The Little Engine that Could.
Written by Share Ross
Photography by Bam Ross
I remember this book clearly. It embedded a classic American story into my heart: If you really believe you can do something, you’ll be able to do it. Or at least get close to achieving it.
But how do you get that belief inside of you? How do you get to really believing you can?
These questions have spawned a billion-dollar industry called personal development. Superstars, like Tony Robbins, lead the way and thousands of writers, coaches and speakers join in to help the rest of us feel good about ourselves.
It seems simple. We want to be happy. We have a lot of thoughts every day. We’re somewhere in the neighborhood of 27,000 thoughts every day, actually. That’s a whole lot of thoughts.
How many of those are helpful? How many of those hold us back? Turns out most of us repeat the same thoughts to ourselves day in and day out.
I hate my job.
It’s raining. I feel depressed when it rains. When did I get so fat?
My dad was right. I’m a loser.
The stream of nasty self-talk is endless.
The most toxic thing you consume isn’t white sugar, GMO foods or mindless television. It’s your own negative self-talk. I wish someone had told me that when I was 17. I was voted captain of my high school’s volleyball team. Kelly Bauer and I were co-captains and it was a huge honor because our team wasn’t coached by just anyone. The Lakeville Panthers were coached by the guy who coached theOlympic Czechoslovakian volleyball team. Oh yes, we took our volleyball playing seriously. But by the time I was 17, I discovered my true love of playing music. I shipped off to summer school at Berklee College of Music and was immersed in their summer music program. My bass and my music were all I focused on. Practicing for hours and hours on end and working to become the best bass player I could possibly be, I forgot all about volleyball.
When I returned to Minnesota for my senior year, team practice began again. It was immediately evident that playing bass and ignoring sports did not magically turn me into A squad material. After a week of missed returns, lousy spikes and what was probably a crappy teenager attitude, my team and the coach demoted me, the co-captain, to the B squad.
I came home in tears, sobbing and complaining to my parents. How could this happen? The voice in my head jumped right in.
See? You’re a loser. Told ya you would never succeed in sports. You’re not destined for anything great. Everyone is laughing at you now. You’re probably the laughing stock of the whole school.
My parents did their best to help me reframe this rejection. Telling me it was for the best. Explaining I had made a choice when I went to Berklee and, in fact, I had been the one who rejected volleyball by not being there all summer. None of this helped. I became depressed and withdrawn, retreating to my bass and practicing alone in my room for hours. While my bass playing improved, my attitude did not. I was full of self-loathing and was positive it was all my fault.
What I didn’t know then was the voices in my head weren’t actually me. They were simply thoughts. The true me is the awareness of the thoughts. Some people call it “The Witness.” Other people call it “Your Soul.” Since I’m a rocker, I like to refer to this awareness as my “Inner rock star.”
Would you ever tell a ve-year-old you adore that she was a piece of shit because she dropped a glass and broke it? Would you ever tell your best friend that he sucks at everything when he lost his job? Of course not. Yet, chances are, you’ve talked to yourself like that. And not just once but many times over.
TELL ME A BEDTIME STORY
The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are the single most important aspect of everything in our lives.
If you believe the food you consume is bad for you, you will make it worse for you. So if you choose to go and eat some ice cream and all the time you’re saying, “I shouldn’t be eating this. Oh this is so, so, so bad. I really shouldn’t eat it.” Then you’re giving yourself a toxic message about the food you’re consuming.
You’re turning down the joy meter and turning up the ick meter.
Imagine instead you eat the ice cream and while you’re eating it you say, “I love this flavor of ice cream. I’m really enjoying every bite. In fact, this is the best ice cream I’ve ever experienced. It’s soooo delicious. I know my body is going to nd a way to love me for this ice cream.”
By now you’re laughing and wondering how you could possibly live forever on ice cream. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, you can’t. But by having an honest and loving internal dialogue instead of a shaming one, you’ll be much more open to making the choices that will benefit you.
Every day, we’re met with choices. We choose how to react, how to feel and what to say. The stories you tell yourself shape your choices.
If you could change one simple story about yourself what would it be? When I was in my thirties and facing the truth of my existence as a rock star, who was not big enough to live off her past, I was hanging out a lot with a yogi friend of mine in LA.
He asked if I wanted to study Shiatsu massage therapy and possibly become certified. I had a natural leaning toward this modality and was good at it without any study, so I was intrigued. But I hesitated. After all, I was a rockstar in the eyes of some people. What would they think? A rocker doing massages? It was laughable. Again, I was worrying about being ridiculed. My wise friend looked me quietly in the eye and responded. “But Share, don’t you know you simply are?”
He challenged me with a mantra. “I am.”
That was it. Just “I am.” Nothing more. I started using it every time I went jogging. Up and down mountains I ran. “I am. I am. I am.”
Pretty soon, I stopped trying to add on more. I accepted it as a complete sentence. I didn’t have to add “rock star” or “musician” or anything else. Once I became comfortable with the idea of being without having to dene it, I jumped into shiatsu training.
The Inner rock star in you already knows this. You are. You simply are. You are not your job. You are not your gender. Nor are you dened by your relationships, bank account or possessions. Once you release those stories, you can look at what is in front of you with clear eyes.
You can change the stories you tell yourself about yourself. Your inner rock star already knows you’re great.
Becoming aware of your inner rock star gives you everything you need to choose happiness. If happiness is freedom and abundance, it’s already there inside of you. If happiness is having loving relationships, it begins with you.
If I could go back in time and talk to that 17-year- old girl who was hurt by the rejection of her own team, I would tell her the rejection was not about being unloved. And it was certainly not about who she was as a lovable person.
At the core of each of us is our inner rock star. It only knows love. And yet, we blast ourselves with so many degrading and unhelpful thoughts, it’s a wonder we achieve anything peaceful and beautiful.
By tapping into my own inner rock star, I’ve been able to create a knitting book, learn to paint, jump out of a plane and finally front my own band as the singer and guitarist.
Claiming ownership of your inner rock star is about visibility. Stop hiding behind the comfortable guise of complaining and misery. Step into the light and allow yourself to shine.
You can change the stories you tell yourself about yourself. Your inner rock star already knows you’re great.
While I believe love has no opposite, your inner rock star certainly has several unhelpful emotions that get in the way. They range from jealousy to cynicism, from racism to impatience, from frustration to pettiness, anger, rage, hatred, exc.
The list is endless, but the end result is the same. The only way to get positive results is to create positive thoughts.
THE SCIENCE OF POSITIVE THINKING
First, let’s debunk positive thinking. Because seriously, how many times have you heard, “Just think positive”?
That’s ne when the sun is shining and all the bills are paid. But what about when the shit hits the fan, you get red, can’t pay your bills and your spouse wants a divorce?
Attimes like that when someone says, “just think positive,” you might feel justiably ready to hurl green chunks of UN-positive thinking in their general direction.
But here’s the rub: science proves there is more power in positive thinking than we previously believed. It’s revolutionary and it’s not even new.
Neuroplasticity is a fancy word to describe the brain’s dynamic and incredibly outrageous capability to reorganize itself – no matter how old we are.
If you dig deep in the annals of Greek philosophy, you’ll see Socrates was promoting this by postulating we’re separate from matter and the universe is made up of energy.
The concept of brain plasticity was also put forth by William James in 1890 but was quickly rejected by scientists who preferred the rigid map belief of the brain (if a part of the brain were dead or damaged, it was lost forever). The rigid concepts are out. In its place is a dynamic, shifting, growing brain that, with the help of a trained counselor, can think its way out of depression, anxiety and phobias.
In his newest book released this year, “Just One Thing,” Rick Hanson says, “The details are complex, but the key point is simple: how you use your mind changes your brain – for better or worse.”
Retraining your brain to choose positive thoughts takes practice. Here are some actions you can take right now to grow your brain and shift your life.
REVERSE WHAT-IF GAME
One of the most common fears is of failure. Typically, when presented with a new idea or challenge, our mind spins into what-if land.
What if I suck at this?
What if I make a fool of myself?
What if I lose everything and end up homeless, broke and alone?
By thinking those types of thoughts, we build stress and make it difficult to have clarity. Try reversing those thoughts instead.
What if I become great at this?
What if I love doing this and stop caring what others think of me?
What if I become successful beyond my wildest dreams because of this?
Every time a nasty self-defeating thought creeps into your brain, grab it and twist it around. Pay attention and you can retrain your brain.
Notice the next time a thought pops in your head about your body, your skills, your looks, or your status in life. What happens when someone gives you a compliment? How do you respond when someone argues with you?
Think of your reactions like a vinyl record. You have deep grooves that have become your favorite tracks. They’re your go-to reactions after years of ght-or-ight neurons ring at will. The next time you’re triggered, stop. Breathe. Train yourself to choose a different reaction. You can create a new groove and play a new record.
Start every morning with a positive mantra. Become “The Little Engine That Could.”
I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I know I can.