I was thinking today about how each of us have a perception in our heads of who we are, of what kind of man we are. I have spoke many times on this show about the importance of knowing ourself well so that this perception of self is as accurate as possible.
I have also said on many occasions that perception is reality. The things we perceive are what is real to us. That’s important, because if we perceive that we are good, kind, strong, brave, intelligent men…then we are much more likely to live into that reality.
One of the things, perhaps the biggest thing that informs our perception of self, is our memories. All of our memories, both good and bad are what come together in our brains to form the tapestry of our existence.
We rely on memories way more often than we realize. A bad memory might cause us to avoid a certain situation, while a good memory might cause us to seeks out situations where we can replicate that memory.
When confronted with a new situation, without us even realizing it, our brains scan our memory banks for anything that is similar, for anything that might help us navigate this new situation.
If it is a really brand new situation our brains might not come up with anything that helps us…but we forge on ahead anyway, and then we create a brand new memory that will aid us in the future.
Nestled in our brains alongside but independent of our memories…is our intellect. Our conscious reasoning area. Sometimes these two areas are in conflict. Sometimes our intellect doesn’t allow our memories to work as well as they should.
We humans have a special knack for letting bad memories fade into obscurity while at the same time embellishing good memories into things that didn’t really happen that way. My personal theory is that this only happens when we allow it to.
It’s a type of mental laziness that we have all been guilty of at one time or another. We want to believe amazing things about ourselves, it feels good, so we allow our intellect to bend memories into our favor. After a while, that becomes our new reality…our new, inaccurate reality.
Likewise, we might take a bad memory, something we are ashamed of or something that was painful, things that make our intellect uncomfortable. Then our intellect, through justification and excuse, will cause us to forgive this bad act, or make it so that it becomes irrelevant; it wasn’t our fault, someone else made me do that, etc.
Sometimes this is beneficial. For example if I had a 100% accurate memory of the pain I felt when my finger got smashed in the Army…it would be a very uncomfortable memory. As it is…I just remember that it hurt really bad.
The same is true with the pain of grief, like when someone we love dies. If that pain did not fade over time some of us would not be able to continue in life, because it would be too painful.
All that being said, how I think the way this is all relevant to being a better man…the key to it all, is to become the masters of our own mind.
It’s our mind after all. Who else should control it but us? Does it seem wise to just allow our brains to run amok, willy-nilly, thinking whatever it wants and making decisions that might not be in our best interest? I think not.
This may be a new concept to some of you. You might be wondering how we can control our own thoughts…it may seem impossible, like trying to control our dreams.
The difference is that dreams are subconscious and thoughts are conscious. When we are awake, we are driving the bus. When we are sleeping…the bus drives itself.
I think there are two basic ways that we can have impact over our thoughts, and memories and ultimately, over what kind of men we are.
The first way is very direct. First we become aware of our mind, the tricks it plays, and the schemes it makes, and the things we remember. Then with our intellect we focus our will and intention on it. Through our diligent intention and focus, we gradually become the masters of our own minds.
It requires practice, like anything does, but through constant analyzation, through honest, objective, self evaluation and raw effort, our intellect becomes more accustomed to being the master of our memories, our emotions, and our instincts…to the benefit of all those different parts.
The second way, a way to aid your intellect in this, is by taking an active role in what kind of memories you have to work with.
If you have a life full of crappy memories, then it’s kind of like putting lipstick on a pig and calling it pretty. Are memories are nothing more than the record of things that happened. So who determines what happens in your life? You do.
Last May I recorded episode 50, and it was called “Make A Memory On Purpose”. That’s kind of what I’m talking about. I’m talking about you, designing your life and your perception of yourself, by designing the memories you have.
Many memories just happen and there is nothing we can do about it…but we also have the ability as humans to create specific memories with intention and design. Keeping in mind that these memories and experiences will become part of who we are.
It could be something as simple as taking a walk with your kid and see how many bugs you can find. Or driving your wife somewhere for the sole purpose of watching the sun set together. Or helping your dad fix his gutters.
Or it could be a big memory full of smaller ones, like a trip somewhere you have never been.
The thing is…when you start creating memories, when you start designing the experiences that will become your perception, the things that will become who you are. Now you are living a life of intention.
The more memories, the better you know yourself, the more mastery you have over your life as a man. The guy with the most memories…wins.
Now head out there into the big world and be aware that everything that happens every moment of every day is recorded somewhere between your ears. Start making choices that have an impact on what is recorded, and you will have done something that makes you a better man today, than you were yesterday.
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