What disempowering beliefs have you downloaded?

imagesOur beliefs influence our thinking.  Our thinking influences our feelings.  Our feelings influence our actions or behaviors.

Simply put, everything we say or do is rooted in what we believe, about ourselves and the world around us.  Therefore, in order to create lasting change, we must practice the skill of self-awareness and assess the effectiveness of our belief systems.  

Where do our beliefs come from?  While there isn’t a single answer to this question, I want to highlight one source which can have a devastating effect on the choices we make.  I refer to it as OPO’s (Other People’s Opinions).

From the time you were a child, you’ve received, directly or indirectly, countless opinions of others.   These opinions fall into two distinct categories: disempowering or empowering.   Whether it was a friend in elementary school who mocked you for fumbling the ball at recess (disempowering) or a teacher who professed her complete confidence in your ability to pass a Math test (empowering), each of these opinions has the potential to shape your beliefs.

Here’s how it works.  Imagine an OPO as a piece of computer software that can be downloaded into your mind.  If it’s downloaded, it changes your operating system (beliefs).  If you choose not to download it, your operating system remains the same.  Herein lies the power of self-awareness. 

Let me give you an example.

Joe is a fourth grade student whose self-confidence is fairly stable.  One day on the playground he is in the midst of a highly competitive football game with his classmates.  With a chance to win the game just as the bell rings, Joe lets a perfect pass slip through his hands.  While some of his teammates immediately console him, he hears a voice in the distance say, “Joe, you never do anything right.”  When he looks to see who uttered these words, he notices that it’s his friend Kyle, whom he was very close with.  Joe walks back to the classroom, his head held low and his mind racing with negativity.  Over the next several days, Joe refrains from playing football as his internal dialogue continues to replay the words, “You never do anything right.”

It’s clear that Joe downloaded the disempowering OPO software that his friend Kyle had offered him.  Without proper self-awareness and the ability to choose whether or not he would accept these words as the truth, Joe’s belief system was altered and his self-confidence was diminished. 

Just as you can uninstall computer software programs on your computer, so too can you uninstall disempowering beliefs that are the result of OPO’s.  Let’s face it; each of us has programs that we’ve downloaded that aren’t serving us well.  For me, I spent years holding on to the belief that “I’m not good enough” and it kept me safely in my comfort zone for many years.  Only when I was able to uninstall this program and replace it with a more empowering belief did I start to realize more freedom and joy in my life. 

Here are some real life examples of OPO’s that could have greatly altered various lives.  However, because these individuals chose not the download the disempowering beliefs, the rest is history.

“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”

OPO of Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the audion tube and father of radio, on Feb. 25, 1967.

“We don’t like their sound.  Groups of guitars are on the way out.”

OPO of Decca Records rejecting the Beatles in 1962.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

OPO of Charles H. Duell, US Commisioner of Patents, in 1899.

“You lack imagination and have no original ideas.”

OPO of a newspaper editor informing Walt Disney that he was fired from the newspaper.  Date unknown. 

I invite you to consider the beliefs you’re holding onto that are a result of what someone else has told you.  Remember, you’re beliefs influence your thinking.  Your thinking influences your feelings.  Your feelings influence your behavior.

If you’d like to learn more about the process of self-awareness, I invite you to watch a webinar I presented last week as part of Vitality-EQ Week, sponsored by Six Seconds.  Click here to watch.    

How will we ever know?

11014613_10206217169216248_8778284221702303453_nThis past weekend, the Ahwatukee Foothills News, a local Phoenix newspaper, published one of my articles in their Sunday edition.  In a bit of irony, the story of Ryan Grioux (whose deadly rampage in Mesa, Arizona was breaking news throughout the country) was right next to mine.

In order to appreciate this irony, let me take you back in time a little. 

Flashback to 1999 and I had just finished presenting my leadership thesis, which served as the culmination of my master’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.  Not surprisingly, my thesis outlined the need for quality character education programs in all schools.  With the Columbine shootings still fresh in everyone’s minds, I made the argument that perhaps a quality character education program could have prevented something like this from happening. 

Feeling confident that my message had landed, I walked proudly back to my seat where my professor’s critique was waiting for me.  The reviews were positive for the most part, but it’s her final comment that has remained etched in my memory forever.    

“I enjoyed your presentation, but I don’t think that a character education program is going to make much of a difference with regard to preventing catastrophes such as this.”

Still reeling from the adrenaline rush of finishing the most important presentation I had ever made, my peace and contentment suddenly shifted to extreme frustration.  While I don’t recall the actual thoughts that went through my head, I do remember asking, “How will we ever know?”

Fast forward back to today and while that single comment could’ve very easily deflated my passion for character development, I chose to use it as fuel to move in a direction of positive change.  You see, I don’t know for certain whether or not my content will prevent students from following the path Ryan Grioux chose, but here’s what I do know.

The skills of self-awareness and self-management are tools that, when used effectively, can literally change the trajectory of someone’s life. 

Call me naïve, but would Ryan Grioux’s life path look different had he received these skills at an early age?  I don’t claim to know all of the factors that contributed to his horrific choice, but it’s clear that his thoughts were destructive in nature.  These negative thought patterns didn’t happen overnight.  They’ve likely been marinating in his mind for years.  I can’t help but look at the students I work with today and wonder which of them are beginning to plant seeds of thought that could perhaps manifest in the same destructive patterns. 

Whatever is repressed gets expressed. 

Unfortunately, talking about emotions and feelings is somewhat of a taboo topic for most people.  We are conditioned to believe that we must maintain a certain level of toughness or bravado (boys especially).  Therefore, expressing our emotions greatly compromises this tough image.  What happens when you open a can of soda after shaking it?  It explodes. Well, the same is true for our emotions.  Each time we repress an emotion, it’s as if we are shaking the can of emotions.  Without proper emotional management techniques, it’s only a matter of time before the repressed emotions are expressed, often in ways that we regret. 

The only way to remove darkness is by shining a light. 

The media has a tendency to highlight all of the darkness in the world, which promotes increased levels of fear and anxiety in the minds of those watching.  This often leads to people talking about problems, instead of looking for solutions.  I believe that the best way to change other people is by changing ourselves.  You see, if we continue to shine our lights on the world, we have the potential to remove the darkness not by force, but by influence.   

I will never know for certain if my teachings will prevent horrific human behaviors in the future, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying.

Please don’t let it stop you, either.  Keep shining your light. 

Trust adds speed to your relationships.

imagesWhy is it that we’re able to authentically share with certain people in our lives, yet with others we’re very guarded when it comes to when and how we share?  Conversely, why do we listen to some through a filter of skepticism or doubt, yet with others we absorb every word they say? 

The answer to both of these questions is quite simple.  It’s called TRUST.     

Similar to the speedometer of a vehicle, our internal trustometer measures the level of trust we have for others.  The trustometer serves as a foundation for all of our relationships and greatly affects the choices we make.  For example, if I have a low trustometer with a friend or colleague, I may carefully consider what I can tell this person, or what I can do around this person.  Conversely, if my trustometer is high, I’m able to express myself authentically.  In a sense, a high level of trust tends to add a great deal of speed to our communication.   

Through our behaviors, we have the ability to either accelerate or decelerate the trustometer in each of our relationships.  Remember, trust is built the old fashioned way, by earning it.  Don’t bother asking for it.   

Here are 6 things you can do to accelerate your trustometer.     

Honor your word

Perhaps the most important quality of a strong relationship is integrity.  Simply put, if we do the things we said we would do, the level of trust naturally rises.  I’m not just talking about showing up on time for a lunch date; I’m also referring to the inherent commitments we make in all relationships.  For example, a commitment that every student makes to a teacher, with regard to homework, is to have it done on time.  It’s not something that has to be “promised” each day.  However, when this commitment is broken (on a consistent basis), the level of integrity greatly suffers and the teacher’s trustometer for that student is low.  I’ve always said that teachers don’t make decisions based on who they like or don’t like, it’s always based on the level of trust they have for a particular student.  This could also apply to the decisions parents make with regard to their children.  It’s not about fairness, it’s about trust. 

Be honest

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Even though it may hurt at times, being brutally honest in a relationship is absolutely critical to achieving increased trust. 

Listen

There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth.  If you think about the high trust relationships you have today, I would bet that these individuals express a genuine interest in understanding you.  The only way to understand another person is to put aside our own personal agenda and/or judgments, and simply listen.  By listening to others, we are essentially conveying the message that we value who they are. 

Express genuine gratitude

There’s a quote that says, “If you have gratitude for someone and fail to express it, it’s like wrapping a gift and never giving it.”  This is an awesome reminder of the power of gratitude.  I used the word genuine for a reason.  Sometimes people express gratitude as a means of manipulation, to get something they want.  Genuine gratitude comes purely from the heart and expects nothing in return.  Start right now by thanking the people in your life who influence you. 

Own your mistakes

We ALL make mistakes and will continue to make mistakes.  However, it’s fairly easy to deny, blame, or make excuses following the mistake.  It’s one thing to use these tactics with yourself, but when they are used in relationships, the effect on the level of trust is tremendous.  Each time you deny, blame, or make an excuse, you are essentially telling the other person, “I am not willing to accept responsibility for my actions.”   

Be loyal

As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing more devastating to a trustometer than gossip.  What we sometimes fail to realize is that when we choose to gossip, we are essentially telling the person we are speaking to, “It’s highly likely that I will gossip about you when you’re not around.”  Simply put, it’s hard to trust someone who gossips.   

If you’d like to learn more about the trustometer, or emotional intelligence in general, I invite you tune in tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 pm (PST) for my FREE webinar.  I was chosen as one of 70 emotional intelligence experts from around the world to present as part of Vitality – EQ Week, a worldwide forum for promoting the power of EQ.   

Click here to register for this FREE webinar.  You can also register for the “recording only” version, which will be sent directly to your email following the webinar.  Thanks for your support.     

I encourage you to get lost.

untitledWhat would you say if I told you that one of the keys to increasing your EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is to get lost?  Kind of a crazy thought, right?        

I’m not talking about being air lifted into the middle of the Amazon Rainforest and searching for a way out.  That actually may hinder your emotional intelligence.  The lost I’m referring to is the ability to get lost in all of the things you don’t know you don’t know. 

Are you confused yet?  Don’t worry, it will all make sense. 

Imagine three columns on a piece of paper, labeled as follows…

1) I know      2) I know I don’t know     3) I don’t know that I don’t know 

If I asked you to fill in the first two columns, it would probably be a fairly easy task.  In the first column (IK), you might begin to list all of the content knowledge you can remember from school (i.e. I know how to multiply numbers).  In the second column (IKIDK), you would likely list things that you obviously don’t know (i.e. I know I don’t know how to do brain surgery).  The third column (IDKTIDK) would probably leave you feeling very confused.  In fact, you might even say to yourself, “What is this guy talking about?”

Let me explain it to you.        

In order for any knowledge (or skill) to appear in the first column, we must go through four critical stages of learning.  With regard to emotional intelligence, this journey requires us to look inward so that we may ultimately uncover self-knowledge.       

Stage 1 – I’m not even aware that emotional intelligence is a skill that I have access to. (IDKTIDK)  

Before I began my emotional intelligence journey, I just assumed that I was an unhappy person.  I maintained a fixed mindset with regard to personal growth and often used the words “That’s just the way that I am.”

What I failed to realize is that it wasn’t my personality that was preventing me from achieving happiness; it was my lack of self-awareness.  It was a “blind spot” in my life.  Just as we have blind spots when we are driving our cars, they are also present as we drive our lives.  We just have to look for them. 

Stage 2 – I’m now aware of emotional intelligence, but I clearly don’t know how to demonstrate it. (IKIDK)

This is the lost stage of the journey.   While you might think of being lost as a bad thing, with regard to emotional intelligence, it’s actually the beginning of great things to come. 

I can remember taking a personal development class with my wife almost ten years ago and feeling really confronted by the information I was hearing.  As a teacher, I had prided myself on all of the knowledge I possessed and was able to share with my students (see column 1 above).  However, what I was clearly lacking was self-knowledge, which is precisely what they were uncovering in this class. 

As the presenters continued to introduce ideas that were brand new to me (i.e. the power of subconscious thinking), I shifted from a feeling of overwhelm to a feeling of peace as I realized that my blind spots were now in full view.

Stage 3 – I practice emotional intelligence, but it requires a lot of effort and focus. (IK)      

This is the stage where a lot of people tend to give up.  They revert back to old ways of being because the amount of effort and focus required to develop this skill is just too much. 

Think about the hours of practice that professional athletes log throughout their athletic journey.  While they may possess a certain God-given skill, practice allows them to hone the skill so that they do it automatically in a game situation.  The same is true in the game of life. 

Stage 4 – I’m not even aware of the fact that I’m practicing emotional intelligence, but I am. (IK)

The first three stages are what I call the skill-building phase, where we learn to use the tools.  In Stage 4, the tools begin to use us.  It’s similar to a habit in that once we do something (or think something) a certain number of times, it operates on auto-pilot or cruise control.  The focus and effort that are critical in Stage 3, end up paying off in Stage 4 as it literally becomes a part of who we are.

If you are curious about emotional intelligence and would like to uncover some of your blind spots, I have a wonderful opportunity for you.  On Wednesday, March 18 at 4:00 pm (PST), I will be hosting a webinar as part of Vitality: 4th Annual EQ Conference.  In it, I will share several of the core competencies that make up EQ and how you can use them to move through the above stages of learning.

Click here to register for this FREE webinar. 

Parents, are you playing a game of Whac-A-Mole?

imagesIf you’re a parent, then suffice it to say you’re well aware of the many challenges that may arise along your parenting journey.  Whether it’s potty training your 2 year-old or respect training your teenager, challenges are inevitable.  

I once heard someone compare parenting to a game of Whac-A-Mole (see pic above).  Just when you think you’ve got one mole (challenge) under control, up pops another one.  Can you relate?     

Unfortunately, in our quest to manage the moles, we often fail to assess the effectiveness of our parenting.  It’s easy to fall into parenting patterns that are simply a manifestation of the way we were raised, which are sometimes ineffective.  

As you know, change is never easy.  However, in the case of parenting, effective change can literally change the trajectory of your child’s life.  

I invite you to begin this change process by looking at my TOP 4 parenting tips, and considering how you might make them a reality in your home.   

The best way to parent is from the inside-out.  

One of the foundational concepts I teach is the power of the ripple effect.  Simply put, everything we say or do creates an invisible ripple for the people around us.  Your child is influenced each and every day by the choices you make.  Therefore, it’s important that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, “What areas of my life do I need to change so that I can begin to create a more positive ripple for my child?”  One of the prerequisites for change is your ability to be vulnerable.  To learn more about vulnerability, click here.   

We all see life through various lenses, including your child.  Helping them to see life through a different lens, when appropriate, is a critical component of their personal development.

Unfortunately, the default lens for many is the powerless lens.  Essentially, we give our power away to other people and things as a result of our complaining or blaming.  For example, when your child complains about their bedtime or the amount of homework they have, it’s important for them to realize that they are trying to control something that is out of their control.  For more information on how to change your lens, click here.

It’s important to validate your child’s emotions.

As a parent, it’s easy to look at our children and wonder why they are thinking or feeling a certain way, which typically comes from a place of judgment, not empathy.  Rather than questioning why your child is feeling angry or upset, simply validate it by saying, “I can tell that you’re angry about this.”  This statement alone will let them know that you care about their feelings and they will be more likely to open up to you in the future.  To learn more about empathic listening, click here.  

Make gratitude a daily practice.

There are countless scientific studies which have proven that gratitude and happiness are directly proportionate.  In other words, the more time we spend in gratitude, the happier we become.  Make it a daily practice to share gratitude with each other.  Whether it’s at the dinner table or in the car on the way to school, modeling gratitude for your child is tremendously powerful.  To learn more about the power of gratitude, click here.     

Please know that attempting to be a perfect parent is akin to chasing the wind.  We are all going to make mistakes on this journey.  In fact, it’s often the mistakes that guide us in a new, more effective direction.  I encourage you to constantly seek opportunities to add to your arsenal of parenting tools and strategies.    

If you’d like to learn more about my parenting workshops, please email me at mike@kaleidoeye.com.    

When you fuel your passion, your paycheck will grow.

photoWhat is the most common question recent college graduates ask each other, after starting their first real world jobs?

While I don’t have a specific answer, I can’t imagine the questions have changed much since the time I graduated 20 years ago.   

It was the fall of 1994 and I was just a few months removed from the pinnacle of my educational journey; college graduation.  Football season was starting and I was excited to attend my first game as an alumnus, eager to reconnect with several of my classmates.  As the tailgating festivities ensued, I couldn’t help but notice the nature of our conversations.  In years prior, we would talk about various classes we were taking, future Spring Break trips, or cute girls who caught our eye.  On this day, however, the conversation was dominated by two questions.

Where are you working? 

How much are you making?

The first question was almost obligatory as it served as a natural segue way into the all-important money question. 

As a recent hire with a rental car company as a management trainee, I found myself on the low end in comparison to other salaries.  I knew in my heart that I wasn’t defined by a salary, but my head (or should I say my ego) informed me otherwise.  In that moment, I let my ego win and I set out on a journey to fuel my paycheck, not my passion.  I had a tremendous passion for teaching and coaching, but I suppressed it in order to achieve salary rank amongst my classmates.  After all, those who were making the most money, seemed to be the most happy. 

Fast forward 20 years and after spending the early part of my professional journey chasing a paycheck, I’m grateful that I finally listened to the wisdom of my heart and eventually followed my passion. 

Below are three of the most important messages I would share with any recent (or soon to be) college graduate regarding their future.

More money does not equal more happiness. 

Despite all of the images you see in the media (fancy cars, luxurious homes, lavish vacations), none of these guarantee happiness.  Your ego will tell you that you need to find the highest paying job in order to be happy.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  As one Princeton study points out, beyond a certain salary (approximately $75,000), which gives you the financial means to meet your basic needs, there is no correlation between money and happiness.  The fact is, happiness has more to do with the quality of your relationships than it does the size of your paycheck.  Sure the fancy cars and luxurious homes will provide you with temporary happiness, which can only be replaced with the next best thing, but is that the kind of happiness you want?

Fuel your passion.

Your passions are gifts from God, so fuel them.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to move away from your gifts and follow whatever is trendy or hip.  Instead of doing what everyone else is doing, identify a problem in the world that is near to your heart and decide how you can use your passion to create a solution.  You may need to start this journey with a position that pays a very meager salary, but take solace in knowing that when you fuel your passion, your paycheck will grow.    

Invest in yourself. 

While I’m certain you gained a tremendous amount of knowledge over the past several years, which contributed greatly to your academic development, I encourage you to invest in self-development.  I’m guessing that you didn’t spend a whole lot of time in your college classes learning about emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, or empathic listening.  These are just a few of the “soft skills” that will give you an edge in any work environment.  You can have all of the knowledge in the world, but what employers really want is someone who can manage themselves.

At the end of your life, it won’t be a balance sheet that will consume your thoughts.  You will likely reflect on the relationships you developed, the value you added to others, and the contribution you made to the world. 

I believe in you. 

Good vs. Great

untitledHave you ever considered how much you use the word good in your daily conversations?  What does it really mean, anyway? 

Think about the last time someone asked you how your day was.  What was your response?  Did you happen to use the word good, by chance?

Think about the last time you dropped off your kids at school.  What were the last words you said to them as they left the car?  Did you happen to say, “Have a good day.”

When I work with any group of students, the very first question I ask is, “How is everyone doing?”  As you can probably guess, their answer is almost always one word – good.  Even more, it’s often said in a very monotone voice.    

It’s safe to say that you’ve frequently used the word good, perhaps without even knowing it. 

I want to make it very clear that my intention with this blog is not to be the word police.  I’m not interested in telling you what words must be a part of your vocabulary.  That is ultimately your choice.  I do, however, want to heighten your awareness with regard to the tremendous power of our words.

Do me a favor and say the word good out loud several times.  As you do this, I want you to recognize the energy you feel as you say it.  On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most energetic and 1 being almost apathetic, how would you rate your energy?

Now I want you to say the word great out loud several times.  Again notice the energy you feel as you say the word.  How did you rate your energy this time?

I’m guessing that your second number was higher.  Am I right? 

Let’s examine why this is the case.  Every emotion word in the English language, of which there are close to 3,000, carries with it a certain amount of energy.  Some words such as hate, anger, or frustration evoke negative energy.  Other words such as loving, joyful, and optimistic evoke positive energy.  Then there are words like content or relaxed which can be neutral in nature.  Depending on the tone of our voice when we say the words, the level of energy can be amplified. 

What kind of energy does the word good invoke?  I would say that it’s neutral.  

A central theme in my teachings is that the lens through which we view the world will greatly affect the quality of our lives.  These lenses are made up of words, which ultimately shape our thoughts.  Our thoughts influence our feelings, and our feelings influence our actions.  Simply put, everything begins with the words we choose. 

Let’s apply this to a practical setting.  Every day, millions of parents drop their kids off at school.  Whether they walk them to the gate or say their goodbyes from the car, the standard parting words are “Have a good day.”   

Considering the word good contains neutral energy, I’d like to share some other alternatives that will leave your child feeling much more empowered and full of positive energy.

Shine your light today.

I overheard my wife saying this to our 7 year-old as she left the house a few weeks ago, which actually prompted this blog. 

Not only does this statement use the words like shine and light, which both evoke positive energy, it also empowers the child to play an active role in their day.  It reaffirms to them that who they are (their light) greatly influences others.

Make it a fabulous day.

Aside from the word fabulous, which is much more meaningful than good, this statement implies that it’s ultimately the child’s choice as to whether or not the day will be fabulous or not.  It puts them in the driver’s seat of their day.  Regardless of whether or not the circumstances of the day turn out the way they’d like them to, the way they see the day (their lens) is entirely within their control. 

Choose happiness today.    

Similar to the first statement, these words imply that happiness is a choice, not a destination.  Let’s face it, every parent wants their child to be happy.  However, we often support the notion of happiness as a destination by giving them frequent rewards for things like grades or behavior.  These rewards can serve as a destination in a child’s mind, which leaves happiness as something they have to get, rather than create.

By my calculations, every parent will send their child(ren) off to school approximately 180 times a year.  That’s 180 opportunities for you to plant seeds of positivity and optimism in their minds as they begin their day.  I challenge you to reconsider the words you use. 

Have a good day. 

Oh wait, I mean, MAKE it a FABULOUS day and remember to SHINE your LIGHT, all the while recognizing that HAPPINESS really is a CHOICE.      

Deflated footballs or inflated egos?

photoAre deflated footballs in the NFL really the problem? 

While the mass media’s answer is an obvious yes, I’d like to share a much different perspective; one that has nothing to do with footballs and everything to do with egos.   

Regardless of whether or not you’re a football fan, it’s hard to escape the incredible hype that surrounds the Super Bowl.  As an Arizona resident, Super Bowl hysteria was recently at an all-time high, given the fact that this year’s game was played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.  Aside from non-stop coverage of the numerous events leading up to the game, perhaps the biggest story was whether or not the New England Patriots had violated league rules by deflating several game balls used in the AFC Championship game, thus giving them an unfair advantage.  Every major network dedicated a considerable amount of air time to what they collectively referred to as Deflategate. 

As I watched some of the coverage, which quite frankly was comical at times, I thought to myself, “Perhaps the NFL should be more concerned with deflating players’ egos than they are with deflated footballs.” 

As is often the case, it’s easy for organizations like the NFL to address behaviors (i.e. cheating) by attempting to fix them with various measures of punishment.  Unfortunately, the results of this symptoms-based approach are often short term.  It’s similar to chopping off a weed in your yard, only to see the weed grow again in just a few short weeks.  In the case of cheating, or any other unacceptable behavior for that matter, the weed is the behavior.  What then is the root of this behavior?  I would argue that one of the biggest culprits is the over inflated egos of the players. 

If we’re going to address the problem of overinflated egos in the NFL, the first question to ask is, “What (or who) is contributing to it?”  While some would say it’s the exorbitant amount of money these players receive, I think it goes much deeper than that.  In fact, I think it goes all the way back to when these players were in high school.  That’s where the real ego inflation begins to ramp up. 

Below are three cause-based approaches, each of which are a part of my Lenses of Leadership program, that every young athlete deserves to know and understand.

We need to teach high school football players what commitment really means. 

Each year, thousands of high school players throughout the country declare what’s called a “verbal commitment” to play for a particular college.  Ironically, it’s not really a commitment in the true sense of the word, because in many cases players change their minds when it comes to the day they officially commit.  This is referred to as a flip.          

When I teach students what it really means to commit, I always use the following definition -Commitment is doing what you said you would do, long after the feeling you had when you said it is gone.  In other words, a true commitment is honoring your word.  Sadly, college recruiters take full advantage of the soft nature of a verbal commitment and continue to lure players into believing that they should play for them.

How can we teach commitment, you might ask?  Well, if emotions have a tendency to distract athletes from honoring a commitment, then we teach them emotional management.    

We need to teach high school football players that they aren’t just taking their talents to college.  They are also taking their character. 

National Signing Day, which is the day that the players officially commit, is more like a dog and pony show than it is a signing day.  With cameras in their faces and college football fans waiting on the edge of their seats to hear an announcement, players sit near a podium and stare down a handful of hats, which represent the schools that are still alive in the recruiting process.  After selecting a hat, family and friends in the audience let out a collective roar and what comes next is proof of an inflated ego – “I’ve decided to take my talents to…”

You see, throughout their entire high school football career, the spotlight is not on their character, but rather on their talents.  Just as a classroom teacher would assign a grade for a student, which measures academic ability, recruiting experts assign a grade for every player, which measures talent.  Those players with the highest grades have their faces (and highlight tapes) plastered on numerous recruiting sites and their talents are front and center in the media.

For each of these young men, football will eventually come to an end.  When this time comes, it will be their character, not their athletic ability, that will serve them well in a future beyond football.

How can we teach character, you might ask?  Well, if character is ultimately rooted in our thoughts, then we teach them thought management.      

We need to teach high school football players about the power of humility. 

I’ve written in the past about Russell Wilson and the beautiful example he sets for younger players.  True to form, following perhaps the most painful moment of his NFL career, an interception to seal his team’s fate in the Super Bowl, Russell Wilson jogged off the field with his head held high.  He owned his mistake and praised God for another opportunity to return to the Super Bowl.  The previous year he had won with dignity, this year he lost with humility.

I’m not sure what Russell Wilson’s high school signing looked like, but I can imagine that it would look something like this.  No hats, no cameras, no entourage, just an announcement – “It is an honor and a privilege to receive my education and play college football for (fill in the blank).” 

How can we teach humility, you might ask?  Well, if humility is defined as maintaining a modest view of one’s own importance, then we teach them the value of team.    

Deflated footballs in the NFL are nothing more than a symptom.  If we continue to mask the symptoms, they will always rear their ugly head.  If we begin to address the cause, however, the symptoms will eventually disappear.   

I’d love to know your thoughts.  What measures are you taking as a parent, teacher, or coach to ensure that character development is a critical component of one’s athletic journey? 

Measuring stick vs. Mirror

untitledLast week I wrote about the dangers of comparison and the relative ease of falling into the comparison trap.  The result is a wild ride on the emotional roller coaster.     

In this week’s blog, I want to empower you with several strategies, which are designed to combat the destructive nature of comparison.  

Instead of using a measuring stick to compare up or down, I invite you to use a mirror and focus your energies on what you can control.     

Strategy #1 – Celebrate who you are or what you already have! 

The next time you find yourself belaboring the fact that you don’t have this or you don’t have that, use your self-awareness to stop this negativity and find something to celebrate.  For example, if I find myself wallowing in self-pity over the fact that other authors may be selling more books than me, I can choose to celebrate the fact that I fulfilled a life-long dream of actually publishing a book.  Each moment I spend comparing my success with others, I lose an opportunity to celebrate my own success. 

Remember, gratitude (not stuff) leads to authentic happiness.   

Strategy #2 – Live your mission. 

Part of my Lenses of Leadership program requires that each student write a personal mission statement, which serves as the answer to the what I believe is the most important question in life – Who are you?  Notice the question doesn’t ask who do others want you to be, or who you are compared to your peers.  It’s simply a declaration of your life’s mission.   

Your mission statement can be a very powerful tool when it comes to avoiding dangerous comparisons.  Let me give you an example. 

Amy’s mission statement is to be a light in the world and to make a difference for others.  Unfortunately, Amy has spent a lot of time wondering what she needed to do or have in order to be more like her friend Rachel.  If she’s practicing self-awareness and thinking about these strategies, she can implement strategy #2 right away.  This can be done by asking the question…Do my thoughts and actions align with my mission?  In this case, the answer would be no as her thoughts are about becoming more like someone else.  Armed with a new awareness, Amy can begin to focus her energy on living her mission. 

Strategy #3 – Realize that perfect is an illusion. 

I think we can all benefit from hearing this statement from time to time.  Unfortunately, much of what we see on television or in magazines is an attempt to paint a picture of absolute perfection.  As viewers, we sometimes forget that what we are seeing on the screen (or in print) is not an image based on reality.  In fact, in this digital age, it’s quite common for companies to spend thousands of dollars just to have the images in their magazine “photoshopped” to perfection.  This pursuit of perfection especially affects young girls as they strive to achieve a certain look at any and all costs.   

Strategy #4 – Compare yourself to your own goals. 

If you’re going to compare yourself to anything, then compare yourself to your own goals.  See the goal as a future version of you and use it as a gauge throughout your journey.  Comparing yourself to your own goals will almost certainly fuel a desire to become a better you.  After all, that’s the only thing we can really control. 

Please put down the measuring stick and begin using a mirror.  The mirror will reveal your true, beautiful self.   

I believe in you. 

The dangers of comparison.

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If Dr. Seuss’ statement is truer than true, which I believe it is, then why do we spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people?  

While it may seem quite natural to compare, the potential impact it can have on our self-esteem is quite damaging in nature.  Below are several of the inherent dangers of comparing.

Danger #1:  We often compare things that have absolutely nothing to do with happiness or fulfillment.   

It’s pretty easy to come up with a list of things we commonly compare.  It would most likely include money, physical beauty, size of house, talents, and perceived success.  

I wrote last week about cultivating happiness and attempted to destroy the myth that you must have certain things in order to be happy.  Unfortunately, if we believe that happiness can only be achieved by obtaining more money, better looks, or an above average sized house, then we are building a foundation on very shaky ground.

The extreme popularity of social media has contributed greatly to our comparison culture.  It’s easy to compare your game film to another person’s highlight reel, which typically includes pictures or posts which, directly or indirectly, illuminate money, physical beauty, or success.  The fact remains, however, that trying to assess another person’s happiness based solely on their social media profile is akin to judging the proverbial book by its cover.   

Danger #2:  We either compare UP or we compare DOWN.

If you think about it, all comparisons are an attempt to gauge how we measure up with regard to others.   When we compare UP, we look to others and think about what they have that we don’t.  Conversely, when we compare DOWN, we celebrate the fact that we have something that others don’t.  Both of these are sure signs of insecurity as they infer that we need these comparisons to validate our self-worth.  Let’s take a look at a few examples, which are based loosely on real circumstances I’ve witnessed with students.    

Sherry spent her entire eighth grade year wishing she could look exactly like her friend Kate.  In fact, Kate happened to be very popular among all of the middle school girls.  She was always wearing the latest fashions in clothing and had a certain look that seemed almost angelic.  What Sherry failed to realize is that Kate was suffering from an eating disorder that was a direct result of her desire to look perfect.  When the news finally surfaced that Kate was struggling with this disease, Sherry suddenly realized that comparing herself UP to Kate was simply based on looks and had nothing to do with happiness.   

Kent was the starting quarterback on the middle school football team.  At the end of the school year, his friend Ryan received an award for having been the Most Valuable Player on the team for that year.  While Kent was somewhat disappointed, he found great solace in knowing that he was much better than most of the guys on his team.  In fact, he began listing off all of the names on the roster and comparing his accomplishments to each of theirs.  Even though Ryan had received the MVP award, Kent was determined to be better than everyone else.  Clearly, he was comparing DOWN to his teammates.  By the time the next season had started, Kent realized he had spent most of his time on energy on others and failed to work on improving his skills.  As a result, he lost his job as the starting quarterback.   

Danger #3:  We dwell on who we aren’t, rather than celebrating who we are. 

Ironically, many of the things we tend to compare are things we have very little control over.  I remember spending a lot of my younger years wishing that I could be as tall as my younger brother.  I would often say things like – Why did he get the tall genes?  or Why can’t I just be a few inches taller? What I failed to realize was that my height wasn’t going to change as a result of my pity.  In fact, each moment I spent dwelling on my relatively small height was a wasted opportunity to celebrate the many wonderful qualities I possessed.   

In next week’s blog, I will outline several strategies which are designed to combat the destructive nature of comparison. 

Until then, I invite you to simply be aware of your comparison tendencies.  As I’ve shared in the past, proper awareness is always the first step toward sustainable change.