It is a fairly well accepted thought that 90% of your brain development occurs by the age of 5. This doesn’t mean full understanding of the world and all that, but it does set in place the filter through which your view of the world flows from that point forward. If you are thrust into a world of chaos, of abuse, of neglect, all of these variables skew the way you see the world and your place within for the rest of your life.
As we are all well aware, none of us have any control over these circumstances as a child or young adult. You are born into your set of circumstances and that is that. BUT…there comes a time where you need to start to see things differently. You may not be responsible for your circumstances in early life, but you DO NOT have to be complicit in having that original filter remain in place forever. Just like a dirty engine air filter chokes the performance out of your car, this internal filter you had installed quite a while ago can choke out your performance in life as well.
Time to Change the Filter
I would encourage you to do some self exploration and figure out what if anything is holding you back from the optimal version of you. Are you getting the most out of what you’ve been handed? Seriously, in a realistic sense, are you doing what you should be doing, chasing what could be yours, living the best version of your life? As much as I may have wanted to be the starting shortstop for the Yankees at one point in my life, there is only one guy who has that job. I wasn’t gifted with the genetics to be that one guy, and despite my way above average work ethic, it wasn’t in the cards for me. But I turned that desire into another pursuit, one that I was suited for, and I made my mark there. If there is a 40 man roster on a Pro baseball team, I achieved the same rank elsewhere, the equivalent of my childhood dream.
I was lucky to have grown up in a stable environment as a kid; happy, supported and encouraged. But I developed my own sense of responsibilities and pressures, and started to drag around that baggage from a pretty early age. I played Little League baseball, and my Dad was the coach. It seemed really cool at first, but at some point I started feeling like because he was the coach, I should be the best player on the team. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other, but that is what my filter was allowing through. As a pitcher, the game was in my hands (again, not true) and if I did well, we would win. (not true either) If I didn’t play well, we lost (not always true, sometimes you win 13-12) My filter was snapped into place early on, and I began to equate winning with self worth and love. Not a happy path to walk.
When I was older I started to gravitate to individual sports, where I didn’t have the pressures of winning or losing for everyone else, just myself. I wrestled in high school briefly, until a neck injury ended that run. I switched over to racquetball, where I was completely left to my own devices, and had not enough supervision. I developed bad habits, a bad attitude, and a strong filter about my place in the world. My behavior was influenced too much by the people around me. Many of them appeared to promote the idea that the better player you are, the more social currency you had, and the more you could get away with. As I progressed as a player, my self worth became more and more tied to wins and loses; to make things worse, I only wanted to be an Open level player (the highest division) and so I moved up the ranks faster than I should have. This meant more mis-matches and more losses. I created my own downward spiral of self loathing and poor self image. Eventually my level of play rose to the level of my competition, and then beyond. Do you think that solved my problem?
Hell no…I moved the goal line. The new measuring stick became to be a Pro level player; so I repeated the same self-abusing cycle all over. I joined the Tour before I was ready to play at that level, and spent two years getting my ass handed to me. Eventually my level of play rose to the level I was playing…blah blah blah. Do you think that solved the problem? NO.
The question is…why? How did I get into the pattern, and why on Earth did I keep repeating it? Hint: here come the takeaways….
1. I was not aware of any of this until ten years after the fact. As the old saying goes, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. What that means is, I was so in the midst of the problem, I was too close to see things clearly.
2. I didn’t know any other way. By having a filter set in place early on in life, I did not ever think about things any other way. I had people who tried to help, telling me things like “it just Racquetball”, I but I just assumed they didn’t understand. How could they know what I was going through out there on the court? I never stopped for a moment to think about an alternative way to look at things.
3. I never talked about it enough. There was help to be had, there almost always is. I was too self conscious to ask for help, too worried about being exposed, afraid it would be told to the world. An outside perspective from someone with similar issues, or a completely different world view would have been good for me. Instead I surrounded myself with the set of matching luggage that I took with me from place to place.
4. I played like my life was going to be defined by what happened on the court. I lived and died out there, each and every time. I have probably have a losing record, year over year, for 10 of the 15 years I played tournaments, so you can imagine the impact this had on my self worth.
I am slowly learning that the filter I installed myself all those years ago needed to be replaced. I have led a very privileged life by many people’s standards; I played my sport of choice for a living until I was 30. I have moved on to success in other facets since then, and continue to pursue other passions and interests. I am fortunate, and I am aware of that. I have a new sense of gratitude that I have not really known before. Here’s the catch…It took me until I was almost 50 to get to this place. Better late than never, for sure, but I am hoping to help others reach this place of perspective sooner.
Take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself a coupe of questions:
1. Am I happy with this version of me? If the answer is an emphatic “YES!” ask again just to be sure you’re not delusion. If not, that’s great. If maybe you are, seek help. Ask friends and family if there was a particular trait or habit they think you should look to change or improve, and you get the same answer more than once, you may have found an area for improvement. If you are not happy about certain things, TAKE ACTION. If you are overweight, change your diet and start exercising. In a bad relationship? Fix it or get out. Hate your job, find a new one. Don’t be complicit in the things that are holding you back.
2. What big goal do I want to accomplish soon? We as humans are goal oriented creatures, and this is what makes you feel most alive. This may relate back to the suggestions above, or it may be something completely different. Have you always wanted to write a book? GET STARTED. It is easier now more so than ever before to start, write, finish, edit, and self-publish a book. Amazon has a turnkey program for you to use, and there are others out there as well. Want to hike Machu Picchu next year? Start saving your money, update (or get) a passport and start climbing stairs to up your fitness level.
3. How can I change my filter? Start digging now, and figure out what you need to do to change how you see the world. The world has what you look for; it has sadness and negativity of that’s how you see things. But it has happiness, abundance and endless possibilities if you choose to see it that way too. You are not stuck. You are not sentenced to the life you have if it is not what you want.
Start today. There are millions of books on this topic, hundreds of thousands of podcasts and YouTube views to reference just for starters. Make sure you are following the advice of someone with at least a little credibility to their name. Get the picture in your head of what you want, and start working towards it.
The thousand mile journey starts with but a single step.