You're Already Perfect

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
— Lao Tzu

I teach quite a bit of yoga. A common reason why people come to class is because they want to improve something about themselves - their bodies, their minds, their lives. They want to be better people.  

I know. I was one of those people.  

The desire to improve myself and my life after my NFL career came to an end was one of the things that led me to a steady practice of yoga and meditation. I've been down that dark path of self-doubt. That lonely place where you think everything you do is shit and you're not quite sure how to quit those self destructive habits.  

A powerful realization that helped me beyond measure was through the words of a friend while residing at my lowest: "You, as you are already, are good enough. You're already perfect."  

His words hit my heart like a sledgehammer, smashing false constructs I'd believed about myself for so long - that I was a failure, I would never amount to anything, I was unintelligent. When he asked me to repeat them, I did. But I barely recognized my own voice. I didn't fully believe what I was saying. I knew I still had many things in my life I wanted to improve. But this was as good of a place as any to start climbing out of this depressed state I had been in for nearly two year.  

Since then, what I've learned, and its nothing new, is that when you learn to be content with who and where you are in life, everything changes. For me these were a few of the noticeable changes I experienced:  

  • For the first time I was satisfied with who I was and my life.  
  • I stopped spending energy attempting to change so that others around me would feel more comfortable about themselves.  
  • I stopped comparing myself to other people, wishing I was more like them.  
  • I quit spending money on material things I once believed I needed.  

There was such freedom adopting (and eventually believing) the mindset: I already have everything I need to be happy, right here, right now.   I realized how much I took for granted: waking up happy, healthy, and free to live my life, having an amazing partner as well as supportive family and friends. These are a blessing and yet I was taking them for granted.

Instead I strived for more because, well, thats what society told me I should do: more means better. I believed having nicer clothes, cooler cars, a bigger place, bigger muscles, meant I was winning in life because it was all about what other people thought. I was looking for external validation with something I was only going to find inside myself.  

Finally I realized, after a deep dive inside my own mind coupled with that steady self practice of yoga and meditation, I didn't need any of that. I didn't need to improve my life. I didn't need to improve myself.  

Neither do you.  

You're already perfect.   

Create an Unshakeable Psychology Through Goal Setting

Yeah, I know. Goals. You've heard. You know. Right? 

So why do why do so few stick to the ones they set for themselves? Life coach Brian Tracy says the four main excuses people make as to why they don’t have goals (especially written ones) are:

  • They didn’t realize the importance of goals
  • They didn’t know how to write goals
  • Afraid of failure
  • Fear of rejection

I can speak only of my own experience, but for me, and in my past, I threw my goals (especially writing them down) overboard because I was afraid of failing.

For over a decade, from the age of 8 until 21, all I thought about, worked towards, and dreamed about was playing in the NFL. And guess what? I did it. Here's how:

  • I knew exactly what I wanted and rehearsed it in my mind every day
  • I had an extremely powerful answer to why I wanted it that drove me 
  • Every day I would write down my goal and three things I could do to get me a step closer to it

Yes. I did this. For over 10 years. And I wasn't always the most talented athlete, especially when I finally arrived in the NFL and played alongside guys like Drew Brees, Ladanian Tomlinson, and Jerry Rice. 

Once I arrived, though, I quickly realized I hadn't made any other goals for myself. Just making it was all I focused on for all those years. And by the time I tried to make more goals for myself - top 3 receiver on the team, out hustling everyone, catching every ball thrown to me - it was too late. My psychology wasn't strong enough too take the mental (and physical) beatings I took as a guy on the cusp of every team I played for.

Cue self destructive habits - doubting the physical ability that got me there, of my intelligence to remember phone book sized playbooks. The truth of the matter? I was physically capable. I was intelligent enough.  But the map I had created for myself only took me as far as a few steps past the gates of the NFL. It was a blank piece of paper after that. And that terrified me.

Cut to life after football. Two-yeas post NFL I pulled myself out of a very depressed state through the help of yoga and meditation and attempted to set goals for myself once again. I started writing music and short stories about my NFL experience. I attended an acting class and started modeling. But every time I got close to any semblance of success in any of those worlds, I turned my focus towards something else entirely. Like self destructive relationships or lawn bowling or fishing. Yes. I really lawn bowled.

But why? At the time I simply didn't realize I was doing these things. Now having some perspective at 36, I understand clearly: I was afraid of failing, again. Even though I had made my dream of making the NFL come true I still, l considered myself a failure because I believed I hadn't live up to the expectations my family and friends, and strangers even. The reality was and still is, however, that those people just want me to be happy.

Once this light bulb went off I buried myself in books on self-help, productivity, and effective daily habits. I built my psychology back up to an unshakeable level through specific exercises and rituals (sign up for my newsletter to get a free pdf of some those habits) and haven't looked back since.

How I set up and achieve my goals has become something I love doing instead of dreading. Below is an example of how I accomplished writing my memoir, The Fifth Down. I mapped out the goal and didn't get bogged down with the, "How the hell am I going to do this!?" I started with a clear vision on what I wanted. Then asked myself why I wanted it. And it was only after I gave myself a powerful enough 'why' was I able to come up with the how.  

Memoir Goal:

  • What: I'm will write a memoir about my experience in and out of the NFL .
  • Why: I believe sharing my story may help others who've had similar life experiences. I want to show my wife and daughter that I finish what I start. I want to finally let go of that portion of my life.
  • How: Write 500-1000 words every day. Read at least 30 minutes every day, books that inspire me. Gym and yoga five days a week.

At the end of each week I'd track my progress. Did I accomplish what I had set out to that week? If not, how could I improve? If I needed to adjust I change my daily 'how's'. I gained massive momentum by doing this. The writing process can take time, especially when the story is about your life. I had a few moments where I stepped away from this project, but am really happy I came back and ultimately finished it.

In the end, though, it's not so much about accomplishing the goal that matters. It's what the journey makes of us as a person.  

 

Mind over Matter, the Most Powerful Tool

The body will never fully respond to your workouts until you understand how to train the mind as well.
— Arnold Swarzenegger

The mind is powerful. A dynamo, a source of vital energy. That energy can be negative and work against you, or it can be positive and blast you through the stratosphere of what you once thought impossible. Whenever we see or hear about someone achieving unbelievable feats - Usain Bolt in track, Tony Robbins during his workshops, Stephen King in his writing - it's due to the power of their minds, not just technical, mechanical skill. And if we want to perform at that level we had better match their inner drive as well as their capabilities. 

People can do great things when they've got a fire burning inside them. They can put themselves through years of tortuous physical training on the path to the National Football League (I know from first hand experience). They can walk across hot coals, climb El Capitan (without a safety rope), sit and write 10,000 or more words every single day. They perform in spite of injury or pain or sickness, no matter the odds or obstacles.

We've all felt the power of the mind at some point in our lives. And there are a number of different ways to harness it:

  1. Vision. Want clear vision? Know exactly where you want to go and what you want to achieve. "Where the mind goes, energy will flow" is a saying I have believed in since my dad passed it on to me one morning while teaching me the fundamentals of weightlifting (a crucial step forward on my journey to the NFL). I have always believed that if you want to be a professional athlete or author or whatever, you have to have a crystal clear vision of you accomplishing these dreams. When your vision is powerful enough, everything else falls into place: your daily habits, the company you keep, the quality of your diet, activities you consider 'fun'. Vision is purpose. And with purpose comes certainty. No more anxiety. No second guessing. Total confidence. 
  2. Visualization. It's not enough, though, to just want to be a successful author, for example. there is much more to writing than that. It's about being brutally honest and creative and relentless and weird. Its a dance with your deepest secrets. Its an art. And you have to have a specific picture in your mind of the impact you want to make in the writing world if you're going to achieve your goals. When you look in the mirror everyday you have to see yourself as you are - and as you want to be as well. You have to see in your mind the books you wrote flying off the shelves, being translated into 30 different languages, changes other peoples lives just because they picked up your story. Focusing on such images opens your mind to possibilities that would not be available otherwise. It gives your subconscious mind a clear direction to gravitate towards.
  3. Role models. Growing up I'd watch my hero, Jerry Rice, every Sunday on tv. He'd make impossible catches, streak down the sidelines for game winning touchdowns, and never take a play off. He was known for his grueling training regimen during the off-season. And I wanted to be just like him. I modeled my work ethic after his and had dreams of playing on the same team as him one day (which ended up actually happening during my time in Denver, interestingly enough). I had pictures of him all over my walls. I collected his football cards and put them in special plastic cases. I kept newspaper articles wherever he was mentioned. I had daily reminders surrounding me of where I wanted to go and who I was going to be. Finding somebody who represents your ideal is such a powerful thing because it makes your goal achievable and keeps your mind focused on the task at hand.
  4. Motivation. The driving force behind any goal. Motivation allows you to develop a single-mindedness of purpose that ultimately gives you the will power to make it to the gym, to sit down and write 500, 1000, or 2000 words every day, to run that extra sprint because you know everyone else is tired. It makes the difference between just going through the motions of a two hour gym workout followed by another hour and a half on the track and really pushing yourself beyond your limits. Motivation creates discipline. And discipline creates powerful habits. Habits that have you looking forward to the goal that you have learned to picture so clearly in your mind.
  5. Training strategy. This is where everything mentioned above gets put into action. Where you move beyond the visualization of the goal in mind and decide exactly what needs to be done. You've decided where you want to go now we need to figure out how to get there. If your aim is to be a professional athlete what specific exercises and exercise techniques will get you to where you want to go? If you goal is to be a successful author entrepreneur, how many days during the week will you dedicate to getting your butt in the chair and writing? Deciding how to do anything can be a challenge and sometimes overwhelming. What has helped me in the past is choosing three targets I can hit everyday that get me one step closer to my destination. As an author, my daily targets might be to write 500-1000 words, lift weights at the gym (yes this is crucial for my sanity), and publish a new blog post. The beauty with this step is you learn to truly individualize your daily targets, and find out what works best for you. Eventually, when enough time passes, you master what needs o be done to get to where you want to go, always remaining open, always growing. 
  6. Focus. The key to whatever kind of success you want to have is to get your mind on your work, rather than concern yourself on what others are doing or thinking. When your focus is on what others may be doing or thinking, you lose sight of the vision you’ve created for yourself.  You’re no longer in the drivers seat. Instead of trusting in yourself, you’re handing over your power to someone else. You constantly doubt if what you’re doing is right. Doubt kills dreams. And you end up not working to the limits of your true capabilities. For example, throughout my journey to the NFL i would constantly come across really athletic and physically gifted guys - much more so than me - who seemed so confident and were training in a way that I was unfamiliar to me. I could feel myself gravitating toward wanting to change my own training program to match theirs, but ultimately I knew that worked for them and not me. So I stuck to my routine. And 99% if those guys never made it past the college level of play. I stayed focused on the task at hand, day in and out, and developed massive momentum over time that catipulted me into the NFL.