We've seen enough superhero movies to know that you can't ignore the villain. You must find it, look it in the face (in an overly dramatic scene where you're sure the villain will win), and take it down.
A few years ago, I was on a yoga retreat in Nicaragua. I was simply looking for a glorious glow from equal parts tanning and relaxation. Instead, I found a day of ugly crying, serious soul searching and a belief that changed me forever.
What I discovered was the idea of a vikalpa. It is a deeply rooted belief in our subconscious which works against what we're trying to achieve. It's pronounced "VYE-kuhl-puh." Or as I like to call it—your villain belief.
The word vikalpa is Sanskrit. When you break it down, "kalpa" means "rule we follow above all others" and "vi" means "separate or divide." Our vikalpa is the belief dividing us from the rule we follow above all others. Regardless of what else we may believe, consciously or unconsciously, positive or negative, this villain belief is going to undermine it.
Understanding our villain belief is vital to being successful in this industry. Because we're in the belief business. We sell ideas, and we need to understand our own in order to do it successfully.
During the retreat, YoYoYogi taught us an exercise called "The Eulogy Exercise" to uncover our vikalpas. It's not a fun exercise (yes, we are faking our own deaths and writing our own eulogies), but it's an important one. I've included it at the end of this article.
Through it, I discovered my villain belief was: "I can only count on myself." And this little villain has been self-sabotaging me on everything from my personal life to creative assignments to running an agency.
My mom passed away when I was 9 years old. And what I realized through this exercise was that despite having an incredibly supportive father who sacrificed so much for my sister and me, the moment my mom died, I started to believe everyone would leave me at some point or not be there when I needed them. I was it.
The key thing to remember is that your villain is a FALSE belief. It is not true. But it will work against you in a very real way. I played team sports through college. I love the partner aspect of being a creative. And I fundamentally believe we cannot do it alone in this business. When we work together, we are capable of incredible things. Yet, my villain belief was undermining these true beliefs through my unconscious actions and I didn't even know it.
At AnalogFolk, we use digital to make the analog world better. The world will be better when we can free ourselves from false beliefs, and in turn, set our creativity free to move the world forward through our ideas.
Be the superhero of your own story. Find your villain. And prove it wrong.
The following exercise takes a good bit of time. Bookmark it for later when you have time to focus fully and be in the right, open frame of mind. You'll need a notebook, pen and space to truly reflect on each part.
Imagine today is the last day of your life. From this moment, nothing else can be done. Look at the life you have lived to this point. Be brutally honest with yourself about all the things you have accomplished and all the things you have left undone.
Pause to ugly cry. If you're being honest in your reflection, this is (and should be) hard.
Choose a person to write your eulogy. You will write your eulogy from the point of view of this person. You want it to be compassionate and caring, but not hold anything back. Imagine this person knows everything about you—your aspirations, hopes, secrets, things you just started, left unfinished or never begun. Everything.
Consider these questions before you begin writing. Spend at least five to 10 minutes truly reflecting on them honestly.
What are one or two outstanding memories you have?
What did you want to do but never managed to? Why?
What were the effects of your actions? Even the ones you did not take?
Who has been helped or hurt by your actions?
What price did you pay for not taking those actions?
What was the result of not pursuing your dreams? Or the result of pursuing your dreams?
What does the person writing consider your greatest accomplishment? And what do they consider your greatest failure?
Write as fast and as much as you can for 15 minutes. Don't worry about grammar or structure. Write from your chosen person's POV on all of the questions above—remembering they may know more than they realistically do about your inner thoughts.
As objectively as possible, look at what you wrote and start to recognize themes. First, circle words or phrases that have the most impact on you. Next, highlight common words that have shaped your life so far. Look for a pattern. Is there an inconsistency between what you consciously want in your life or career and how you have applied yourself to those things in the past? The words and phrases will paint a picture of your villain belief.
When you discover your villain belief, write it down in a sentence. Examples might be: "I will never be good enough," "I can't move forward because I am paralyzed by my past," "I am only recognized by my external accomplishments," "Trying to live my dreams is egotistical and self-centered."
Take time to reflect on how your villain belief may have already showed up in your life, and be on the lookout for it moving forward.