Winning the Battle Between the Ears
4:30 a.m. comes very early in the morning! The alarm sounds off breaking the warm, cozy silence and dares me to hit the snooze button. Time to get up! What follows is an amazing volley of justifications and excuses for why I should stay in bed. You don’t really need to go to the gym. Who are you trying to impress anyway? It’s not like you’re training for the Olympics!
Raise your hand if you’ve had that conversation with yourself…okay, put your hands down. This is an all too common dialogue we have with ourselves, whether trying to quit smoking, learn to play the ukulele, or implementing any program aimed at tighter abdominal muscles.
One of my oldest friends is a volunteer strength and conditioning coach for a high school football team on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While the players may think that he’s there to help them get stronger, run faster, and play harder, the real conditioning those kids are getting is one of leadership and success.
He tells his players that before they can win the battle on the field, they must win the battle between their ears—not just today, but every day. He knows that late in the fourth quarter, the mind will fabricate all kinds of reasoning and justification for quitting. Too tired. Not strong enough. They’re a better team. You can’t win. He knows the mind will spew vile thoughts of defeat, just to test your resolve and see how determined you are in achieving your goals. A few will overcome; most will succumb.
The reality of life is that the biggest challenges we face are not external, but internal. It’s overcoming the obstacles of our own thoughts. Most people’s financial problems have nothing to do with math. The majority of relationship challenges are not about Mr. or Mrs. Right. And nearly every leadership problem has the mind at its root, not lack of skill.
Winning the battle between the ears is what Steven Pressfield calls “doing the work,” in his book The War of Art. It is settling the argument in your mind and doing what needs to be done. Not just today, but every day.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
― Lao Tse