Tag Archives: identity

The Psyche Advantage

bond-craig
James Bond (Daniel Craig)

If I had to choose which among the principles of success is the most crucial, I would say that having – or not – the psychological advantage in any given situation is the key to determining success or failure.

 

     But what’s a “psychological advantage”? It’s that feeling you get when you know you’re winning and you feel better, smarter, more capable than any obstacle you may face. It is, in short, when you simply have no doubt that you’re going to accomplish or win at anything you might attempt.

     We all know the principle of psych advantage. In sports it’s often known as “momentum”. The moment the “momentum” shifts in a game, you know it, the team gaining it knows it, and the team that’s losing it certainly knows it. For example, the other night I was watching a college basketball game and one team was significantly ahead; they had the momentum. However, at one point the other team began to go on a scoring run. After about three unimpeded field goals – during which the winning team scored nothing – everyone could feel the momentum shift. Granted, the winning team was still ahead, but the losing team was gaining. And here’s the key: the winning team was no longer certain they were going to win the game and, at that point, the losing team suddenly felt that they could win it.

     That’s the psych advantage.

     You may have heard it expressed this way:

“You can if you think you can, and you can’t if you think you can’t.”   (Dr. Norman Vincent Peale)

     “’As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.’” (Prov. 23:7)

     “Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success.” (Dr. Joyce Brothers)

     “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” (Winston Churchill)

     “As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.” (Donald Trump)

     I’ve even heard this one:

     “In every relationship, there is the alpha dog and the beta dog. I’m the alpha dog.”      (comedy What To Expect When You’re Expecting)

     There are many other adages which express the need for the psychological advantage in order to win. The point is that that advantage is the one thing, without which, we won’t succeed. We may not initially have the opportunity or money or education or support of others or any other thing that we might need to succeed, but if we believe that we will have them, then we have the psychological advantage.

     So – how do we get that psych advantage?

Identity. Knowing our identity might be, by far, the most essential thing needed to attain the advantage because this is the one thing that no one can take away from you. In other words, know who you are. You have to believe in your own identity which includes your capability to achieve your goal – no matter how impossible that goal may look or how many times you might have failed. You have to believe that, because of what’s in you, you have the talent or the resources to succeed. But here’s the challenge: you may not feel like you have what it takes and if you let those feelings dictate who you are and therefore what you do, then you’ve lost the psychological advantage.

     For example, as American citizens, we have an identity backed by the irrefutable authority of the United States Constitution. This means that because of our citizenship – our identity – we have certain “inalienable rights” that no one can take away from us. The right to life (we can’t be executed on someone’s whim), the right to free speech, and the right to “due process” are a few. And, as American citizens, we can never lose these rights – regardless of what anyone says to the contrary.

     In the Christian context, the Word of God says that “God seated Jesus in the highest position in the universe, at His Own right hand, and made Him head over all things” (Eph. 1:22) and that God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. . . .” (Eph. 2:6). Interpretation: Christ defeated death and the powers of darkness and then sat down, meaning, as He said, “’It is finished’”. Moreover, He’s chosen to seat us with him – above the enemy and all of his minions.

     Bottom line: As Christians, we’ve already won.

     The problem is that the number of Christians who really believe this are in the minority. But if we were to focus on our identity rather than our feelings, we would have that psychological advantage – and it would never leave us.

Persistence. Another critical thing that we need to give us the psych advantage is the mindset that we won’t ever quit. You know the drill: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” It’s all true. But why would we quit? Lack of preparation, lack of resources, lack of personal support as well as a myriad of emotional cement shoes: discouragement, fear, insecurity, fatigue, boredom. Any of these can shipwreck our psychological advantage – if we let them.

     So how do we fight those? First, if we’re lacking resources, we continue working on getting that prep or money or support until we have them and if we can’t bring ourselves to do that, it’s because we’re being tripped up by our emotions. If so, we need to deal with those first. And that goes back to identity: Who do you believe you are? If you’re talented and passionate about doing “that thing,” then just keep doing it. Period.

     Think about it. What would you do if you quit? I’ll tell you: you’d be miserable.

Success. Odd as it might sound, the only other thing that can nuke our psych advantage is achieving success – and then thinking we can never lose it. If we quit being hard-working and diligent and giving it our best, then our momentum might just shift to the person who is giving it all they have. We’ve all seen sports teams who get sloppy, believing they can’t be beat – and then they are. Avoid that.

     The bottom line is that if you don’t have the psych advantage going into your challenge, then stop what you’re doing and think about where you lost it. Thing number one: Make your momentum shift happen.

     No one’s ever succeeded without the psych advantage.

 

 

 

 

 

Critical Thinking.

shakespeare-hamlet-cropped“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt said those words decades ago in the face of the great criticism faced by any First Lady. No one knows who said it but it’s true: “Everyone’s a critic.” And as we’re all painfully aware, criticism will come. Even if it’s constructive criticism, given gently, it can still hurt. Why? Because sometimes we’re faced with the realization that maybe our best isn’t good enough. Even so, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Don’t give it.

What does it mean to give your consent? It means that you’re agreeing that you’re inferior. But here’s the truth: you are not inferior. What you have done or created may not be the best that’s ever been done or created, but what you do is not who you are.

Our worth is not based on what we can or cannot do.

Recently, I had some work critiqued and found it needed some major changes. That rocked my world because I’d put so much into it. So I went through the grief stage. Really?? (you’re thinking) Over that?? Yep, really – as with anything you put your heart and soul into: a song, a painting, a relationship, a job, a business. When you do the best you can do and the reviews aren’t stellar, it can trigger the inferior thing. The thing is not to get stuck there. As we seek to pursue our visions, we’re going to face criticism – some valid and some not. So how do we handle it?

Thing One: We need to take a little time and just breathe – get some perspective. Sometimes criticism is like a sucker punch: it’s unexpected and can leave us out of breath. But we can’t get stuck there; we can’t suffocate. We need to move onto the next stage.

Thing Two: We need to evaluate the criticism: is it valid or is it not? It may not be. If it’s not, move on. If it is, how much of it is valid? Once we get a handle on that – and we may need help doing that – then we have a choice to make. Are we going to reject the valid criticism and then stay stuck where we are? Because that’s a forever proposition. Or, are we going to move onto the next thing?

Thing Three: Admit that we need to change, adjust, improve. I always tell my kids that, in order to be grateful in hard times, it helps to look at those who aren’t as fortunate as you are and then to humble yourself and count your blessings. However, when we’re looking to process criticism, we can’t focus on who (we think) we’re better than just to make ourselves feel better. Rather, we have to focus on those who have achieved what we aspire to be, and we need to start asking questions. How did they get where they are? How do they deal with criticism? How do they keep motivated? And what, specifically, do they do that you don’t yet know how to do? Think of it this way: two year olds can’t do what ten year olds can do – but does that mean they never will? Just because we can’t do something now doesn’t mean we’ll never be able to do that thing.

We need to remind ourselves constantly that we are not what we do. That means that when what we do crashes and burns, who we are will not crash and burn with it. I’m a teacher but someday I won’t be. If I think I am what I do, I’ll never have the courage to retire and not be a teacher anymore – and that means I’ll never move onto the next chapter in my life.

We are not what we do. I have that written on a couple of post-it notes placed in strategic places because remembering that gives me the courage to keep on trying, to take a risk and to put my writing out there again. And again. And however many times it takes. Because what is life without risk?

Over.

 

 

THE Most Important Vision You’ll Ever Have

           What do you call a man who, when asked for food and drink by an army of 400 warriors, deliberately refuses them and then insults them? 

            How about “fool”? Sierra Exif JPEG

             Coincidently, that was the meaning of the name of Abigail’s husband, Nabal. Backstory (I Sam. 25): David and his mighty men, hungry and thirsty, had come upon Nabal’s men shearing his hundreds of sheep (Nabal was rich) and asked them for food and drink.  Since David and his men had often protected Nabal’s herdsmen from danger, it wasn’t therefore asking too much for David to make such a request of Nabal.  What was unusual was for Nabal to refuse David – especially considering that Nabal was plenty rich enough to provide food for David and his men.  And most especially considering that it was – well, David and his men.  Four hundred of them.  With swords.

             But – was Nabal’s foolish behavior really so coincidental?

             Perhaps not. It’s difficult to imagine the impact of growing up and hearing yourself called “fool” every time anyone mentioned your name.  Consequently, Nabal might simply have become convinced that that’s all he would ever be – whether he tried otherwise or not.  So (I’m speculating), consciously or not, Nabal began to imitate other fools.

             That’s what’s known as a “word curse”; we tend to become what we’re told we are. Jesus referred to such words as “idle words” and said that we’ll be held accountable for every idle word we speak.  Why?  Because people believe what they hear about themselves – for better or worse.

             Take Jacob, for example, who was born grasping his twin brother’s heel (Gen. 25). His parents named him Jacob, meaning “one who takes by the heel” or “supplants”.  They must (I speculate) have jokingly surmised that, at birth, Jacob was trying to pull his brother back so he could be the first out the door, the firstborn.  Thus, he was trying to “supplant” his brother, which means “to trip up or overthrow”.  Now, imagine Jacob hearing that story his whole life; possibly he came to feel that one day he would, in fact, supplant or replace his brother.  By the time he did deliberately set out to steal his brother’s first-born status, was it really a surprise to anyone?

             So – what are you saying about yourself? About your goals and visions?  Are you saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”?  Or are you saying, “I’m not good enough or smart enough or attractive enough or financially stable enough or experienced enough or – whatever enough?”

WHAT ARE YOU HEARING YOURSELF CALL YOURSELF?

             Is it fool? Or liar/deceiver?  How about stupid? Ugly?  Loser?  Worthless?  Evil?  Failure?  Hopeless?  If so, you need to get a new vision of yourself.

            “Yeah,” you say, “been there, heard that. But I just can’t.” 

            Why? Jesus died to give you a new vision of yourself. And if His death isn’t powerful enough to re-write your identity, then Christ died for nothing. 

             Of course, you don’t believe that. So do you really believe then that there is any “case” too impossible for the Lord to re-define, to make new?  Of course not.  But you have to believe that that power applies to you.  Is that always easy?  No – as Jacob proves.

            I should point out here that Jacob was not a nice person. Not only does he deliberately deceive his father and steal his brother’s birthright (Gen. 27) but, after a nasty conflict with his father-in-law over wages, he decides to take all his wives and children and return to his homeland.  Fair enough.  However, on the way, he’s afraid of running into his brother Esau (!) and so packs up a bunch of presents for him and sends all of them, along with his wives and children, across the river ahead of him.

            Not exactly a model of integrity.

             But what happens next always kind of baffled me. Continue reading THE Most Important Vision You’ll Ever Have