"Under all that we think, lives all we believe, like the ultimate veil of our spirits."- Antonio Machado
He was bitter and cruel, an alcoholic and drug addict who almost killed himself several times. Today he serves a life sentence in prison for the murder of a liquor store cashier who "got in his way." He has two sons, born a mere eleven months apart, one of whom grew up to be "just like Dad": a drug addict who lived by stealing and threatening others until he, too, was put in jail for attempted murder. His brother, however, is a different story: a man who's raising three kids, enjoys his marriage, and appears to be truly happy. As regional manager for a major national concern, he finds his work both challenging and rewarding. He's physically fit, and has no alcohol or drug addictions! How could these two young men have turned out so differently, having grown up in virtually the same environment? Both were asked privately, unbeknownst to the other, "Why has your life turned out this way?" Surprisingly, they both provided the exact same answer. "What else could I have become, having grown up with a father like that?"
So often we're seduced into believing that events control our lives and that our environment has shaped who we are today. No greater lie was ever told. It's not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.
Two men are shot down in Vietnam and imprisoned in the infamous Hao Lo prison. They are isolated, chained to cement slabs, and continuously beaten with rusty shackles and tortured for information. Yet although these men are receiving the same abuse, they form radically different beliefs about their experience. One man decides that his life is over, and in order to avoid any addictional pain, commits suicide. The other pulls from these brutalizing events a deeper belief in himself, his fellow man, and his Creator than he's ever had before. Captain Gerald Coffee uses his experience of this to remind people all over the world of the power of the human spirit to overcome virtually any level of pain, any challenge, or any problem.
Two women turn seventy years old, yet each takes a different meaning from the event. One "knows" that her life is coming to an end. To her, seven decades of living mean that her body must be breaking down and she'd better start winding up her affairs. The other woman decides that what a person is capable of at any age depends upon her belief. The other woman decides that what a person is capable of at any age depends upon her belief, and sets a higher standard for herself. She decides that mountain climbing might be a good sport to begin at the age of seventy. For the next twenty five years she devotes herself to this new adventure in mastery, scaling some of the highest peaks in the world, until today, in her nineties, Hulda Crooks has become the oldest woman to ascend Mount Fuji.
You see, it's never the environment; it's never the events of our lives but the meaning we attach to the events--how we interpret them--that shapes who we are today and who we'll become tomorrow. Beliefs are what make the difference between a lifetime of joyous contribution and one of misery and devastation, Beliefs are what separate a Mozart from a Manson. Beliefs are what cause some individuals to become heroes, while others "lead lives of quiet desperation"
Extract: AWAKEN THE GIANT WITHIN--Anthony Robbins