04/18/2012 10:29 am ET Updated Jun 18, 2012

Cultivating the Undefeated Heart

Who amongst us is a stranger to adversity? Struggle is universal. Remaining unconquered, however, on a playing field riddled with the debris of twins called defeat, doubt is quite another matter. Throughout history, the greats have warned us about the danger of dwelling too long in fear. Said Rollo May:

" ... If any organism fails to fulfill its potentialities, it becomes sick ... "

The truth of his words echoed in my ears as I listened to the stories, including the following. One woman in her 70s is losing her home; another, with full-blown stage four cancer, has been notified that she must put her home on the market and will lose everything she's got. A father who's lost his child finds his wife in full-scale meltdown, struggling with duel addiction, while yet other parent confronts three grown children, all who have fallen "off the wagon" from addiction recovery. Funds exhausted for all, understandably, they feel lost, overwhelmed.

And this is only 20 percent of the stories I could report to you in five short working days. Each of these folks is a person of courage, good-heartedness, and resilience. And, yet, how much can a person handle? Oh, yes. This doesn't even count the soldier who came for care after five deployments who feels completely lost and forgotten by the crew that sent him off to war.

Where Can You Turn for Hope?

In moments like these, where can you turn for answers? I'm talking about the times when that "wee small voice" seems to be on vacation, and meditation sessions fail to touch or relieve the ache. During distress, little monkey mind's slings and arrows can zing us with even more self-doubt, confusion and increased anxiety. What monkey mind fails to grasp is that adversity does not build character, it reveals it.

During bouts such as these, when even your "go to" methods of self-soothing fail to bring relief, if you leave space, amazing answers can come to your door that leave us astounded, inspired, and free to get out there and get back out on the playing field feeling not only re-energized but undefeated.

The Power of Non-Fiction

In my book, there's nothing like true stories of those who refuse to be defeated, despite the odds, to cure what ails you. Such stories transfix, restoring hope in transformation. This turn of events is available to every one of us willing to put in the sweat equity. Rollo May put it this way:

"... Every organism has one and only one central need in life, to fulfill its own potentialities ..."

May is referring to something I have written about in my most recent book The Love Project: Coming Home, in the section entitled "True Authenticity." True Authenticity is a foundational cornerstone for building healthier, juicier, more vibrant lives of purpose and meaning. Consequently, when we come across the lives of individuals dedicating themselves to the fulfillment of potentialities in self and others, it brings profoundest joy.

Coach Bill Courtney is such a person. The story of how he cultivated an undefeated heart and victory on the playing field is documented in an award-winning film called simply "Undefeated." Produced by T.J. Martin and Dan Lindsay, it is a "must see" for anyone who could use a "feel good" about now. But it is more than that, I assure you. There are gems in Courtney's approach which, if embraced, cannot help but shift our lives in the direction of less strain, less struggle, and more of those eternal riches that bring the ultimate prosperity from life well lived.

In this story, which takes place at Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tenn., Bill and his team come together through the power of love in action. Hardly a likely setting for this, Volunteer Coach Courtney digs deep to find the link to each player to fulfill his or her own unique nature. Resilient to the core, in the face of what would make most coaches, parents and shrinks tear their hair out in frustration, Bill models the operational definition of "character." In fact, he reminds his players, and those of us fortunate enough to be in his audience that "... Winning will take care of itself if you build character first." We see character unfold in both coaches and players as they honestly confront their own demons. In a poignant, real scene, Courtney asks himself: "At what point do you quit trying?" Now, I ask you, who amongst us does not know this private question at times when the score seems to be against us?

If you think this documentary is about football, you are missing the pearl of great price. In fact, what is revealed through the story has direct application to you and me. I do NOT mean this in an abstract way, trust me. More on this next week, in Part II on the subject, which has to do with something you and other readers have created that will leave you amazed, I am confident.

For now, let's get to nine principles for leading an undefeated life, which Courtney voices.

1. Take responsibility: Play hard.

2. Ask yourself "is your head right?" There's work to do today!

3. "Think outside your circumstances."

4. Regardless of what's happening, know that you can come back!

5. Build character. "The character of a man is not measured by his wins, but by what he does with his failures."

6. Put the team ahead of yourself. Freely translated, this means live from a greater story than self-concern and worry.

7. When frustrated, keep going.

9. Be here to reach hearts through something you love.

On the heels of #9, we will take up #10, next week, which is a life-changing principle to become unconquered in any situation. How do I know? Watch for what's coming next. You have no idea what you have made possible. It is breathtaking.

Love Letter for the One Who Feels Beaten:

Right now things might look pretty lousy. Your life scoreboard might appear to be lacking the points you need to win the game you are playing. The question is: Are you playing to your circumstances, or have you climbed up to the top of the bleachers to get a bigger perspective?

All I know is that when I've tried to fix conditions I do not like, my focus is on the wrong thing. Seriously! The answer seems to come when I step outside the box I've been living in and consider what might be underway, that is to my advantage if I am willing to accept this might be so. Yes, I said "might," because it takes some doing to let go of our insistence that our problem is unsolvable. It isn't. Not if you are willing to release what's keeping you stuck.

My friend, you do not need to "fix" yourself any more than you need to fix your problem. What might work best is not to "set your situation right," but to see it rightly. Adversity has a way of cracking our shell, bringing forward vulnerability, touching our underbelly. In short, adversity has a way of bringing us down to earth, teaching us that we cannot go it alone, no matter how many stories we might tell ourselves. We are here on a team with other human beings.

All I can tell you is that the people I trust the most, that I love the most, are those like you. They are not the "George Armstrong" type without a hair out of place. No, they are the real deal people: the ones with bumps and bruises who get up again and out on the field again, even if worse for wear for a while. These are the "wisdom walkers," my sisters and my brothers who refuse to quit, who are coachable, who are willing lifelong learners, who are equally willing to share their lessons learned. These are the ultimate "pay it forward" folks. You are amongst the finest, the three-dimensional beings with texture and without airbrushing.

Hang in there. The cocoon you've been in precedes a remarkable development in beauty if you let the process touch and heal you.

Your turn: Who and what has inspired you? I'm listening!

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