“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.” ~Mark Victor Hansen
The car engine’s loud revving got quiet. The tires came to a screeching halt.
This towering, slender, intimidating man, with a beard like the skin of a shaved porcupine, shut the driver side door behind him and approached me with thunder.
“Is this what you’re doing?!” he demanded. “On the corner—with a girl?”
It wasn’t her fault, but his expression almost made me turn around and look at her with utter disgust.
Instead, I was too busy quieting the butterflies in my stomach, looking up everywhere into his chiseled face except his eyes. His head blocked the sun like a solar eclipse on that urban street while his eyes burned a hole in my forehead.
“You’re going to throw away the championship for this.”
Never explicitly saying out loud what I did wrong, as he put me to shame, it made the unspoken truth stab my heart like a dagger, over and over, especially because I had deep admiration for this man.
As he walked away from the sidewalk concrete and drove off, I caught a glimpse of his long hairy calves in my peripheral vision and stared into the black pavement in deep contemplation.
Yanking my arm away from the hot girl next to me, like an annoyed child from an overprotective parent, I walked up the block and took the bus home.
I was sixteen when my tennis coach, this amazing man, taught me my first lesson in what it really meant to walk away from a grand vision you have in life, and the price you pay on your personal growth when doing so.
My sin: I had stopped showing up for tennis practice with two weeks left to a championship game that depended on my performance.
But why did I do that? And why do so many of us fail to do the things we want to do, resort to our old ways, and ignore our glorious vision in life?
A study by Janssen and Carton demonstrated how what scientists call the “locus of control” affects how timely we do things.
No, locus of control isn’t that awesome pose at yoga class! It’s our perspective on what’s really responsible for the outcome of things.
Do we take personal responsibility for things that happen in our lives and have an inner locus of control? Or, do we blame it all on luck and circumstance, otherwise known as having an external locus of control?
They gave forty-two students a homework assignment and found that students who had an inner locus of control started and returned assignments sooner, while those with an external locus of control started and returned assignments later.
We procrastinate more when we blame luck and circumstance for the results we get and avoid taking personal responsibility for what we want to achieve.
That’s what I did.
I hung out with my new girlfriend instead of going to practice so that I could retrospectively blame her in the event that I lost the championship. I have a girlfriend now, and she’s taking up my time. That’s why I’ll lose. It’s not because I didn’t take full personal responsibility. It’s her fault.
My tennis coach was trying to teach me the locus of control at the time, when the locus of other “things” controlled me more.
Fear and Limiting Beliefs
Research suggests a variety of reasons on why we fail to do things we want to do, but two stand out.
1. Fear of the unknown.
We can’t predict the outcome and the consequences it will have on our self-esteem. We do what we usually do to prevent our self-esteem from getting damaged.
2. The belief that we’ll perform better at a later date when we’re “more prepared,” which will likely never come.
This causes us to engage in indecision—on purpose, to validate our stalling.
In my case, I dated a new girl and stopped practicing to avoid feeling bad in the event that I lost the championship. I knew that I would win the girl, but wasn’t sure about the game, so I focused on the easy win.
Our human tendency to want to be right, certain, and safe can overshadow doing the hard work, breaking bad habits, and getting something we desperately want.
On Psychology Today, Ray Williams suggests that the brain is protective over its current habitual patterns. Achieving something new will require new behavior, and the brain will try to resist new patterns to protect its old conditioning.
The brain is also wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain and fear.
“When fear of failure creeps into the mind… it commences a de-motivator with a desire to return to known, comfortable behavior and thought patterns,” he writes.
Before you set out on a journey to achieve something, you must pay attention to the triggers that will happen in your mind, because your mind could derail you.
The most important factor in overcoming your mind’s tendency to keep you in your comfort zone is awareness.
The more aware you are of how your brain is conditioned and the lifestyle it’s trying to protect, the better equipped you’ll be to take action.
When my brain tries to make me curl back to comfort, I whisper to it, “Stop it! We must do this! Think about what we could gain in the long run.”
While many “gurus” might tell people to wake up earlier, set priorities, and plan better in order to work toward their dreams, these tactics alone do not always help.
Why? Because it’s our mental conditioning that’s holding us back, and that’s what we need to change. It’s our fear of the future, and often, our lack of personal responsibility that keeps us from taking action, not the failure to create to-do lists and wake up at a specified time.
Keep a vigilant watch at how your mind will try to take you back to your old ways. This is the only way to change your conditioning.
Changing your mind and spirit first, letting go of fear of outcomes, and challenging your old conditioning may revolutionize the way you live so that you own up to what you want to do—and then do it.