Why Your Brain is Sabotaging You and How to Take Control
Stop Fighting the Straw Man
September 20, 2023

A few years ago, I came across a pretty incredible book.

The book is Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz and it helped me change my mindset. It’s all about how we see ourselves and how that shapes our lives.

I don’t see this book mentioned too often. So, I want to share some of the wisdom I learned from it. That way, you can see for yourself how powerful this stuff is.

The Straw Man Dilemma

Ever catch yourself stressing over problems that don’t even exist? This is something everyone does.

We like to make up these ‘straw men,’ which are fake problems. And then we get all worked up over them. We say things like ‘What if this happens?’ or ‘What if that goes wrong?’

But get this — a straw man is just a made-up problem we create to avoid facing the actual issues. It’s like celebrating a win when you haven’t even played the game yet.

When we’re worrying like this, we’re reacting to a movie we’ve made up in our heads.

But here’s what’s crazy. Our nervous system doesn’t know that it’s all make-believe. This is a scientific fact.

Your brain reacts as if all this imaginary stuff we make up is happening to you.

Escape the Mind Traps

So, how do we escape these mind traps we set for ourselves?

The first step is we have to stop fueling these imaginary stories in our heads. Seriously, just let it go.

Zero in on the here and now. When we’re solely in the moment, those made-up problems don’t stand a chance.

Ever find yourself stuck in your head and missing the beauty that’s right in front of you?

Stay present and those fake problems fade away.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” — William James

Why Not Reacting is Key

Relaxation is the art of not reacting. Sounds simple, right?

But let’s be real. Who has time to relax these days? Yet, taking time to chill out teaches us not to jump at every little thing that comes our way.

So, why do we stress so much anyway? It’s because we’re human and hate not knowing.

Uncertainty makes us uncomfortable, so we predict or imagine what’s next. But all we’re doing is making stuff up that’s not even real, and it’s making things worse for us.

Let’s talk about sports for a second. You’ve got some people who shine under pressure and then you have those who choke.

Like, the pitcher who’s usually solid but messes up when the game’s on the line. But then you’ve got the heroes. The ones who nail that last-second shot or score a touchdown to win the game.

Choking doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you haven’t figured out the mental game yet.

I wish I knew this growing up. I was a natural athlete, but the more pressure I felt, the more I messed up.

I thought I needed to concentrate harder. That put me in my head instead of being in the game and allowing myself to do what I knew how to do.

This wasn’t about skill at all. It was about me getting in my way and being in my head.

And it’s not only sports. Ever seen a salesperson mess up a big deal? Or a comedian bomb on stage?

It’s all about whether we believe we can handle the challenge. The second we let doubt in, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.

Always remember this — WE ARE NOT OUR MISTAKES. We all have the power to rise and change.

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” — Benjamin Franklin

Handle Pressure Like a Pro

Talent and skills? Sure, they’re important. But what defines us is how we handle those make-or-break moments.

Nail it, and we unlock a new level of strength and wisdom. Mess it up, and we’re not only ruining the moment, but we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and regret.

So, what’s the key? Get a grip on this sooner rather than later. It can save us from a lot of pain and missed opportunities. By letting that negativity in, we’re on our way to a downward spiral.

Being proactive gives us the upper hand. Not just in our daily lives, but especially in those moments that count.

Four Steps to Crisis-Proof Your Mind

Here are 4 steps to help handle crises better:

  1. Pause Before We React: We often freak out because we’re quick to react. So, practice holding back. Try not answering the phone the second it rings. Give it a moment.
  2. Practice in a Relaxed Area: Get good when the stakes are low. This prepares us for when things get real.
  3. Take the Wheel: When stuff goes sideways, don’t freeze. Take charge and decide. Don’t allow the situation to control us.
  4. Size It Up: Before we hit the panic button, assess the situation. Is it a genuine emergency or just a minor setback? Knowing the difference can save us from a meltdown.

So, what’s the takeaway?

Well, handling a crisis is a skill. This means that anyone of us can learn how to do it.

“Pressure is nothing more than the shadow of great opportunity.” — Michael Johnson

Next up, let’s dive into a couple of exercises that can change how we deal with tough spots.

Why Practicing Without Pressure Works

You know how some people say the best way to learn to swim is to just get thrown into the water?

Sure, we’ll do whatever it takes to not drown, but that’s not setting us up to become a high-performer.

Why? Because when we’re freaking out, our brain isn’t learning the right stuff. It’s in survival mode, not learning mode.

So, our brains have these things called mental shortcuts. Think of them like a GPS for decision-making.

When we’re calm, our brain maps out many routes to solve a problem. But if we’re super stressed, our brain only sees one way. It’s like losing a signal while using a GPS.

Being too motivated can mess up our ability to think clearly. We try so hard that we end up making mistakes.

That’s why it’s crucial to practice without pressure at first. It helps our brain work better when the stakes are high.

So when we’re in a high-pressure situation, we’re not reacting. We’re making the best choices because we’ve trained our brains to do so.

The Power of Visualization

Visualization is a crucial tool, and it’s not the kind you might associate with self-help books or movies like The Secret.

It’s not some gimmick. Top performers use it all the time. Take boxers, for example. They don’t shadow box to look cool. They’re mentally prepping for the actual fight.

The crazy thing is, our brain can’t tell the difference between imagining something and doing it. So when we visualize, we’re training our brain to act the way we want in real life.

And it’s not just our brain that gets the memo. Our muscles and our entire system get ready too. So when it’s go-time, we’re all set to make the right moves.

Don’t think this is only for athletes either. This is for anyone. And the gains from visualization can affect every part of our life.

Trust me, not too long ago I thought this was all BS, too. But now I can’t deny the impact it’s had on my life. I promise it’s worth the time to try.

Final Thoughts

We’ve been through a lot. From imaginary problems that mess with our heads to the skills we need to handle life’s challenges. So, what should we do?

First off, we need to stop making up problems that aren’t there. Focus on the now, and those fake issues will fade away.

Second, find time to relax. Don’t underestimate the power of chilling out for a while. It helps us to not jump at every little thing that comes our way. So, even if it’s for a few minutes a day, make time to relax.

Now, let’s talk about practice and pressure. We have to train our brains to make better decisions when the heat is on.

And don’t forget about visualization. It’s a proper tool that can make a difference in how we handle challenges.

The big takeaway?

Your mind is a powerful tool, but only if you know how to use it right. It’s all about training our brains to work better for us. Stop getting lost in ‘what-ifs’ and start focusing on the present moment.

So, what’s stopping you?

Don’t wait until it’s too late to start practicing these skills. Start now.

Deep Dive: Further Resources

If you're interested in learning more about Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz then here are a few resources you might enjoy.

You can check out the quick review for Psycho-Cybernetics in the Resources tab under Books and Audiobooks. Or click here to be taken there now.

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz: This book is filled with wisdom. Go check it out now.

Here's an incredible video about Psycho-Cybernetics from the FightMediocrity channel on YouTube-

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