The Power of a Neutral Mind: How to Keep a Stoic Focus Whether You’re Winning or Losing

neutral mind

A neutral mind can be even better than a positive mind, especially when you’re trying to achieve your goals.

Of course, it should go without saying that trying to be positive all of the time is not only unrealistic, but undesirable – sometimes it’s completely appropriate to be negative in certain situations when things go wrong.

But even more important than “positive” or “negative,” it’s important to approach things from a balanced perspective as much as possible.

The unavoidable truth is that life has its inevitable ups and downs. But a successful life isn’t calculated by tallying up all of our life experiences and hoping that the “ups” outweigh the “downs” by the time we reach our deathbeds.

No, life isn’t about the quantity of “ups” and “downs” at all.

What’s most important is how we navigate between those “ups” and “downs” – and that requires the ability to stay balanced, focused, and neutral even in the face of our wins and losses.

Sure, when life is going really well it’s easy to feel great and be excited – and sometimes that’s the exact reason why success can become so dangerous and intoxicating.

Success can sometimes fool us into the false belief that we will keep winning, that our joy will never end, and that life is “all up” from here if we just keep doing what we’re doing.

Success convinces short-sighted people that that they will never lose again.

And then – life throws a curveball. And when something bad actually does happen and a new obstacle arises (which is inevitable), then that experience becomes that much more shocking and terrible for us.

This is why I always try to keep a balanced and neutral mindset regardless of what is happening in my life, no matter if I’m winning or losing.

When things are going fantastic, I always take a moment to step back and tell myself, “It’s good that things are working out right now, but I must also be prepared for the future obstacles coming my way.”

While I think there can be a great power in having positive expectations about life, I think the “expectation of future obstacles” is foundational for cultivating patience and keeping a long-term perspective on things.

I always try to keep my emotions in check and not let them run wild, both during good times and bad times. And in this way, I’ve always considered myself a bit of a stoic.

I remember as a kid when I’d be on the winning team of some sports game, and my peers would always point out that I never really celebrated after a win. You could look at me right after a win or loss, and I’d probably conduct myself in a very similar fashion.

It’s not that I didn’t experience joy when I won a game or sadness when I lost a game, it’s just that I always tried to keep a “cool head” about things and not get too wrapped up in any temporary moment.

As a sports fan, I greatly admire professional athletes who seem to always act grounded and cool-headed regardless if their team just won or loss. To me, it shows a great sign of emotional maturity.

Never let a “win” or “loss” affect your motivation or enthusiasm. There’s always more work to do and more growing to do, so don’t get too caught up on any single experience or event in your life.

At the end of the day, the “hustle” is more important than any single “win” or “loss.” If you are more focused on the process, the results will eventually come in time.

The truth is we can have an unhealthy attachment to a single “win” in the same way we can have an unhealthy attachment to a single “loss.”

It’s like when a filmmaker finally makes it big with a new movie, or a band finally writes a number one hit song, or a team finally wins a championship. They start to compare all of their future endeavors to this one instance of success.

And that kills growth. And it kills innovation. And it kills improvement.

For many successful people, a single success can become their greatest downfall. They cling to that past success like a dying loved one, trying to recreate that success and relive that success. They forget to move forward.

When you can maintain a neutral mind – a balanced mind that doesn’t get too caught up in the “highs” and “lows” – you put yourself at a great advantage.

A neutral mind means that you keep a long-term view of your goals and you understand that becoming your best self is a never-ending project that always requires more work.

When you can cultivate a more neutral mind, no “win” or “loss” can throw you off your guard or distract you from the long-term process of self improvement.

Ask yourself, “Can I keep the same hustle regardless if I’m winning or losing?” If your answer is “Yes,” then you are well on your way to a life of stoic motivation.

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