How to catch the monster that stops you!

I had a conversation with a young man at the pool this morning. He was seeking some advice on how to swim longer distances, and shared that the best he has ever done 500 metres, but that he was not sure he could do it again.

That fear stops us from achieving what we are truly capable of is well documented. Less often however do we talk about the signs, the behaviours, the evidence that it is in fact such fear that is getting in the way. That is because fear is most frequently disguised as a harmless and often quite logical reason.

  • I am not cut out for this.
  • I don’t have the bone structure to run like that.
  • Every time I try it goes wrong.

Beneath phrases like these are apprehensions far scarier than the most ghoulish Halloween disguise. And beneath that disguise is a simple monster, one that is common to most people: OUR fear of other people’s opinion.

It comes wrapped in more complex fears, like public speaking, or fear of failure. But ultimately it comes down how we want to be seen, and since all of us live with some inconsistencies and slip-ups of integrity, we are very weary of anything that will give away our weakness.

Most of us believe that it takes courage to be exposed for who we truly are. The reality is actually the opposite: most of our closer friends have a pretty good idea of who we truly are, and they also know the lengths we go to in order to hide some of our perceived weaknesses.

What takes courage is not exposing your true self to others, but to expose it to yourself. 

You have things that somewhere deep inside you wish you could do, but it sits wrapped up in the conviction that it is not possible for you.

Here are three reasons why it is virtually certainly possible for you, three thoughts that you can summon to expose, catch or chase away the monster that stops you:

  • Its been done successfully before  – by people who you think less of!
  • It will not kill you, infect you or cause you to break out in an incurable rash.
  • You live in a world of great fortune and privileges (because you can read this!), and therefore you have not reached your risk limits yet. In fact you are nowhere near them.

You and I know these are absolutely true for you. So go ahead and do the thing that scares you the most first. You now its is safe to do so.

I left my new friend at the pool with some ideas how he could break 600 metres within a few sessions. I will find out soon if he succeeds, I do hope he does, because I know he can swim 1000. Only he knows if he has the courage to endure some fatigue.


Multiply your effectiveness with potency.

A few mornings ago, as I was starting my warm-up laps in the swimming pool, I felt I could have done with a few extra hours of sleep.

My arms were turning, my legs were kicking, my gaze was absently following the blue line on the pool floor. A few hundred metres into it and the thought that I had a solid three-quarters of an hour still ahead of me was well and truly deflating me. I was not “present”.

When you are submerged, you hear nothing but your own thoughts, and the repetitive muffled gurgling sounds of your body moving through the water. It is meditative in a way, and because of this I soon had dismantled my lethargic thoughts with the mental exploration of effectiveness versus potency.

The word Potency is defined as the capacity to influence, and it is most often used in heard in relation to medicine, biology and physics.

Often we are time-locked in our activities, we can not opt-out sooner, we can not avoid a particular process. When we are in this situation the only variable we can adjust is the intensity, the presence, the potency. A small increase in potency often can create a significant increase in results.

The time will pass..

You will arrive at the other end as you drift through the activity, the time will still pass.

You will arrive at the other end as you move through the activity with intention, the time will still pass.

When the time has passed, will you simply arrive, or will you arrive with a payload?. 

What is the best that you can get out of a given activity? In my case I promptly decided to “engage” with my training session, to be fully “present”. I did not do a personal best that day, but a simple almost insignificant shift in thinking, a marginal increase in effort turned an hour of uncommitted motion into a worthwhile training session.

Effectiveness means something works. Potency determines how great a result you will get from that work. When we are faced with an activity that perhaps is not avoidable, we can always increase our potency.

Either way you will pass the same point in time, but you will be heading in very different directions.


“Stop, Look, Listen…” – for adults.

Last week we briefly explored how our brain prioritses through the reticular activating system, the importance of repetition, affirmation and the whole “Rah-rah”.

But that is only half the story, we need to know how to re-program it on the fly so that we can get a deliberate results instead of an accidental one.

What is your obsession?

Pause for a moment and think about this. What theme dominates your thinking?

  • Are you worried about not meeting a deadline?
  • Are you revisiting a proposal because perhaps it is not enough to secure the next client?
  • Are you anxiously expecting a bad phone call because your teenager is prone to cause trouble?
  • Do you anticipate a frosty arrival at home because you have been getting home so late your partner is already asleep – two months in a row?

This is where the fine line between success and default is drawn. Your reticular activator is scanning the environment for cues that provide validation to your process.

So then, what does “favourable” programming sound like?

Here are some examples of how to shortcut the process, and re-align our obsession:

  • You decide you will make that deadline – and begin pruning priorities in order to achieve that. Get the low hanging fruit into the basket fast.
  • You stop and evaluate your proposal from the clients perspective, and word it differently. Nothing else needs to change but the focus is on their real benefit.
  • You call your teenager, or leave a kind word on their snapchat feed without asking anything in return. Show you care, and mean it.
  • Think about your partner, and focus on the gratitude for the dinner waiting on the table needing no more than 2 minutes in the microwave. Leave a thank you note for the morning. Never take others for granted.

The circumstances in these situations have not changed. But our focus has, and it makes all the difference. It is easy to see how these absurdly simple shifts in our focus will have a very significant impact on our life.

We teach our kids: Stop, look and listen. And as adults we forget to do this ourselves!

Stop where we are going, just for a moment. Motion is there to take us towards our goal. If it does not, then stop.

Look at how you are perceiving the situation. Look for possible advantages you can tap into.

Listen to the validations that you are receiving. Are they helping you achieve your goal or are they signposts on the way to a disaster?

This simple mind process is often referred to as The Law of Attraction, only that we are not actually attracting anything. It should be called the Law of Focus, because we build our context based on the things that we deem important to our cause.  The “stuff” was always there. If that focus is on avoiding falling off a cliff, we are likely to forever hover along the edge. If however we are focused on getting to the top of the mountain, then at the very least we will end up on higher ground.

You go where your obsessions take you, so obsess about where you want to be taken.

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