Cracking this psychological hurdle is key to taking action towards the life you want to live
“There are two sides to your inner voice, one is positive and confident (hell yes, let’s do this) and the other one is negative and highly critical (hold on, you will fail…don’t try). Depending on who’s sitting at the control center at any given moment will have a dramatic impact on your daily decisions to act on something or not.”
--Mark McGarry, CEO and Co-founder of YORK Athletics Mfg.
Shown: Featured fighter Jay Kelly. Professional boxer, trainer, and meditator
Intuition guides most of our important decisions in life. I’m the first to advocate listening to your inner voice, it’s a natural compass that most of the time serves us well. Especially today with digital distraction left and right, it’s easy to get tugged around and lose sight of your intended path and guiding values. Take a look under the hood at our brains, we’re naturally wired for distraction and are constantly getting tugged around by our own thoughts, emotions and feelings. That’s a whole lot of distraction going on.
For me personally, it wasn’t until I developed a consistent meditation practice that I realized how crazy our brains actually are. They never stop thinking, planning and plotting or worrying. Once I learned to become an observer of the mind, as opposed to being tugged around by it, I felt an enormous sense of relief and clarity. There are two sides to your inner voice, one is positive and confident (hell yes, let’s do this) and the other one is negative and highly critical (hold on, you will fail…don’t try). Depending on who’s sitting at the control center at any given moment will have a dramatic impact on your daily decisions to act on something or not. Not to mention the bigger impact on your present mood and overall contentment.
Here are 2 simple steps to prevent your inner critic from taking over:
#1: BECOME AN OBSERVER OF YOUR MIND
Mindfulness meditation is what did it for me and for the skeptics (which was me 4 years ago), do a little digging and you’ll quickly learn that meditation is becoming a staple practice for professional athletes, entrepreneurs and anyone looking to be more present in life. Just 10-20 minutes a day focusing on the breath and observing the mind as thoughts come and go, but any activity that requires some level of concentration works too. Simply become an observer of your thoughts. As an example, if you’re reading a book, notice how often your mind wanders and quickly label the thoughts as work stuff, planning or plotting and then simply return to the singular task of reading. Like most people, you will be amazed at how often our brains wander and are constantly spewing out distracting thoughts that pull us away from the present moment, like reading a book in this example. Another helpful tip is to check in 2-3 times throughout the day to observe what’s happening in your mind. I usually do this whenever I hit the restroom, just using some cue throughout the day to remind myself to check in with what’s happening upstairs during a busy day. Is my inner voice ‘positive and confident’ or ‘negative and critical’, if it’s the latter then it’s time to reset before going back to whatever it is I was doing.
#2: GET TO KNOW YOUR INNER CRITIC AND KO THE BASTARD
The more you observe, the more you learn about this inner critic and how often he or she is actually sitting at the control center and jerking you around in life. After some practice, you get to know when he or she is surfacing for some attention. I often feel him crawling up my arm to sit on my shoulder, this is my trigger to start paying close attention. If he is going on and on about work, plotting or planning too much or doubting me I now know this is just my subconscious mind doing what it always does, streaming a lot of unnecessary worry and pulling me away from the present moment. I can choose to ruminate on these thoughts or let them go or better yet, knock out Mr. Critic, regain the control center and move on to taking action that keeps the positive and confident you on the path that you desire.
Shown: Featured fighter Marilyn Rondon. Health and wellness advocate, artist, and meditator
Here are a few good resources to help you get started with a simple meditation practice:
- Headspace App – probably the best guided meditation app out there. It’s easy and a great place to start
- Mindful.org – here are some answers to common questions about meditation
Mark’s writing explores mental & physical conditioning and mindfulness meditation. He is the CEO and Co-founder of YORK Athletics Mfg., a training footwear brand that honors the fighting spirit. His work can be found on their on-line journal, Lovers & Fighters, where you’ll discover healthy living tips and inspiring stories from his circle of athletes, professional fighters, meditation teachers and entrepreneurs.
Mark is married, a father of two boys, a surfer and co-owner of YORK Athletics MFG and MCGARRY&sons. He trains with the Rajasi Muay Thai martial art’s team and is a student of mindfulness meditation at the Benson Henry Institute at Mass General Hospital. He lives in South Boston, MA.
Photo cred: Jon Humphries Photography