Let’s get dangerous!
Checking for Blind Spots…
This was it…
Derek had won the last three contests. But this time would be different.
No silly mistakes. No un-planned moves. No chance for Derek.
He was cornered. And this last token would drive the nail in the coffin.
I dropped my checker and marveled at my own prowess. A two-way-to-win scenario! No way to block. No way to counter. It was the Connect Four version of check mate!
I turned to watch Derek’s expression as he became aware of his imminent defeat.
Waiting… waiting… to watch him deflate. And then…
“Connect Four!” Derek declared as he dropped his final piece and smiled with glee.
I’d maneuvered so carefully. So strategically. So craftily. He must be joking. He had to be!
I examined the board to verify his claim.
And there it was… four perfectly aligned yellow checkers in diagonal order marking my defeat.
Naturally I proceeded to do the only logical thing I could think of… Flip the board. Curse profusely. And hurl line drive checkers in Derek’s direction as he cackled like a hyena.
I was dumbfounded.
How had I missed it?
It was right there in front of me.
This isn’t chess after all. It’s Connect Four!
The rules are simple: Connect Four!
So naturally when someone strings together three in a row, you have to be on high alert to make sure not only that your opponent doesn’t complete his row… but also that you don’t assist him in getting there.
But in the midst of our epic showdown, I’d lost sight of my opponents checker pieces. I’d become so hyper-focused on my red pieces, that I was utterly blind to the yellow pieces assembling in perfect diagonal formation.
Even after Derek had claimed his victory, I had to study the board for several moments before I discovered what I’d missed.
Then I threw a temper tantrum.
I’d been victimized by my reticular activating system.
It’s a part of your brain that affects what you pay attention to… blocks out the majority of info so you can focus on that which matters most.
If you buy a brand new Jeep, you’ll start noticing all the other Jeeps on the road. It’s not that the Jeeps weren’t there before. Your reticular activating system (RAS) just filtered them out as unimportant to you.
It’s a necessary process. With the amount of information that comes at you on a moment-by-moment basis, you can only concentrate on a select few pieces of data at a time.
It’s the same reason that you’ll hear your name over all the noise in a room full of crowded people. The RAS knows your name, warrants your attentions and perks up accordingly.
Hyper-focus on specific data can certainly come to your aid.
Or it can cause you to miss the yellow checkers accumulating right before your eyes.
Ever go to the fridge looking for the salsa and no matter how hard you look, you just can’t find it? Then your brother walks in front of you and picks it up from a shelf right in front of your face?
My dad has an expression for such instances…
“If it had been a snake, it would have bit you!”
Funny, but also true.
In fact, many scientists believe that our RAS helps us identify snakes quickly because they were notorious for stealthily taking out a lot of our ancient relatives. Which is why today, even the sight of a harmless back yard garter snake will send most people into full on panic mode.
What can you take away from all this?
Other than the fact that CJ sucks at Connect Four and snakes are icky no matter which way you slice it?
Patterns beget patterns.
You wake up, you stub your toe, and you tell yourself it’s going to be a bad day.
Your RAS kicks into action and goes to work helping you to prove that assertion… blocking out the good… accentuating the bad. (Because what’s bad is now what’s subconciously relevant to you.)
Now your coffee’s too hot… you had the right-of-way but that jerk sped in front of you anyway… and it’s Leg Day at Bootcamp when you could have sworn it was an Upper body day.
You’re alerted to every negative happening (and even converting positives into negatives through careful mental ninjitsu). All the while tallying the ways you’ve been victimized in your mind.
The RAS asks, what else can we pile on?
Hmmmm… my kid was bullied at school… I didn’t get the promotion… this country’s going in the toilet… and it’s only friggin Monday!
With little effort, your bad day can become a bad week… a bad month… and just a bad season of your life.
The process can work in reverse too… but it takes some concentrated effort on your part.
Left to its own devices, your brain can run wild and you can be on the verge of depression or jubilation at any given moment.
But it would behoove us to remember that we are not our brains. There’s another YOU that sits in the control room calling the shots… or the YOU that falls asleep at the joystick and lets the wheel of destiny carry you wherever the wind blows.
Will knowing any of this make you better at Connect Four?
Maybe… if you can teach yourself to focus equally on offense AND defense at the same time. (AND if you can stop letting Derek’s giggling like a schoolgirl get under your skin and throw you off your game. He thinks he’s so clever…)
But perhaps, more importantly, it can help you take control of your day to day mood and outlook.
Maybe the narrative you have running about being a loser doesn’t have any more merit than the narrative that you’re a super-capable, ultra-amazing force to be reckoned with.
Rest assured, you can find evidence for both if you’re looking for it.
And you get to choose.
Ironically, most people don’t think they deserve the positive narrative.
Which is circular logic, because what you “deserve” is just another narrative.
You are not your brain.
The next time you hear the thought, “I’m having a bad day…”
STOP and declare, “I disagree!” in the silliest cartoon voice you can muster. (Humor can help break you out of a thought pattern.)
You dismiss the negative thought and stop the negative habit loop before it can even get started.
Then you decide it’s going to be a great day.
And you repeat it the next day.
And the next day.
Do it again, and you’ve Connected Four somewhere where it matters… YOUR LIFE!
Then you can tell Derek, “In your face!” on Facebook (and don’t explain why). Lol. 😉
CJ’s Book of the Week:
“‘T’ Is For Transformation” by Shaun T.
“Skedge” for 6/4/18-6/9/18
Manchester (Class Times: Mon-Fri @ 5:30/7:00/8:30am & Satuday @ 7am)
Monday: Lower (CJ)
Tuesday: Upper (CJ)
Wednesday: Core (CJ)
Thursday: Lower (CJ)
Friday: Upper (CJ)
Saturday: Core (CJ)
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St. Louis Fitness Bootcamp