I have the privilege of being my seven-year-old son’s basketball coach this spring (along with my dad, who is the real basketball guru… I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but “Sporty” was never one of them).
My son is a pretty decent basketball player for a first-grader, and the teams he has played on have been good enough to win most of their games. Like most kids, he likes the thrill of seeing the points rack up on the scoreboard and the pride of making the shot. Though I’ve been careful not to glorify “winning,” instead emphasizing good sportsmanship, intelligent plays and the fun of being part of the game, the reality is that we’re all a bit competitive, and it feels really good to be on top.
Well, last Friday we got clobbered.
We were two players short of our usual 9-person team, so most of the kids (kindergartners and 1st graders) had to play the whole 45-minute game with very few, if any, breaks. The other team was aggressive, well-rested, and had a ridiculously-tall-8-year-old doing Jordan-style lay-ups. In the fourth quarter my son got knocked over and hobbled to the bench sobbing. Our kids were dog-tired and beat-up by the end of it. We lost; 8 to 28.
Now I want to admit something to you: I had a feeling going into this game Friday night that we might not come out on the winning side, and I was worried.
I was worried because I knew how much my son liked to win. I was worried because he’s a sensitive kid who keeps his emotions tucked inside. I was worried because he loves playing basketball and it does so much good for him mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was worried because I created this future-fear that if he lost, then he would turn it inwards and fill himself full of self-doubt, deciding that it would be better to quit altogether than risk another failure.
I’m gonna say this again: I created this future-fear for him. It wasn’t his fear; it was mine.
But – I also have been doing a lot of work on myself to 1) become aware of my fears (thanks, Gabby Bernstein*) and 2) stay present in the Now instead of future-tripping (thanks, Eckart Tolle).
So I stopped myself before letting this self-created fear anywhere near the controls on Friday night. I recognized that it was conjured up out of nothing other than thoughts. The only thing that could give it physical form was ME: If I allowed this fear to rule my words and actions… if I coached from a place of fear, or if I parented from a place of fear, then my negative energy would drive the reality.
See, the universe will mirror back to you whatever energy you are putting out there. When you lead with a positive energy and believe that things are happening for the greatest good, then that is what you will experience. And if you lead with negativity, expecting and fearing the worst, then your experiences will reflect that back to you.
I heard Oprah say once on one of her Super Soul Podcasts: You are responsible for the energy you bring into a room. That statement hit me so hard I had to pull over my car to write it down (I always listen to podcasts while driving with no kids in the car, because it’s the only time I can actually hear what they’re saying).
So much of how our days play out – or even how our lives unfold on a grander scale – is determined by the beliefs, fears and energy that we carry with us and project into our spaces.
We have power over our own lives!
Circumstances happen. Things occur that are outside of our control. But it is up to each of us to own the responsibility for our own personal space – our own energy field. How we receive and respond to these circumstances is within our power, and this is what ultimately drives our future reality.
We have so much more control over our lives than we often give ourselves credit for. If our universe (a.k.a. the reality we are experiencing) mirrors the energy we are putting out, then it follows that we are creating our own life experience. We are the ones who get to decide if our experiences are affirming, constructive, and growth-oriented, versus crushing, detrimental, and repetitive. The circumstances don’t determine that – we do. The circumstances are just events. We are in charge of the stories we tell ourselves about those events.
There is immense power in knowing that we can each choose which statement we will life by: “Things happen to me” or “I decide how to experience my life.”
You are the only one who has the power to release your fears and negative thoughts.
In This Naked Mind, I hear coaches use the phrase “Choose Your Thoughts” over and over again. When fears, judgements, self-doubt pops up in your mind, you get to decide whether you want to be a witness or a slave. Do you want to let those negative thoughts and emotions control your words, actions, and experience, or do you want to acknowledge them as passing sensations that you are capable of releasing? You have the power to decide.
Think about that: These thoughts are not holding onto you, but the other way around – You are holding onto them. And you can let go.
The phrase “Gripped by Fear” is erroneous. It’s backwards. We are the ones doing the gripping; fear is just a thought. We are choosing to hold tight to our fears, and once we look down and realize that it is our own hand in a death grip around fear, we can learn to ease up and eventually release it altogether.
It starts with awareness – and a belief in your ability to control the muscles of your own hand!
So back to my son and basketball:
The game started and I set my fear down on the bench next to me. I wasn’t able to banish it completely, but I sure didn’t need it thinking it was in charge!
The kids played a hard, rough, sweaty game. They made a zillion stumbles and a bunch of great plays, but most importantly, they all WANTED to keep playing. Even when they were down 20 points with no hope of coming back, they all wanted to stay on the court, red-faced and panting, and play, including my son.
After the game, he was tired and ready to go home for some ice cream, but in good spirits. He had fun; and isn’t that all I had hoped for?
I turned to gather my fear up off the bench, but it was already gone.
*In her book May Cause Miracles, Gabby Bernstein starts her 40-day guided journey with the simple task of witnessing your own fear. She asks readers to identify, without judgement and without trying to change anything, to simply observe the fears arising throughout your day. Write them down, and notice how they make you feel, physically and emotionally. This is such an important step, because we can’t release what we don’t realize we are holding.
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