mr. Brainwash, the street artist behind the mural, shared an inspiring message.  why couldn't i just be happy for an actor who worked for decades and was nominated 5 times before winning?

it was shocking i couldn’t buoy myself to accept the mural’s optimism and inspiration. 

then i saw the following Humans of New York post on my Facebook feed:

“I’m looking to establish a solid relationship with somebody.  But it’s hard for me to imagine it happening.  I’m not a kid anymore.  I don’t have a home.  I don’t have a heck of a lot to offer.  Plus it’s been a long time since I’ve had any sort of relationship, so I’ve kind of lost track of how to deal with all that.  I work at a sales center so I’m surrounded by people all day, elbow-to-elbow.  It’s not so bad then.  But then I go home, fix dinner, and bang—it all shuts off.  That’s when I realize that I’m not in the situation that I want to be in.  And I’m not sure how to get out of it.”  -- Humans of New York, February 29, 2016.

Photo via  Humans of New York .

you don’t have a home?  i thought.  whaaaaa?  i don’t want that!  he looks dehydrated.  please drink some water, sir.  he’s wearing a hat—shouldn’t he be retired

practically in tears—but i don’t want to be elbow-to-elbow—i read the post like a fortune cookie.  immediately, i felt scared i’d become him.  but who says that's true? 

i calmed down and remembered to ask what i consider “the magic question”: what am i choosing to not see right now? 

it’s from Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear.  he suggests asking that question when you “chose worry over introspection, alertness or wisdom.”  (i recommend reading The Gift of Fear.   i do not recommend reading it while home alone.)

anyway, de Becker’s right.  because look at all the aspects i’d failed to consider: my will, my actions, my abiding love for water. 

my mindset was in tatters.  for reasons unclear, i’d fallen into a gnarly trap.  i was against what i didn’t want instead of relentlessly for what i did want. 

fortunately, Three Simple Steps, by Trevor Blake, arrived shortly thereafter.  i’d never heard of him, but he’s a wildly successful entrepreneur.  he founded companies that develop solutions for rare diseases and low side-effect cancer treatments.   

the book is transformative and belongs on the short list of everyone looking to improve his life.  with that in mind, i’m dedicating this week to exploring Blake’s three steps to encourage you to try it.   

step one is all about mentality control.  we must concentrate on what we do want without even acknowledging the other side.  for example, Mother Teresa was not anti-war.  she was pro-peace.   feel the difference?  if we obsess over our opponents, we inadvertently donate energy to them.

it reminds me of when my Quaker school’s (crappy) sports teams competed.  we booed our competitors from the bleachers.  but teachers swooped in and admonished us, requiring us to cheer for our team instead of against the others.  being good kids, we listened.  but if they’d explained this energetic concept, we would’ve been much more enthusiastic

another suggestion is “mapping your mind onto your tongue.”  by this, Blake means planning your response when you’re about to complain.  he uses the example of when a credit card bill arrives for a person who’s in debt.  the guy can choose anger and anxiety.  or, he can think of how he cannot wait to be out of debt and how wisely he’ll spend in the future. 

Blake says to do this mapping with the “same care as if you were drawing directions for someone.”  i love that image, because the map drawn is for you.  @@we head in the direction of our words.@@ 

still, we won’t always get it right.  Blake acknowledges, “you cannot delete a thought, but you can have a better thought.”  at first this might sound scary.  like, “oh, no, i thought about what i don’t want to happen or i imagined something bad.  now what?

relax.  let’s equate thinking negative thoughts to falling down.  what happens when you land on the sidewalk?  do you languish there until further notice?  of course not.  you get up. 

inadvertent negative thinking is the same.  you don’t expunge the slip from your life experience, you amend it and mitigate the damage by moving on. 

replacing negative thoughts with positive images is like replacing every fall with standing up.  it’s about vigilance, not perfection.

tomorrow i’ll explore step two of Blake’s system, which covers stillnessnature, and the “winding staircase.”

how do you monitor your mentality?  tell me in the comments!

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