Your Worst Nightmare
Welcome to the Monday Mindwash. We’re here to give our minds a little scrub, get some of the dirt out. These weekly episodes will challenge your mind, body, and especially those beliefs you store within. Well, you don’t actually think they’re your beliefs, do you?
He’s the reason that you gave up on your New Year’s resolutions already, making you feel silly for even trying. He’s there when you trip and fall to remind you not to run. He’s watching for when you hit that moment of inspiration, ready with a pointless distraction to kill the moment. He’s the whisper in your ear before you enter the doorway of opportunity asking, “Are you sure? Remember last time you tried this…didn’t work out so well…” And he never sleeps. Ever.
The Dirt: Someone’s out to get me / Why does it always happen to me?
Some call him the devil, some the boogeyman, some he-who-should-not-be-named. He is the adversary. The dream-crusher. He can be your worst nightmare or best friend. Make no mistake though, he’s coming for you either way. At your weakest and most vulnerable, he’ll be there. The only questions is will you be prepared?
Don’t bother looking for him, as you can’t find him. He’s not under the bed or behind the couch. He doesn’t call first before stopping by. He’s much too smart to reveal himself completely. No, if he were obvious, he would be easy to defeat. Like a villain in a comic book, we’d find his secret lair, get past the evil henchmen, and shoot the uniquely-cladded “Master of Evil” with our ray gun so that we can live happily ever after (until the sequel, of course).
Instead, he’s more like an ethereal breeze that nudges us off course along our lives. He knows at the beginning of any journey that the smallest of deviations can create humongous changes in destination. A rocket travelling to the moon that is 1 degree off course will end up 4169 miles from the target landing spot (or twice the diameter of the moon.) If we are paying attention and correct our course along the way, then he must come in with swifter and stronger influence. If ultimately he can’t sway us, he’ll give one last try just before we cross the threshold to success. Most successful folks describe it as “all hell breaking loose.”
The adversary would never cause you harm directly, rather he’s the facilitator, the wheeler and dealer, negotiating with your life to exchange hope, faith, and success for doubt, fear, and mediocrity.
He doesn’t cause you to get fired; he distracts you long enough to burn the toast that keeps you from having a good breakfast that makes you miss the right exit off the highway and you end up late for work…one too many times. He doesn’t stop you from winning the marathon; he puts a rock on the road that if not seen could cause a slip or twisted ankle that gives you the perfect excuse to give up and go home. Nor does he give you cancer; he just has you worried and stressed so much that you take up smoking to cope…paying a most expensive price a few years later.
The adversary has a bag of tricks that are designed to stump our growth, induce doubt and uncertainty, and facilitate our surrender of all that we wish to accomplish in life. What if we could recognize the tricks or illusions and see through them for what they really are? Let’s take a look at a few of the most common.
The adversary is as lazy as the rest of us. He’s not going to work harder than necessary. One of the easiest ways to knock us off course is to have us take our eyes off the road and let go of the steering wheel. Imagine what would happen if you did either while driving down the highway. It wouldn’t be a matter of if you crash, just a matter of when. If he can just get us to look away for a few seconds, he’ll let nature do the rest. It’s the celebrity tabloid that has us following the lives of people that don’t know us (nor care to) instead of finding our own path to success and fulfillment. It’s the comfort of a slow-drip weekly paycheck in exchange for our most valuable asset called life. It’s the race to the bottom as we try to keep up with the debt-ladened Joneses’, in a desperate attempt to appear wealthy at the expense of being wealthy. The adversary’s constantly pulling us away from our journey to becoming the best version of ourselves.
The antidote to distraction is focus. Follow One Course Until Successful. It’s the realization that celebrities aren’t paying our bills, our job isn’t really secure, and that if the Joneses’ jump off a bridge, should we really follow. What if we focused on improving our own lives and those of the people around us? Imagine dedicating a set of hours each week to one thing, that if done successfully, would make this year the best we’ve ever had. The simplest of questions can keep us on track: Does doing this serve me to get to my goal? If it does, keep doing it. If not, stop it. Does it need to be more complicated?
Henry Ford once said, “Obstacles are those frightful things we see when we take our eyes off our goals.” While some of us see obstacles as a challenge, many of us see it as a problem. The adversary will show the obstacle to be a mountain when in reality it’s a grain of sand. It’s up to us to look past the illusion else fall prey to it.
In the attitude of obstacles, we can either rise to the challenge or fall victim to the problem.
The adversary places obstacles all around us. From stubbing your toe to catching a cold to going out of business, we must see past the short-term setback and prepare for a long-term comeback. If you agree that it’s not if life happens but when it does, you’ll be ready to take on the challenge or perhaps avoid the obstacle all together.
The antidote to obstacles is mental toughness. It’s the determination that you will be successful no matter what. Rain or shine, hot or cold, punched in the face or chopped off a leg, there is nothing that can stop you. It’s finishing the race after twisting your ankle, even if only on hands and knees. It’s approaching yet another investor for your idea after being shot down 421 times. The mentally tough know that it only takes one success to to wipe away the multitudes of failure. What’s the alternative anyways? When your grandkids ask you why you weren’t successful, are you going to tell them that this one time you caught a cold?
Fear and Worry
Here is where we hear the whisper. That gentle reminder of how inferior we are, how we’re just not cut out for it, or how horribly things might go wrong if we try. While most of our deepest fears were gifted to us by those around us during childhood (thank you everyone!), the adversary knows where the ‘play’ button is to activate that voice in our head. Before long, our heart sinks and we recede. We become paralyzed and the adversary claims victory.
Have you ever wondered why you’re afraid? Can you take a fear and trace it back to its origin? Did it happen to you or was it an anecdote? If it was in your past, did it completely destroy you or did you make it through? The adversary knows we’re programmed to expect the worst and to play everything safe. Certainly, fear is healthy when it keeps us from falling off a cliff. Other than death, for what are we saving ourselves? We’ll save the discussion on fear for another episode though.
If making it safely to the end is the goal, there are quicker ways to die than waiting around.
Worry is fear’s cousin and a cruel punishment. Consider that worry is the equivalent of emotionally living through something that likely will never occur. Why would you ever endure a tragic event before that tragic event happens? What if it never happens? What if it’s nowhere near as bad as you thought? If that’s not bad enough, did you know that worry has energy and an attraction force that brings to it more of what you worry about? That’s right, not only do you live through it before it happens, you increase the likelihood of it happening.
The antidote to fear and worry is faith. Instead of worrying about what could go wrong, imagine expecting all that could go right. Outside of anything that can outright kill you, won’t life go on and won’t wounds heal? What if you expect the best while being ready for the worst? Faith is an attitude that gives us permission to move ahead, even when the adversary is warning us otherwise. It’s like the earmuffs that block out the doubt, fear, and worry. Faith is the promise that tomorrow will come and we’ll have a chance to try again.
Taking down the adversary is not complex but it’s also not easy. You don’t beat him in a Battle Royale like you would see in a movie. It’s not a slingshot to the forehead or a magical ring. You beat him little by little every day. Every thwarting of his tricks is a small win. Each day you move closer to a worthy life or business goal, he grows weaker. He knows that even giving you a small win, especially in the beginning, could drastically increase your confidence and belief. It’s as if each wins adds another brick to the wall of defense against his future influence. So if he can’t nip you in the bud, then he’ll give it hell in the end. That’s when the proverbial poop hits the fan and when you will need your mental toughness the most.
Defeating the adversary
- Talk to him. Let him know that you know he’s there. Don’t listen to him though, talk to him. He’s a trickster and liar. Let him know your standards and your terms and that you’re keeping an eye on him. Affirmations are your not-so-secret weapon to increasing your belief in yourself and your ability to defeat him.
- Raise your identity. Become the person worthy of defeating him. Never go into battle the same person you were last year. Keep growing and getting better. The stronger you get, the weaker he becomes. Increase your mental toughness. We all have it when it counts. Just watch the mom lift the car off her child. It doesn’t matter what’s on TV or if she’s late for work. She can’t be stopped.
- Deal and Disconnect. Never ignore any problem he throws your way, but don’t live in the past either. Deal with an issue, then disconnect yourself from it. Forgiveness is the best gift you can give yourself. Holding a grudge is the adversary’s noose around your neck.
- Never complain. When you speak a problem out of your mouth, you are amplifying and energizing that problem. We always attract similar energy back to us, like throwing fuel on a fire. Complaining makes the adversary smile as he has now gotten you to do his dirty work. Make a change or don’t complain.
- Control your emotions. Never get too high on the highs or too low on the lows. Staying even-keeled doesn’t give the adversary much of a handle on you. Just in case, never make a decision when you’re down. When you’re down, that’s not the real you making the decision; the adversary is in control.
- Your friends and family. If he cannot get to you directly, he will use your friends and family. They may not be as strong as you are. Of course your family loves you and would never intentionally hurt you, just beware of any advice that shrinks you or your dreams. Then go save them!
- Start and don’t quit. The adversary would love for you to quit. Each time you give up, you are never quite the same and you become further enslaved to his charm. Each time you push through, however, you are strengthening your shield against future attacks. Grow or die in the battle of your life.
The good news is that the adversary doesn’t have to be your enemy. He can also be your friend. How can this be? He’s you. The old you. He’s the only person that you must better every day in order to live a life of success, accomplishment, joy, and fulfillment.
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people he didn’t exist.”
Roger “Verbal” Kint (The Usual Suspects)
I challenge you to share this with three friends or family that are losing against their adversary. I appreciate each and every one of you. Meet you at the top, because the bottom’s way too crowded.