Keep Perspective

In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of your training mindset. How having a goal in mind, maintaining a vision of how to achieve it, and finding the proper mental space to overcome obstacles are paramount to success. On this anniversary of the June 6, 1944, Normandy Invasion, I want to drill down on an underlying theme that plays a roll in all of our lives: the ability to keep perspective.

I Get To Do This

It's difficult to utter a phrase that holds more weight. I referenced the D-Day Operation Overlord invasion because, in a matter of days, thousands rushed ashore on the beaches of Normandy to almost certain death. Over the ensuing months, hundreds of thousands would die. In all of World War II, tens of millions of people lost their lives. I think I can do the dishes when I know I need to, or go to the gym when I'm a little bit tired and sore. Oh, I have an exam? I suppose that's better than getting shot at. I get to do those things because of the sacrifices made by millions of others. Their sacrifices put me in a position to live a good life. It would be insulting to waste it.

This can be extended to other conflicts and events throughout history. Consider how many people were born into slavery, or died prematurely during the plague; how many are born into abject poverty, or spend their entire lives simply trying to figure out where their next meal will come from. Even today, millions of people die from starvation and exposure around the world. We all get opportunities that others would kill for. Keeping this in mind is a powerful way to calm nerves, motivate, and turn a bad day into a good one.

We All Have Privilege

Too often, we hear people put others down on account of their "privilege." One such example run amok is "white privilege." Regardless of what kind of privilege someone else does or doesn't have, this kind of thinking can do great harm to one's mindset. It requires you to view another's life in an envious way. "I'd be just as successful as him if I was born that way, had that much money, or was that smart." Instead of focusing on what others have that you don't, focus on what you do have and how you can leverage it. There will always be somebody better off than you, just as there will always be somebody worse off.

The way I see it, I'm more privileged than most human beings who have ever existed. I was born in the United States of America, a land that ensures freedoms few have experienced. I have the privilege of modern medicine, plumbing, refrigeration, and so many other conveniences that would be considered witchcraft as recently as a couple hundred years ago. I have enough wealth to get by, and can even purchase a few items here and there that I want rather than need. Hell, I have two legs, two arms, and good health. So much of our anguish comes from envy, lust, and greed (this is why they're three of the Seven Deadly Sins in Christian teachings). Being mindful of what we do have, no matter how little it may seem, is another potent way to change your mindset and view on life.

Control Your Emotions

Information is everywhere, as is various content vying for your attention. As a result, news agencies, television shows, social media influencers, and others prey on your emotions to get your attention. Consider Literary Hub's headline, "How the Killing of George Floyd Reflects America's Repeated History of Racism and Police Brutality." There are hundreds of ways to describe the incident, but this headline immediately plays to your emotions in support of, or in opposition to, the media's established narrative on racially motivated police killings. There are obviously headlines expressing the opposite narrative that perform a similar function. This leads to anger and hatred from multiple sides, leaving the only winners the companies getting the clicks. Emotion sells; don't let others so easily control your thought process. Train yourself to immediately question why a headline was written as it was, or if a piece of content was designed to manipulate you. Put a simpler way, figure out if a person or entity is f-ing with you. Doing so is the first major step in learning to control your emotions.

From here, apply this skill whenever you need to make a decision. Detach from your emotions and consider what would be the most practical path forward. This could be related to a big career move or something as small as wanting an extra doughnut when on a diet. Take a step back, understand why you initially reacted in a certain way, and analyze the choices from a position of strength. This is easier said than done, especially in life-and-death circumstances, which is why it's important to practice being aware. Tuning out the noise is difficult, but an incredible life asset.

Be Confident

Confidence isn't always easy to muster, even when you're in a familiar setting. I might be extremely confident in the gym, but certain weights on the bar can be intimidating. Allowing doubt to creep into your mind can be disastrous. Trusting in your abilities and the work you've put in will help you achieve goals you never thought possible. This is true from a physical standpoint just as it is from a mental one. When giving a speech, speaking confidently will overshadow minor mistakes. When dancing, flailing around in rhythm will look less awkward than moving with uncertainty.

The larger point is that keeping perspective builds confidence. In the gym, my first 600lb deadlift came on Memorial Day as I thought of those who could never again push their bodies to the limit. I knew I'd be close to completing the lift, and gave it everything I had. There was no way I was letting that bar fall. Keeping your life in perspective, and being present, is perhaps the best way to live a happy, disciplined, and successful life.


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