10
Fill Your Mind with What You Want to Show Up in Your Life

Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

—Lao Tzu

As an athlete, I'm acutely aware of all the food and beverages I put into my body. It took me much longer to be conscious of a question I should have been asking all along: “What are you putting into your mind?”

That question may be the most significant thing you ever ask yourself. People who deliberately choose what they think about and fill their minds with positive thoughts that spark growth will be successful in all the buckets of life. Conversely, someone who lives their life on autopilot and fills their mind with whatever captures their attention is bound to have mediocre results.

Just as you are what you eat, you also become what you think.

How? It all sources from the mind. Your thoughts become your behavior, your behavior becomes your actions, and your actions become your future. It's as simple as that.

Of course, there's always a catch. To harness the power of your mind, you have to become disciplined and know how to steer it. And the entire world is full of obstacles that can easily knock you off course.

The Sea of Thoughts

One of the biggest obstacles is your own's mind incredible processing power and capacity for information. You are capable of thousands of thoughts every day. In the 2020 Newsweek article, “Humans Have More Than 6,000 Thoughts per Day, Psychologists Discover,” Jason Murdock explains: “The researchers said the study shows how measuring thoughts can predict a person's personality, estimating the average human will have about 6,200 thoughts per day.”

That is an incredible amount of noise created by our own minds and could be dangerous to our long‐term future. If left undirected and open to any influence that comes along, distraction becomes inevitable.

What would it look like if most of those thoughts were constructive, conscious, and sending you in a positive direction? To do that, we have to consciously place a focused thought that we control and purposely curtail thoughts that send us astray. It is the idea of letting your intentions guide you throughout your day.

Self‐Limiting Beliefs

One of the challenges all of us face, myself included, are negative thoughts sourced from inside our minds. Negative thoughts can come in infinite varieties, and I'm sure you'll recognize some of the most common ones:

  • I'm not good enough.
  • I'm a failure.
  • I will never get this right.
  • That person is better than me.
  • I'll never be any good.
  • I'm dumb.
  • I'm weak.
  • I'm inept.
  • I can't do anything right.

There's another word for all this negative self‐talk—self‐limiting beliefs. Because that is all they are: a belief, not a fact, even though they may seem like facts. They are just beliefs that only seem real and don't serve you—you can just as easily replace them with more productive beliefs. And just like your self‐limiting beliefs, positive beliefs about yourself increase potency with repetition. If you tell yourself “I'm a success” often enough, you will find a way to construct that future instead.

That's why you have to be extremely careful about what you tell yourself every day. And if you're not telling yourself anything, you're in trouble because you will let what is all around determine your direction instead of you. You're relinquishing your ship to the wind.

Psychologists are fully aware of the power of negative self‐talk and how limiting and destructive it can be. In the Psychology Today article, “Self‐Talk,” written by the Psychology Today staff, they explain:

Filling your mind with negative self‐talk will cause negative things to show up in your life. The good news is the reverse is also true. Practicing positive self‐talk can help you turn things around. We'll get to techniques on how to do that in a moment. For now, take notice of any powerful self‐limiting beliefs you may have. Are you letting them get in the way of what you want? Are you letting them stop you from your full potential?

You always have the power to replace negative self‐talk with an affirmation—a positive statement about yourself that you declare. What if you replaced your negative self‐talk and told yourself these messages instead?

  • I'm good enough.
  • I'm a success.
  • I will get this right.
  • I don't compare myself to other people.
  • I will be good.
  • I'm smart.
  • I'm strong.
  • I'm capable.
  • I can take on challenges and succeed.

How different would your life look if this was the conversation you had with yourself every day?

The Power of Media

When it comes to filling your mind with what you want to show up in your life, your self‐limiting beliefs are the first hurdle you must conquer, but not the only one. The second most significant thing that can distract you is all the external messages you receive from all forms of media.

I'm not saying all media is negative. I am saying that media is pervasive and everywhere, and if you're not careful, you might find yourself getting influenced in a way that is not helpful for your direction. These days media comes at us from all sides from all platforms, in entertainment, news, social media, and most of all advertising. Worse, it comes from devices we carry around with us everywhere. Even if you don't use a personal digital device, media is still omnipresent, in virtually every interior, and even coming at you from all directions when you're walking around outside. You also interact with brands and their associated brand identities every day through the things you already own: your clothes, your computers, your breakfast cereal, your home décor. All of it comes with an accompanying message.

Some experts believe that all that media bombardment can lead to widespread unhappiness, just from advertising alone. That conclusion doesn't surprise me in the least.

But why does advertising make us unhappy? Oswald, the scientist from the study, suspects it has to do with the dissatisfaction that comes with comparing your lifestyle to one that you feel is better than yours:

When we add up all these influences of just the passive forms of media consumption, like casually scrolling through social media and advertising in all of its forms, it paints a scary picture. There is a fight for your attention and mind, and if you don't choose what you want to think about, the media environment will choose for you.

The Power of Choosing Your Thoughts

Internationally renowned motivational speaker Les Brown has a powerful thing to say on the subject of your mind's attention. He said, “Life is a fight for territory. And once you stop fighting for what you want, what you don't want will automatically take over.”

You have to claim the territory of your mind, or it will get filled with whatever is the most pervasive. It can happen unwittingly before you even know it.

In addition to all the passive forms of media consumption, there are the media platforms you deliberately choose to consume. Your music, movies, news, books, magazines, television shows, podcasts, favorite websites, and whom you follow and network with on social media are all your chosen forms of media consumption. You are solely responsible for those choices.

News, for example, has the potential to be particularly damaging to your mental health, depending on how you consume it. In the 2019 Psychology Today article “How Negative News Distorts Our Thinking,” Austin Perlmutter, MD, outlines the general doom and gloom effect it has on our mood:

It's not just hard news—even sports news or social media channels often have a negative bent. If you leave it up to chance, you're going to be consuming a lot of negative headlines, even if you're just reading sports. Most of the headlines want to maximize drama, and most drama is inherently negative in some fashion. They know what sells, what will get clicks, and these negative stories get incredible attention.

Be honest with yourself. Does any of the content you consume help you on your journey? Does what you consume align with the vision you have set up for yourself? Before you go any further, consider the answer to these questions:

  • What's the first thing you listen to or watch or read when you first get up?
  • What are your favorite tv shows, podcasts, movies, reading materials? Are they adding value to your life?
  • How much time do you spend on media that doesn't uplift you?
  • Where are your limits coming from?
  • Is there information out there that you want to learn? What's stopping you from learning it?
  • Is the content you're consuming worth the impact it has on your life? Even if it's just the time spent on it?
  • How valuable is your time?

The whole point of these questions is to help you be aware and intentional of what you are putting into your mind. You could start your day with news of how awful the world is and how angry everyone is with each other, or you could create the story for the rest of the day another way. There is untold power in your morning routine, and that's why I keep hammering its importance—you could start the day and keep it going with whatever fuels your fire and moves you that much further along with your desired vision.

The alternative is throwing your fate to the wind. You can be cruising through your day on autopilot, and suddenly you may feel heavy and weighed down by all these negative thoughts. Autopilot is not a good place to be in because then you're not making any choices at all.

I can't emphasize enough to avoid autopilot at all costs. Too many people live on autopilot, and they just do the same thing, week after week. They don't quite understand the concept that it's thought patterns that become behaviors, which become actions, which become your future. Ultimately, you're going to be the sum of your actions.

So would you rather the world plant those words and ideas in your mind, or would you rather do it by choice?

How I Filled My Mind in College Football

Back when I was in college football, I was highly unintentional about what I was consuming. I wasn't necessarily a reader outside all the school work that I was consuming.

I was lucky to have constructive and positive messaging from my coaches, preventing me from going on autopilot completely. Fortunately for me, I played under coaches who could both push me and speak confidence into me. Of course, the pushing part isn't always fun, but I can honestly say that it created a toughness and level of intensity that raised my game and, ultimately, my confidence.

You are at the mercy of your coaches in college football and what they fill your mind with. When I came to college, I played for Bobby Petrino, who was on the rise, and rightfully so.

Part of what made Bobby Petrino a great leader was that he was very demanding and had high expectations of us. Sometimes that approach is required for players to rise to the occasion, but it wasn't easy. He wasn't that interested in building a relationship with us—his assistant coaches were more relational, which made it all work. Bobby demanded hard work and excellence in all that we did, and he backed it up himself by working tirelessly to prepare game plans that would set us up for success on the field.

He would put a lot of pressure on us to perform and would not shy away from letting us have it with his words, but it was because he wanted to push us toward greatness. He once asked us in a team meeting who wanted to play in the NFL after college. I believe every hand in the room went up. He then said, “Good, because you will not be able to withstand the coaching and work that you will be subjected to if you don't have high aspirations for yourselves.” When you did receive a compliment from Bobby, it meant the world to you because he didn't hand them out carelessly or often.

That's the way Bobby would work—he was on a mission to win.

I was fortunate at that formative time in my life. I wasn't as intentional as I am now about my thoughts; however, I had incredible coaches, teachers, and mentors who filled that vessel with thoughts that would help me grow and stay on the right track. Some people don't emerge from their programs so lucky. That's one of the reasons it's essential to have strong leadership guiding our young minds.

How I Filled My Mind in the NFL

When I was in the NFL, I was just beginning to get into intentional practices for my thoughts. I didn't start right away. It took me a while to realize that I was in charge of my thoughts, and I couldn't leave it up to external forces.

I started to get better and better at intentionally filling my mind, and I'm so glad I did because it led me to get life coaching and a higher quality of feedback that I could use. I credit life coaching for helping me transition after my career‐ending injury and guiding me to think about myself in different terms than just being a football player.

I would encourage everyone, not just people at a transition point in their life, to benefit from a life coach or an accountability partner. All of us can benefit from an external structure that can help us or someone who can help speak greatness into us. For example, I started working with Mac for one year while I was still playing. Likewise, I would encourage other professional athletes to have someone they work with outside of the organization to give them unbiased feedback into their lives.

When I was in the NFL, the coaches were concerned with the team as a whole, so although we did get some individualized feedback, they didn't have time to pour into everybody on an in‐depth level. That's why I think it's great having personal coaches in your life, whether they be an executive coach, a mindset coach, a performance coach, or whatever you want to call them. There's a significant role for them to fill because they can constantly hold you accountable to fill your mind with the things that will help you.

I realize that not everyone is in the financial position to hire a life coach. However, sometimes an accountability partner can be just as constructive, and all it costs is their time. An accountability partner is someone you check in with regularly, figure once or twice a week, and helps you go over all the goals you have set for yourself. They can be a friend, a mentor, or a relative.

There are also other things you can do to take responsibility for your mind and thoughts. In those situations when you don't have someone who has time to pour into you, you can adapt to your environment and start pouring into yourself. And that can begin with gatekeeping the kind of information you consume. It should all be a deliberate choice, starting with that device you carry around in your pocket.

How to Start Filling Your Mind Intentionally

The same personal devices that can do so much to distract us can also be a powerful tool to take control of your mind. Your phone is a supercomputer with endless possibilities if you know how to use it. I would start with looking at podcasts, videos, and audio or digital books that contain information that uplifts you, positively influences you, and enables you to grow. Any self‐development material is outstanding. Fill your mind with it and make it a part of your routine, so one of the first things you are digesting in the morning is information that will get you on the path you want to go. I like books on audio because I can listen to them while doing other things, such as working out, although I understand some people prefer books in print, and I enjoy plenty of those, too.

There were many books I read early on and soaked up like a sponge. I'm still obsessed with soaking up information. I always want to be a super‐learner and absorb information and integrate it into my life. There is always so much to learn, such an abundance of information available to practically everyone. You just have to choose.

Choosing one thing eliminates others, so it's best to align your media consumption with your goals systematically. That one hour you are reading or listening to enriching content is an hour you are not spending second‐guessing yourself or getting your attention sent down a rabbit hole of competing media. Maybe you want to listen to a sermon, a lecture, a documentary, or some other self‐development material. Any of that is better than passively scrolling through your social media feeds for an hour.

As Jon Gordon says, “Thoughts are magnetic. What we think about, we attract.” That's why it's so important to get in the practice of listening to people you admire and filling your mind with possibility and promise. Your mind thrives on a healthy diet of positivity, growth, and stimulation, just like your body thrives with healthy food and exercise.

If you're thinking about 6,000 thoughts a day, wouldn't you rather you be in control of them and have your thoughts working for you? Unfortunately, most people remain on autopilot, and the majority of those thoughts, maybe as high as 90%, are negative or unhelpful. There is untold power to inverting that number so that at least 90% of your thoughts are positive, intentional, and helping you along your path.

It requires you to choose to be in the present, be awake, and choose content and thoughts every moment that help you forward.

Don't Limit Yourself

You don't have to limit yourself to an ordinary life. The question is, where do you want to go? The information available to you is unlimited. All the pieces are out there for you to put together.

You are not limited, even if you grew up in very challenging circumstances. Maybe you had financial struggles in your family growing up, maybe there were addiction issues in your family, or perhaps you grew up with abuse or discrimination. Maybe, like so many people, you came from a broken home or were a child of divorce. Those pervasive elements become part of the story you tell yourself about yourself. Then that story seems like an irreversible fact about your future. There is power in absorbing different content, which shows you a different story, a new story that can become yours.

You read a book or hear a speech. You consume information that reverses a story, or someone speaks confidence into you. The power of words to me is truly remarkable. That's why I admire people who are intentional about how they speak to others because they could change someone's life by one compliment, one encouragement, one piece of positive information that the other person may never have heard before. It can flip a person's story, overturning a bucket of false assumptions and self‐limiting beliefs. It is amazing to me how many of the high‐achieving guests on my podcast can pinpoint an occasion in their life when someone gave them the confidence to succeed at a high level based on words spoken to them.

You can also start with other people in your life. You can always request people to give you some time to offer their advice. You'd be surprised how many people want to help. Outside of your personal network, there are plentiful options to learn from some of the greats.

There are free and low‐cost seminars, online courses, books, training programs, certificate programs, and events. I encourage everyone to shop around for what works for them—there are dozens of powerful speakers from all walks of life aligned with your goals who want to deliver information that you can use to grow. It's part of their mission to help you. You just have to connect with them and their content.

You can access incredible content through digital books and print, the library, or through YouTube or the internet—never in history has so much information been freely available. The only thing putting limits on what you can learn is you. Your mind is hungry for the fuel to make it grow.

All the most high‐performance and self‐actualized people I know absorb self‐development content constantly. It comes naturally to them. You can do the same. Fill your mind with the best and most helpful content you can find, and watch as the things you focus on start showing up in your life.

Key Takeaways

Here are the key takeaways to filling your mind with what you want to show up in your life:

  • What you think, you become.
  • Your thoughts become your behavior, your behavior becomes your actions, your actions become your future.
  • There are significant obstacles to controlling your thoughts.
  • One obstacle is the sheer number of thoughts you have each day, between 6,000 by some estimates and other estimates at 60,000.
  • Another obstacle is self‐limiting beliefs and negative self‐talk.
  • Yet another obstacle is the constant media bombardment that competes for your mind's attention.
  • Despite it all, you still have the power to choose your thoughts.
  • You can control your thoughts with practice as part of your morning and daily routine.
  • You have a choice in what media you consume and what you believe.
  • There are nearly unlimited options for self‐development—you can pick and choose what you wish to learn over multiple platforms.
  • You can replace negative habits with positive ones.
  • You don't have to limit yourself—you can always change the story you believe in.
  • The more you fill your mind with positivity and growth‐related material, the more it will show up in your life.
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