Chapter Three: UNTIL the cat starts talking, Mindset

Mankind has been mostly fascinated with cats for the past couple thousand years. Excepting of course that time when they were associated with witchcraft and therefore demonized and therefore killed before they had a chance to hunt and kill the bulk of the disease-ridden rats who boldly lead us into the days of the Black Plague. But, really, apart from that, we haven’t been able to get enough of cats.

They’ve been worshipped as gods, dubbed guardians of the underworld, made their trickster way into folklore around the world, adopted by peoples the world over for the agility of their compact bodies built for hunting, and have even taken over the internet. Even if you’re allergic to cats, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

One thing we can all agree on in the modern world - concerning cats - is the way they just don’t seem to give a shit. We are resources to them and they will come and go as they damn well please. Which is why Master Cat helping the miller’s youngest son is so very important.

When the youngest son gives up on life he starts complaining about how, since he knows no way of making ends meet, he is sure to starve to death after eating his cat and making its fur into a muff. The cat hears this and doesn’t run away, even though he is completely in his rights to do so. The cat hears this, and nonchalantly asks for a pair of boots.

This cat is about to be murdered to be some schlob’s final meal and instead of easily running away for freedom and life, he asks his would-be murderer for a pair of boots.

Because the miller’s youngest son and the miller’s solitary cat are two sides of the same coin. The youngest son, as previously discussed, is fear. The clever cat is our creativity, our adaptability, our number one resource for dealing with fear.

Making the switch from son to cat, from fear to creativity, is useless unless we also make the switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. You can be the most creative individual in the world, but if you only ever believe that failure is a finality and not a possibility on your way to success then every time you have to get creative you’re going to feel you’re still at square one. With a growth mindset, everything you learn and experience builds on what came before and you can have more strength and courage with which to move forward.

Which brings us to the start of the M-A-S-T-E-R C-A-T Method: Mindset. And to deal with mindset I’m going to jump right in and give you my favorite tool with checking in with yourself to know if you’re in a position to grow or getting a little fixated.

I like to call this The 5-Finger Method for Getting a Grip (on Your Truth).

Yeah, yeah, “truth” is getting to be a bit of a cloying buzzword. But I’ve discovered it’s only annoying when someone says something along the lines of “I need to stand in my truth” and then you ask them what their truth is and they can’t tell you without using the word “truth” about ten times in one sentence. If you can’t describe your truth in five sentences or less, without using the word truth even once, you probably don’t actually know what your truth is when you see it.

Five sentences, five fingers, five priority-philosophies by which to live.

  1. I want to be _____________ in my self-sustaining.
  2. I want to be _____________ with my generosity.
  3. I want to be _____________ to my calling.
  4. I want to be _____________ for the sweet things.
  5. I want to be _____________ of mind and body.

Each of the blanks is where you should write how you want to feel when you live in alignment with your truth. It’s important to pick a feeling and not an adjective, something that’s malleable and changing rather than absolute. You will be how you feel, not how you would have others describe you (a matter decided by their own sense of truth).

Try to stay away from words like confident, powerful, proud. With such strong words, what room do you give yourself to grow? You don’t, and the point is to always be aware that you have room to grow.

Self-sustaining (your thumb) relates right back to what we talked a lot about in the first two chapters, finding your place and and making your way. How do you position yourself in society and survive? How do you feel about your job? How do you feel about what your job entails? How do you feel about what your job means?

Generosity (your index finger) speaks to your direct interactions with other individuals, friends and family and strangers. How do you want to feel when you spend your personal time with people? How do you want to feel when you help others? How do you want to feel when you agree to help? How do you want to feel in the act of giving?

Your calling (your middle finger) should be quite obvious. At least in what’s meant, a vocation whether religious or secular which you feel certain is your life’s purpose. If you don’t know what your life’s purpose is there’s nothing to worry about. Consider your purpose to be that central point upon which the arrow of your inner compass spins and let the other four fingers become the points of your compass. You’re sure to find your way when all points are in the right direction for you. When you do know your calling how do you want to feel whenever you make a decision about your calling? How do you want to feel about answering your call? How do you want to feel about acting on your calling?

The sweet things (your ring finger) are those little generosities you receive. This is a necessary balancing of what you give with your generosity. If all you do is give to others, that’s a recipe for disaster. But if you give to yourself first and then leave room for others to be generous with you, you’ll find all the little pleasures of life. How do you want to feel when you prioritize yourself? How do you want to feel when someone gives you their personal time? How do you want to feel when someone says something kind to you?

Your mind and body (your pinky) stand in parallel to your self-sustaining. While you are making yourself at home in your place in society, you also need to make yourself at home in your own skin. This is all about how you take care of yourself mentally and physically. How do you want to feel about your mental health? How do you want to feel about your body? How do you want to feel about the food you eat? How do you want to feel about your choice of exercise routine?

When you pick the feelings that will guide you on your daily journeying, try to avoid extremes. Pick feelings that are more of a course correction rather than a total 180. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes time to make the fearful part of your brain come around to your way of seeing things. Time and persistence.

Once you have your feelings, your words, you’ll also have directions. For instance:

  • Be open in your self-sustaining.
  • Be joyous with your generosity.
  • Be grateful to your calling.
  • Be hungry for the sweet things.
  • Be pleased of mind and body.

When you have your directions, you should review them quite frequently. Carry them written out on a notecard in your purse or wallet or pocket. Maybe make a note of them at the start of each new day in your bullet journal. Reviewing your directions is how you’ll know you’re working in a growth mindset or fixed mindset.

Keep a calendar tracking how long you live with a particular direction. Try not to go more than three months - the which timing we’ll discuss later - without adjusting your directions for how your feelings have changed. If you end up toggling back and forth between two particularly feelings, explore their connection with a thesaurus. Not kidding.

Now, take your directions and turn them into affirmations, such as:

  • I am seeking new ways to keep the roof over my head, the food on my table, and the light I have to read by.
  • I am happy to share whatever my good fortune, be it time or company or food.
  • I give thanks for my calling.
  • I am ready to receive love.
  • I take pleasure in taking care of myself.

It’s important, after you’ve determined how you want to feel, to create your own affirmations. Studies show that using affirmations you don’t believe can hinder whatever progress you were hoping achieve. Yet in order to create an affirmation, some part of you has to believe that what you say is possible or you would not have been able to think of a way to affirm it in words.

So it was with the cat requesting those boots in order to prove itself to the son. The son wouldn’t have handed over those boots without knowing it were possible for this cat, this talking cat he had considered eating, to do very clever things indeed. The cat, for his part, only needed the littlest of nudges - of affirmations - to get the ball rolling on his grand scheming.

Next Chapter: Chapter One: FIRST the miller is dead