Many of life’s lessons come from being some part of a team. Growing up we like our kids to be on some type of team – Scouts, sports, employment, ministry. There is value in being a part of something that takes many people to reach a common goal. To reach that goal there must be unity. Unity comes down to mindset.
I am a football fan. I grew up being a faithful fan of THE Cincinnati Bengals! Anyone who is a Bengal fan understands the emphasis on being a ‘faithful’ fan. We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs…more downs than up. And with the success of the team in the NFL playoffs there is understandable excitement.
It was well-reported in the media that it had been 31 years since the Bengals won a playoff game. That’s the lifetime of some people! Imagine going through an entire lifetime being told how you can’t do ‘it.’ You don’t have the talent. You don’t have the leadership. You don’t have the finances. You can try but you will always be ‘not good enough.’ Some of us have heard that. It leaves us feeling defeated, bordering on hopeless, lacking any real motivation to try because the internal tapes repeat to ourselves what others have said to us in one way or the other: you’re not good enough.
But what has made the difference for the Bengals this year? It’s not just one team member or one isolated situation. It’s what they tell themselves. It’s what they tell each other. And it shows in their work ethic, their behavior, and their execution. They have shut out all the noise from the past, all those who keep saying ‘someday’ implying ‘someday’ will never be reality. They have laid as the foundation belief in themselves and the belief in each other. They simply say ‘why NOT us?!’
The Bengals have been told for so many decades why it wouldn’t be them to win a playoff game, win a championship, make it to the Super Bowl. They could give in to the crowd and believe what others are saying. Or they could make the hardcore decision to define their own abilities and operate within those. They set the boundaries – the boundaries of belief, of quiet confidence, of support, of humility. They set the expectation for themselves based on the current situation, not that of the past.
What about us? How often do we internally give way to the external pressure of the expectations someone else has of us? How often do we find ourselves believing what others say about us and downplay – or even deny – what we know to be true of ourselves?
I’m not saying it’s easy to have a 180 shift in mindset – to go from ‘not good enough’ to ‘why not us?’ in a matter of months. It’s not something anyone can do on his/her own. If it was we wouldn’t be in that ‘not good enough’ mindset to start with. What can we learn from the Bengals?
1) We need others in our lives. We need that sense of common ground, that underlying belief in the abilities and potential of someone. We need others in our lives who speak life and encouragement into us.
2) We need leadership. Leadership provides a vision. Be that from ourselves, family, friends, church, work or elsewhere, we need to be able to have a vision for where we want to go and how we want to get there. See # 1.
3) We need a sense of fun, to not take ourselves too seriously. There was a video that surfaced showing a celebration from the players after they won their regular season game which put them in the playoffs. The players were celebrating. It’s okay to celebrate our victories and have some fun. It keeps us balanced. If we can’t celebrate our successes what reason do we give others to celebrate them? It’s not being prideful. It’s acknowledging the accomplishment and the hard work it took to get there. Is it being prideful when you celebrate your graduation from high school or college? How is it any different to celebrate our successes in other things?
When we shift our mindset from ‘why me?’ to ‘why not me?’ things change! Hope explodes, motivation becomes the foundation of our day, and purpose shines the light on the path.
Who knows how far the Bengals will go in the playoffs. What matters is the success they have had up to now. The coach has said ‘we are the 2021 Bengals. The past doesn’t matter.’ Can you say to yourself the past doesn’t matter? That’s when we start to believe ‘why not us?!’
Sometimes we need someone to come alongside us as we learn new things about ourselves which increase our confidence so we can get to the point of saying ‘the past doesn’t matter. This is today, not then.’ My Step Ahead offers Life Coaching with Sue Bowles. Sue is a Hope Coach empowering adults who feel stuck and want something better for themselves to see their dreams become reality. For a free 15-minute consultation go to http://suebowles.com