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How to Become Your Best When Life Gives You Its Worst



In his TEDx Talk titled, How to Become Your Best When Life Gives You Its Worst, Peter Sage says the most incredible adventure he has ever had the privilege of living was spending 6 months in one of the world’s toughest prisons.


Being in prison taught him how to define his identity and lean on it through what should have been the most difficult stretch in his life.


Tony Robins says, “The strongest force in the human personality is the need to remain consistent with how you define yourself.”


Your identity drives what you do. Vegetarians don’t eat meat because their identity is, ‘I am a vegetarian,’ not because they have different teeth or a different digestive system. We choose our identities for personal reasons, but once we adopt an identity, it governs what we do and we order off the menu.


Peter said when he was walking down the stairs and into the prison, he had a choice on which identity he wanted to adopt - the identity of a prisoner and a victim, or something more empowering like someone who is going in on a mission as a secret agent of change. He chose to be a secret agent of change and changed the mindset, experience, and life of the prisoners he came in contact with.


Peter said, “One of the greatest days in a human being's journey of emotional maturity is the day that we realize that life is not a comfort-centric experience but a growth-centric experience,” and being in jail was an experience for him to walk the talk that he had been teaching for so many years in a real environment, and an opportunity to learn new lessons about himself and life.


How did he handle that kind of environment? He says a positive attitude is not enough; you need a tool-set to help you get through the tough times.


The Toolkit


The Power of Acceptance


If you are complaining about something that already happened, you are wasting your time. You can’t go back and change anything. When you drop and spill your drink, you can’t put it back into the bottle. Napoleon Hill wrote, “Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” Most people are so focused on the adversity that they don’t water the seed. Many of life’s greatest gifts are wrapped in a thin layer of problems, probably to keep someone from stealing our gifts.


Contrast Frames


Most of what we give meaning to is based on what we compare it to. If someone gave you $100, you would feel good, but if you found out someone else got $200, you wouldn’t feel so good anymore. You had nothing before, but now you only have $100. The key to contrast framing is to contrast who you are and where you are with someone or something that makes you feel empowered and not disempowered. Peter said freedom is a state of mind, and nobody can take that away from you. He felt freer in his little cell than many of the security guards walking freely in and out of the jail because of his mindset and outlook on life. 


And life follows mindset, not skillset.


See Mud, Not Stars


In jail, Peter wrote a story called Mud or Stars about two prisoners sitting behind bars. One prisoner looked down and saw the mud, and the other looked up and saw the stars. Peter said, “Your environment never defines you; it simply gives you the opportunity to find yourself.” How you see yourself and see the world impacts how you get through, and hopefully grow through adversity.


Peter says, “When you are faced with uncertainty, you need something to hang on to. Behavior follows mindset, not skillset. If you educate someone without raising their level of consciousness, you give them more tools to enact the same behavior.” His book gave them the gift of hope to hang on to and a reason to look at the stars and not the mud.


Peter finished his talk by saying every single one of us faces adversity, not because we are unlucky, but by design. We are here to grow and contribute. The strongest trees don’t grow in the strongest soil; they grow in the strongest winds. If you want to become the best version of yourself, start praying for strong winds, and don’t complain when they show up.


When adversity shows up, shift your focus by asking better questions and by looking at what you can learn or who you can become instead of what you can lose. Focus on seeing the positive in everything, tear the wrapping paper off, and search for the gift in the adversity.


SOMETHING(s) TO THINK ABOUT


1 - What is your identity? What do you want it to be, and is it different than what it is?

2 - How big is the gap between who you are and who you want to be?

3 - How can you close that gap?

4 - Did you choose your identity, or was it chosen for you?


For a PDF version of this post, click here: How to Give Your Best When Life Gives You Its Worst


Quotes from the talk:


  • The strongest force in the human personality is the need to remain consistent with how you define yourself.

  • One of the greatest days in a human being's life on the journey of emotional maturity is the day that we realize that life is not a comfort-centric experience but a growth-centric experience.

  • If you’re complaining about something that already happened, you’re wasting your time.

  • Always contrast who you are and where you are with someone or something that makes you feel empowered and not disempowered.

  • Freedom is a state of mind, and nobody can take that away from you.

  • Your environment never defines you; it simply gives you the opportunity to find yourself.

  • When you are faced with uncertainty, you need something to hang on to.

  • Behavior follows mindset, not skillset. If you educate someone without raising their level of consciousness, you give them more tools to enact the same behavior.

  • The strongest trees don’t grow in the strongest soil; they grow in the strongest winds. If you want to become the best version of yourself, start praying for strong winds, and don’t complain when they show up.

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