“A Philosophical Inquiry into how you overcome fear and achieve greatness!”

By Dr. Sal Martingano, FICPA

How many times have you heard this phrase, “it’s all between your ears”?  Sounds like an easy concept to grasp but what does it actually mean?  Just about every motivational speaker and mentor you may have known addresses this concept at one time or another, yet for most, what’s between their ears remains a mystery. The question is why?  This discussion is not so much about what’s between your ears but how we can use it to your advantage.  The thought process is a product of what’s between your ears and is the precursor to decision making.

Thinking can be influenced by many factors.  Mark Victor Hansen, author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul, refers to thinking without a purpose, as “stinkin’ thinkin’”  The reality is that each of us are capable of thinking but can we direct our thinking in such a way to achieve greatness? The answer is, absolutely, but it takes training.

Ready for the first step?

Part of the training is to overcome the pitfalls of freedom of choice.  As you know, choice requires options, which tend to become confusing and sometimes frustrating.  Frustration will shut down the thinking process if there is no clear direction to follow.  What must never happen is to take the path of least resistance, stop trying and just go with the flow.

Achieving greatness is a balance between what has already been achieved and the “free will” to explore what has yet to be discovered.  The secret is to capitalize on your strengths and exercise imagination.  Napoleon Hill said it best; “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.  

So what keeps us from achieving our ultimate goals? 

Free Will….. Yes, the very thing we treasure as humans can be the roadblock to actually setting your ultimate goals.  “Free Will” often gives us the excuse to put off hard decisions.  Hey, I’d much rather go fishing than sit down to figure out what to do with the rest of my life!  Goals require thought, so channel that Free Will by blocking out specific times to go fishing and a specific time for quality thinking; it’s not hard, it just requires discipline.  What you will find is that Free Will comes with a price, so get over it.

The ultimate question; what is “thinking”?  

Are you still with me? A little deep but it’s worth it. Thinking is a deep philosophical discussion but for our purpose, thinking is a function of the “mind”. The mind is different than the brain. The mind is that intangible entity that directs thinking, personality, survival and just about every conscious and unconscious action we engage in. So where is the mind?  Between your ears of course!  

The brain, on the other hand, is 3 1/2 pounds of specialized nerve tissue that must be directed by an intelligence to create an action.  It simply is the mechanism that translates thought into action. I hope you realize that this discussion is not about anatomy but is about what we do with it.

The uniqueness of the mind is that it has access to an intelligence we call life itself. To become “great” is not a task but a journey.  Greatness, no matter how you perceive it, requires training the mind to achieve defined goals.  If our goal is to make lots of money, the mind simply tunes it out because we haven’t given the mind any direction.  Goals must be specific, attainable and measurable.  Goals need to be relevant and within given time parameters that you set.  Once goals are put to paper, the mind will automatically recognize and organize your talents, skills and educational needs to achieve them.  Sounds easy enough, but honestly how many of us actually do it?  There, that wasn’t too bad!

We’re Getting Closer  

Life has a funny way of taking us off course.  How can one become an inventor, when there are little things like school, finding a soul mate, earning a living, traveling, recreation and the various other life directions that hinder our primary career goal?  Fortunately, the mind can handle unlimited goals if there is a plan.  Without training your mind to focus on your goals, the easy road is to adopt the “mañana” syndrome.  Of course tomorrow rarely comes and you become stuck in mediocrity.  There is no fooling your mind; it is your ultimate reality.  

Please indulge me in one more anatomical lesson.  There is a good anatomical reason why a person might not ever achieve greatness.  There is a part of the brain which contains a small almond shaped structure called the Amygdala.  Thanks to the mid 1960’s invention of the MRI and resulting neuro imaging techniques, the human brain has actually been mapped.  The Amygdala turns out to be responsible for emotions, survival instincts and memory.  In simple terms, the Amygdala counter balances our desire to take chances both physically and mentally.  It’s that little voice we hear in our sleep or when faced with a daunting challenge that tells us, “wait a minute….are you sure you want to do that?”  Without the Amygdala’s input to conscious thought, we would have no way to check reckless or foolish behavior.  Here’s a quick animated description of what the Amygdala is capable of, check this out.

Now the easy part

Achieving ones ultimate goals in life depends on risk taking and careful planning; yet the litmus test for success depends on getting past our natural instinct to play it safe.  To accomplish anything meaningful in life, you must fend off the tendency to procrastinate, be overly critical, invent anxiety scenarios, obsess over details and make excuses; each representing a recipe for failure.  

With your body in a constant “yin yang” battle over how to do anything, how do we get anything done?  Ultimately, the answer is to formulate a workable, achievable plan and you don’t have to do it alone.  Consult with those who have already achieved what you seek.  Even coaches need coaching.  One of my mentors, who changed my life, gave me the following advice:

  1. Allow bad ideas to filter through the process
  2. Embrace failures as a learning experience
  3. Make no excuses
  4. Don’t depend on a plan B
  5. Don’t be afraid to change your views to make things better
  6. FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real

In the end, resistance to greatness will fade as your confidence soars; only then will the truth emerge.  Achieving greatness is not a mental exercise, it requires conscious thought, definitive action and a plan, all of which is located between your ears.  

OK…now make it happen.


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