The 3 blind brothers Sahil, Arjun, and Samesh heard a rumor that a strange animal had recently been brought to town. As they talked amongst themselves they realized they had no clue what the animal was. So the brothers sought out the animal in the town center and began to touch it.
Sahil, whose hand reached the animal first, recoiled and cried out “It’s a snake!”
“Surely you must be mistaken, Sahil” Arjun replied “It seems to be some kind of fan. I can feel it cooling me”
Samesh, the oldest of the 3 brothers huffed mightily and proclaimed “You two are fools, this ‘creature’ is as hard and unyielding as iron. It must be a wall”
The brothers began to argue amongst themselves until they heard footsteps approaching where they stood.
“Gentleman,” said the voice “I overheard your spirited debate”
“What of it?” grunted Samesh “Are you here to help me convince my brothers that this ‘creature’ is neither snake nor fan?”
“I felt it!” shouted Sahil “It twitched and coiled itself up as a snake does!”
“You’re wrong!” said Arjun fervently, “I could feel it moving the air around me. Surely it is a fan!”
“What you are touching my friends, is an elephant” laughed the voice.
“Sahil, you have touched its trunk, which can curl like a snake. Arjun, you are feeling its ears. They flap and air moves in the same way a fan does. Samesh, your hands are on its side, which is rock solid, not unlike a wall”
“An elephant?” Samesh asked, inquisitively.
“Yes” replied the voice “You each felt a different part of this noble beast, but I assure you, this creature is neither snake, fan, nor wall. Touch all of it, you will see”
The brothers slowly grasped at the elephant, and as they did, their faces began to light up as they realized the man spoke the truth. The creature was an elephant – and each of its parts felt different.
Your brain is a giant prediction machine – its job is to take information, process it, and output answers in the face of great uncertainty.
The story of the blind men and the elephant has been retold for at least 2,000 years because it shows us the fundamental problem with our prediction machine is the same as it’s always been.
The prediction machine gets shit wrong, all the time. Sometimes the shit it gets wrong is inconsequential.
Other times, it’s more costly…
Your prediction machine runs on flawed and incomplete information, so it should be no surprise that it often gets things wrong. At any time, you can only see part of the truth.
That’s not the problem. The problem is when you accept what the prediction machine tells you as truth without first stopping to critically consider the conclusions it has reached.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked with a number of you in my email coaching program who are struggling with this. You are jumping to conclusions about your breakup, your ex-girlfriend, and even yourself based on how you are feeling right now without stopping to consider if the conclusions you’ve reached are even logical.
A smattering of these conclusions include:
- I’m never going to stop feeling like this;
- I’ll be alone forever;
- There’s no way I’m going to get her back, she’s seeing someone else;
- She’s the only girl I’ll ever love this way;
- I’m not good enough – I have to be better before anyone will date me;
- I’m not confident enough to get back out there;
When you jump to conclusions after getting dumped, all you are doing is causing yourself more pain. For some of you, it’s killing you.
Getting through a breakup is hard enough on its own. You don’t need to be fighting a war inside your head.
Let me show you a better way.
Accept That You Can’t Predict The Future
You aren’t the Simpsons – you can’t predict the future.
When you make a prediction about the future such as “she’s never coming back” or “I’m never going to feel better” all you are doing is causing yourself unnecessary grief over a future that may or may not happen.
Could you have predicted where you are today 5 years ago with any reasonable degree of accuracy? Probably not, right?
So what’s to say that you will be able to predict what will happen with your ex-girlfriend, future women you want to date, or even how much you enjoy your life?
You have no idea! With the right habits and consistent efforts, you might surprise yourself. You have before. And you will again.
Personally, I treat my life like an adventure. While I have a plan, I have no idea what the future is going to bring as I try to execute my plan. As a wiser man than me once said “I don’t know shit about fuck”.
And neither do you when it comes to what the future holds, so instead of treating it as a worst-case scenario, treat it as one great game of adventure – where you get to create what happens next.
Understand That You Are Your Harshest Critic
It’s easy to criticize yourself when you screw something up with a woman. We tie so much of ourselves to our relationships that it often feels like a personal failure when it all comes crashing down. Suddenly, you’re left feeling inadequate as a man, wondering not only where you went wrong, but what’s wrong with you.
My audience tends to skew towards intelligent high achievers, which is great as a coach on so many levels. However – it comes with a downside in the form of high expectations. And when you don’t measure up to these insane expectations you set for yourself, your prediction machine starts telling you what a worthless piece of shit you are.
Whether you’re feeling stupid for not seeing it coming, or worthless because of the mistakes you made, consider this: you are neither. You aren’t stupid, and you aren’t worthless. You only feel that way because you are your harshest critic.
And when you let your harsh internal critic label you stupid, or worthless, you end up hungering for the approval of others and start trying to prove yourself to them – and to yourself, instead of finding the freedom and joy of designing an ideal life for yourself.
Instead of choosing to shoulder that burden – be aware when your self-talk gets negative. Once you are aware of it, you can take action to mitigate it, instead of letting it incorrectly label the man you really are.
How To Escape Your Predictions And Negative Self-Critic In 4 Steps
So now you’ve accepted that you can’t predict that future and come to understand that your critical inner voice is negative. How can you escape these negative thinking patterns?
There are a number of different rational thinking techniques you can try – and I make no claims that my process is the best. Regardless, I strongly suggest you give it a shot for the next 7 days and see what you come up with.
Here’s what you need to do:
1: Pay Attention To How You’re Feeling
Pay attention to how you are feeling. Notice when you are feeling cold and logical, or when you are feeling emotional and vulnerable.
2: When You Feel Off, Watch Your Thoughts
Can you catch yourself making predictions, or judging yourself? If you can, can you label the offending thoughts as predictions or self-criticisms?
3: Aggressively Interrogate Predictions & Self Criticisms Before You Accept Them
When you do catch yourself slipping up – before you accept the prediction or criticism as true, interrogate it like you’re a bad cop roughing up a dirty criminal. Attack it from all angles.
- Are there other possible scenarios that are possible?
- Do you really have all the details?
- Is the evidence for your prediction actually based on fact, or is it based on assumptions?
- What about your beliefs? Are they based on fact? Or assumptions?
- Are you rushing to form a conclusion too early?
- Is it possible that you could find new information that would contradict the belief or prediction? If so, what would that information be?
4: Label Offending Thoughts That Reccur Frequently
As you practice this process you will catch yourself slipping up on the same types of thoughts and predictions. The ones that are recurring need to be written down.
For each major belief or prediction, I find it helpful to write a journal entry about each, while critically examining it using the types of questions I gave you in Step 3.
I find that journaling about it does a great job of forcing negative thoughts into the forefront of your mind where you can work them over and logically defeat them once and for all.
TLDR: Your Thinking Can Trap You Unless You Are Careful
Over the next few weeks and months, make it a point to remind yourself that your thoughts are not always rational.
Resist the urge to immediately believe your thoughts – or to even trust them. Get a second opinion when you need it – because sometimes you need to get out of your own head.
Because at the end of the day – you don’t have the full story. You don’t know for sure.
So why are you assuming otherwise and causing yourself needless suffering?
Think about it.
Talk soon my friend,