In It Takes What It Takes: How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life, mental conditioning coach to elite performers Trevor Moawad lays out lessons he’s derived from his greatest career successes as well as personal setbacks, the game-changing wisdom he’s earned as the go-to whisperer for elite performers on fields of play and among men and women headed to the battlefield.
- Neutral thinking is the key to unlocking a set of behaviors that can turn also-rans into champions and champions into legends. But you don’t need to be an elite athlete to take advantage.
- Neutral thinking is a high-performance strategy that emphasizes judgment-free thinking, especially in crises and pressure situations.
- Neutral thinking shuns all attempts at illusion or outright self- delusion, which are often the foundation of other motivational systems. Neutral thinking strips away the bull and the biases, both external and internal.
By staying neutral, which has the dual effect of allowing you to move on from what has just happened as well as controlling the emotions swirling inside you. An emotion is merely another form of bias. It’s your brain trying to sneak those biases into your thinking.
Staying in the moment, giving each moment its own history, and reacting to events as they unfold. It takes away emotion and replaces it with behaviors. Instead of asking, “How do I feel?” you should be asking yourself, “What do I do?”
The Marathon Called Life
Think about the marathon runner. She has to go 26.2 miles, but is she thinking about the finish line when the race starts? No. That’s too daunting. She’s thinking about her pacing for the first mile. She’s planning out when she wants to grab water or eat a gel pack. Thinking about all 26.2 miles is over- whelming. Thinking about the next few steps is manageable, and it works whether you’re running a race, playing for a spot in the Super Bowl, or trying to save your own life in space.
— ANYONE who runs a marathon will tell you that miles twenty to twenty-six are the hardest.
— AND ANYONE who quits running at mile twenty-two will tell you that they im- mediately felt better—and IT’S TRUE. But days later when they read about the people who finished ahead of them—who kept running—they will have instant regret.
Our challenge every day is to ignore the choice that makes us feel better now so we can make the choice that can help sustain us. Marathon runners tend not to quit on mile twenty-two—even though they would feel much, much better in the moment—because they’ve stacked up choices that prioritize finishing that freaking race. In many cases, they’ve adjusted their diets, their sleep schedules, their work schedules. That can’t all be for nothing, so they keep running.
The Law of Substitution
At any given moment our minds can sustain only one thought at a time. One. The thousands of words flying through our brains or screams from outside crowds at riot levels can’t overcome that truth. It’s universal.
There is no choice. It takes what it takes.
Deep down, we all know our choices ultimately determine our behaviors and those behaviors ultimately determine our outcomes. That doesn’t make choosing correctly any easier in our own lives. Making bad choices is the lifeblood of average. It feeds it. It consumes it. It protects it.
Choice is a competitor—as much as any tangible opponent you or any team will face. In fact, it’s the ultimate competitor. It taunts you. It will lie to you. Take choice out of your way, and it’s like pulling the fitness band off Usain Bolt. The Velcro snaps, and watch his ass disappear. Choice is an illusion. Choice is Keyser Freaking Söze.
Options vs Choices
Options are choices that don’t have real consequences. If you want to watch a TV show, are you clicking on a broadcast network, a cable network, Netflix, or Hulu? If you’re hungry, do you get pizza, pad thai, chicken tikka masala, or sushi? And do you cook, go to a restaurant, or have Postmates or Uber Eats bring it to your lazy butt? These are all options.
But choices, even small choices, are the decisions that matter. Some probably sound familiar:
•Do I go to sleep at a reasonable hour or do I finish season four of Breaking Bad?
•Do I drink this Jack and Coke, which will inevitably lead to another and give me a wicked hangover that will absolutely keep me from being productive until 1 p.m. tomorrow? Or do I order water so I’ll be ready to roll at 7 a.m.?
Do I spend time with my kids, or do I play Halo for a few more hours?
•Do I start work on this presentation that isn’t due for three weeks, or do I cruise
Facebook to see what my friends are up to?
Correct choices don’t help only when competing against other people. You can make choices that lead to behaviors that make you a better spouse. A better parent. A more physically and mentally fit person. You can win even when the opponent is your own previous choices.
Even after great successes, it’s wise to step back and take an unbiased look at your circumstances. Then you can formulate a new plan that sets the behaviors (choices) necessary to reach the next goal. If you think you’ve made it, that you’ve reached the mountaintop, then you’re not going to set any new goals. You’re not going to outline behaviors that will allow you to make good choices repeatedly. If you are what you do, then when you don’t you aren’t. Our choices lead our behaviors, which impact who we become. New behaviors led by new choices create a different you. That different you can be better or worse. Choose better.
Greatness is a Choice
Average is a choice. Greatness is a choice. There is no magic. Only decisions. Great teams behave like great teams. Their behaviors precede their success. Their behaviors create their belief. Behaviors are not only what we do, but what we are willing to not do.
The choice to verbalize our negativity is a death sentence. Anything you tell yourself inside or—most powerfully—outside about your life is defining your life. That means if shit’s not going your way right now, it’s not because of a coach or a teammate or a situation. It’s you. You have the power to change it. You have the power to prolong it. And the reason you’ve succeeded and are where you are is not because of things others did or believed for you. It’s what you did and said.
Life as a rental car
The key is to be ready when the pressure comes. When you’re willing to jump over three chairs and grab the pen and take ownership, you’re ready. Many of us live our lives like they’re rental cars. We don’t clean rental cars. We can ding them up without consequence. When we own a car, we tend to worry more about jumping curbs or scratching the rims. We wash the car. We wax it. We vacuum the floor mats.
Your life isn’t a rental car. You own it. And that means you must engage in the behaviors that keep it in good working order. If you do, it will respond when you press the gas when the driver of the semi in the next lane decides he wants to move into your lane but doesn’t see you.
All the Best in Your Quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.