Voices That Matter

I listen to little voices in my head. There. I said it.

In my mind it goes like this:

The music fades. I lower the mic. All four judges have turned around after pressing their glowing red buttons. The crowd erupts in emotional applause.

That is my fantasy appearance on the TV show “The Voice.” I know. Impressing millions with my angelic, Bieber-ish vocals is basically what I already do, but there is a voice in my head that quietly tells me, “Maybe I could win on a TV show.” And that little voice is what took me from fantasizing about being on “The Voice” to actually being on “The Voice.” (Spoiler: I’ve never been a contestant on “The Voice.” Bear with me, guys – it’s just a metaphor.)

That would be the dream, wouldn’t it? Four talents turning their chairs. Each one saying, without words, “Choose me! I can take you all the way!”

That’s the way the show works. The coaches can’t see you while you audition. They can only view their student once they’ve listened and decided if they hear something they can mold and sculpt to go on to the next level. If more than one coach turns their chair around, you, the contestant, gets to choose who you want to be coached by.

After watching American Sniper, it occurred to me that most of our lives is exactly that. A set of chairs turning, us being able to select the coach based on our bias. Except instead of Blake Shelton’s rugged charm sitting in those red seats, we have multiple voices to choose from that would each have powerful effects in our lives.

There is a scene where Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) meets with a psychologist after suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder fairly soon upon ending his military career.

The psychologist asks him if he struggles with what he saw or did during four tours overseas.

“Oh, no sir. That’s not me,” Kyle says. “I was just protecting our guys. I’m willing to meet my maker and answer for every shot I took.”

That little voice in his head is telling him that, “It was no big deal, I did my job.” He was credited for over a hundred and 60 kills as a Navy Seal Sniper. You know, being the most deadly marksman in American Military history isn’t something that would impress anybody. It’s downright average.

While admiring his unreal discipline in refraining from using any bragging rights, my first thought was, “Of course that’s what the voice in his head was telling him.” Because Kyle could’ve chosen to listen to the voice that told him to accept all bragging rights, and he also could’ve chosen to listen the voice that told him to shoot with reckless abandon.

But Kyle chose to listen to the voice that disciplined him, that humbled him, that chalked up his accomplishments to simply doing the job he signed up for.

Is it a testament to Kyle’s strength that he chose to listen to the more admirable voice? Of course. Could you or I, mere peons in comparison to Kyle, choose to listen to our most admirable voices, resist the bad ones, and experience a visible transformation in the quality of our lives and attitudes? I truly believe so.

We all have voices in our heads. It’s how we make decisions. Voices, or temptations, or instincts like little cities in your brain. They could say anything from, “I can sing as good as Adam Levine,” to “it’s nothing. I’m a sniper. I did my job.”

The problem here, is many of us are only able to create or adopt a voice and then, like a cheesy Sci-Fi film, it grows a mind of its own. Just like the American Sniper, we want our voices to be surgeons, not butchers

Now we know what the skeptics are scoffing about while drinking their chai tea, perched on a rooftop balcony in their summer home, overlooking our peasant village. “You can’t just talk to voices in your head and dream your way through life. It’s not realistic.” And trust me, #1, we dreamers learn our limits as we get older and more experienced, (well most of us do) and #2, choosing which voices to listen to is a skill.

But c’mon, look at all the legendary figures who have strode the earth before us! The heroes they make movies about, the stories that get retold over and over until they get turned into a terrible Nicholas Cage film and then they’re still retold. You can’t expect to live an exceptional life while adhering to all of the voices of reason and caution. (Or almost any of them, in Steve Jobs’ case.)

Obviously I’m not advocating abandoning all of your responsibilities and disappearing on adventure. (Although if you did, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous.)

I’m just saying that if being extraordinary requires submitting to the occasional delusion, sign my friends and me up. I’d rather live in our wonderful fantasyland than someone else’s average reality.

I heard Kathryn Schulz speak about “The Art of Being Wrong” and what she said astounded me. She told a crowd, “The miracle of your mind is not that it is capable of perceiving perfect reality of the way everything is, but that it is able to see this world for what it’s not.”\

This world is not forgiving, loving, freeing or empowering, and yet millions of people choose to see it so every day. Why? Because they chose to listen to a different voice than other people do. As you read this, think about what rushes to your brain when the pressure’s on. What voice climbs the highest and yells the loudest? Now ask, is that voice giving you the advice you truly want to live by? If not, change it. Push it into a corner and bury it in a box. Your little voices aren’t cemented in stone. They can be changed.

Above all, accept that the chairs are turning and it’s your turn to choose.

 

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