Learning How to Trust and Go For It
One of the most memorable scenes in Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back is when Yoda is instructing Luke to mentally levitate the stranded X-wing ship from Yoda’s backyard swamp. Yoda and R2-D2 look on as Luke tries, fails, and becomes immediately frustrated. Luke, having already demonstrated previously that he can lift large boulders using only his mind explains, “Master, moving stones around is one thing, this is totally different!”
Yoda slams his cane and shouts, “No!,” and in a great display of Dalai-Llama-like emotional control, Yoda calmly responds, “No, no different, only different in your mind, you must unlearn what you have learned.”
Luke responds by saying “Okay, I’ll try.”
Yoda then follows this up with the classic yet often perplexing line,
“No, try not. Do. Or do not. There is not try.”
Luke returns to his zen-like efforts of willing the X-wing from the mud. It slowly rises to Yoda’s wide-eyed gaze, whether in a fit of astonishment or satisfaction is difficult to say. As soon as we begin to think Luke will triumph, the X-wing begins to slowly creep back down into the foggy murk to the background noise of R2-D2’s incessant, anxious beeps.
After some outward grumbling and self-pity, Luke gives up and resides to pouting in Yoda’s guest room tree-fort.
Yoda, seeing he’ll need to roll up his sleeves and instill some belief in Luke, slowly mind bends the X-wing from the swamp and, as it’s being parked safely on dry land, Luke walks out in surprise.
As if he can’t trust what he is seeing,
Luke walks up to Yoda and says, “I don’t believe it.”
Yoda calmly responds, “That, is why you fail.”
We get in the way of ourselves far too often. It’s part of being human I think. We have these extraordinary ideas and visions to change the world, only to find ourselves in a space where we pile on the excuses and judgement before even opening the door to our new vision.
What happens when we get our own way? What obstacles don’t allow us to live in our most authentic way? How do we learn to really just “let go” and go for it?
Why the hell can’t Luke raise the X-wing with his mind when he was just doing handstands and TK-ing (that’s Telekinesis) beach-ball-sized rocks?!
It comes down to trust...
On some level, when we choose to explore our ultimate vision, or when trying to be the best version of ourselves, we sign up for an infinite list of obstacles, challenges, and the opportunity to take risks.
If this doesn’t happen, would it really be our ultimate vision?
And what can often happen when we arrive in this space untrained?
We get anxious. We get stressed. We feel uncertain of our skill-set. We become overly judgmental of how we look. We’re perhaps apprehensive due to the fact that the coffee machine in the break-room looks different and we’ve come to the realization that we have no idea how to turn it on. Or is it on already? It’s like that part of our brain that knows how to read and use some form of logic is turned off and the part that taught us how to run from sabertooth tigers is taking up all the electricity.
It happens all the time.
Whether you’ve just signed on to a new work position or are taking the steps to publish your book. Whether you’re lacing up your black Nike’s for the big game or whether you’re putting the final touches on your big presentation. We’ve all felt it, this uncomfortable pull from within that constricts our headspace and whispers, “You’re going to fail,”
or “Just sprint, just run as far away from here as you can!”
We’ve all heard this annoying companion, like some twisted, pessimistic version of Jiminy Cricket.
How can we learn to better ignore this “dark-side” of our mind? What tools and strategies can we explore to better manage our stress. To be comfortable with the unknown. To take risks like a pro. And most importantly, to learn how to trust our intuition and infinite wisdom, because if we’re going to pursue the best version of ourselves, we need to learn how to trust ourselves.
Know Your Why
The first question we must often ask ourselves is “why” as discovering a sense of clarity can be extremely valuable in the pursuit of our own self-mastery. It drives our decisions, keeps us grounded, helps to cultivate an optimal mindset. Enhances confidence. And so on.
Who are you?
Really. Who are you?
It can be a difficult question to answer in this day and age. Or perhaps it always was, which is why the Buddhist practice “finding yourself” has been being practiced for the last millennia, (Chopra, 2012). So how do we identify ourselves? Perhaps you’d say you’re Canadian. Or you’re a doctor. A military veteran. Or even a vagabond selling charcoal art across major European cities. These certainly wouldn’t be wrong. As human beings, we tend to associate ourselves using our positions in society, how others perceive us, our behaviors, or even the clothes we wear, (James, 2012).
Does this really capture “you” in it’s entirety?
Aren’t our professions, our backgrounds, the gender or sexuality we identify with, our willingness to socialize, etc, but “small bits of patchwork of an infinite tapestry”? As Nicole Davis says during her recent Ted Talk on capturing self-trust, “How can we put language, words, and thoughts to who we are as a person?
Finding the right words to capture who we are can be challenging, but well worth the time and effort. Once we’ve dialed in the why behind the what we start doing the work to becoming the best version of ourselves. Like anything, it won’t happen overnight. There will be trials and hurdles to overcome, and with these challenges comes the opportunity to practice a more skillful and intelligent approach. The more you practice, the more this ability to respondrather than react comes cemented into your baseline foundation.
“To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.” — Eric Hoffer, social philosopher
When I was conducting my graduate research project about the affects of formal mindfulness training, I tasked myself with interviewing each participant after their 8-week experience. During Week 1, I had them fill out a psychometric questionnaire that measures their abilities of attention and awareness. During a majority of the interviews, most of the participants would explain that their answers to the pre-measure were most likely skewed because they hadn’t fully realized how UN-aware they truly were. That was a truly interesting bit because it provided evidence that in order to judge our own awareness, we need to, in fact, BE aware in the first place.
Exploring how best to trust ourselves isn’t much different. It starts by building an understanding of our current approach to trusting ourselves. When we create a space in which to challenge ourselves, we must start to observe how we operate in this space.
Do we clam up and get nervous, say too many “umms” and stutter through our material? Do we start to sweat? Perhaps we upchuck our lunch from the previous afternoon before the big game. Or maybe our heart starts to beat so fast minutes before the big dance that it seems it might never come down again. Regardless of the experience, developing a sound awareness of what is actually happening during moments where you actually need to trust yourself is square-one of the process. Think about it. Write it down. Journal your thoughts about it. Start by observing the what, then eventually unpack the why, and then finally learn to discover the how. If that makes sense.
What happens if we feel so inept at trusting ourselves that we shy away from challenges all together? Well, let’s explore the next point.
“Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable”
How can we train ourselves, really train ourselves, so when the storms comes we lean into it? It starts with a willingness to seek out moments that are uncomfortable, to create a space and opportunity with the challenge of trust.
When working with athletes and performers on developing their mental skill set, one of the most frequent lines I use is “You know how in order to make physical or strength gains, we need to get uncomfortable?, well, working the mental side isn’t much different.” In order to make a change, we must stretch.
As we begin to stretch, as we begin to sit longer in the fear and truly feel it, the more we begin to build our capacity for trust. Inevitably our thoughts of fear, judgements, our primal flight vs. flight vs. curl up and die switches on, but our willingness to seek this out is what makes all the difference in the world.
Then let’s practice going for it. Practice getting uncomfortable to the point where even if you walk into the Perfect Storm of all storms, you’ll be able“to feel it, respond to it, and, eventually seek it out.” A rather good starting point may be to find and explore as many tools as possible that help in the aid of being our absolute best. With your inner trust as the way-finder, the ultimate successes you envisioned will become far more attainable, and the underlying fears and judgements that usually plague these visions will melt into the background.
Just Get Out Of Your Own Way
When we are always with ourself, it can be difficult to not to constantly judge our current circumstances. Often our desire to continually better ourselves gets in the way of our own progression. We want to immediately course-correct when something goes wrong. We give up when we hit a bump in the road. We feel the insatiable need to read one more book or join one more webinar before saying “Fuck It, I’m going for it.” To that end, what strategies can we wield to better navigate this dense pocket? Or as renowned high performance psychologist Michael Gervais often says, how do we “just get out of your own way?”
It can be a difficult skill train, but once again it comes down to trust. Learning to quell these thoughts starts by building an everyday process and then training yourself to trust the process. With the term “process,” think of the habits and things you’ve set out to achieve for yourself each and every day. This is the system of goals that “drive” you from the point you are now to the point you want to be at. This is the anchor that holds you steadfast in the rockiest of seas. Therefore, taking the time to dial-in an intelligent goal-setting framework that coincides with your vision can be incredibly valuable. You’ll find you have less resistance on your journey towards mastery. Your motivation and confidence is more resilient, and those bumps in the road won’t end up at an interstate mechanic and a Motel 6.
You’d be surprised with what you can live without. When we live in an age where we have push-button icons that you can stick to your pantry cupboard to order your favorite breakfast cereal as soon as it runs out, it can be hard to imagine what we may or may not be able to get on without. If Wi-fi went out for a week, would you make it? When Joey shut the door on the apartment after the entire Friends crew slowly walked out, didn’t a small piece of you die? What happens when the job, or relationship, or position we’ve been in for the last decade is suddenly swept out from under us?
Often people can fall into the trap of becoming too attached to the intricacies of our identities, whether they be a positive one (I’ve been a professional QB my entire adult life) or perhaps negative, (I’ll always be a lazy procrastinator). Regardless, cradling these identities makes us feel comfortable, seemingly in control, while giving a definite shape to the space we are in. The downside is, this shell can eventually crumble, known as “identity-foreclosure”, and having the successful ability to manage this transition state is highly dependent on our mental skills capacity and psychological framework. On the extreme side, we can end up depressed, confused and alone. One the other, we can shed our old skins like a Basilisk and move into the next phase of our “being”.
How do we keep ourselves from latching too tightly onto all of our identities?
Learn to distance yourself from the things you covet.
It's Suggested To start small by attempting to distance yourself from objects and everyday things or the reef of doilies and knick-knacks that’ve been piling up in the closet or cupboards. There’s a reason we have books and documentaries that PINPOINT “minimalist lifestyles” and “keeping tidy,” so there must be some semblance to these habits. Perhaps more influential is the fact that learning to let go and practice “non-attachment” is one of of the Buddhist’s most pivotal teachings. If we can find the time to sit with ourselves and train the mind to “let go,” our ability to trust and be comfortable in the unknown will inevitably grow.
Like Yoda says later on, “Train yourself to let go, of everything you fear to lose. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
So don’t end up like Vader, explore more of what’s out there, and see if you can cut the leash between you and the things that may “own us”.
Chopra, D. (2012). Finding yourself through meditation. The Chopra Center. Retrieved from: https://chopra.com/articles/find-your-true-self-through-meditation
Davis, N. (2018). Trust Yourself to Be Good Enough. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KLuesvBDUE
James, M. (2012). “Who Are You?”. Psychology Today, Dec 21, 2012.
Tugaleva, V. (2017). The Art of Talking to Yourself. Soulex Press: Ukraine.
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