Inspiration From “Friday Night Lights” – Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose!

As a psychotherapist and coach in private practice in Los Angeles, I use inspiration from hundreds of sources in the things I say to clients that illustrate a point and help them reach their goals. While these inspirations can be from psychological theory, experience with previous clients with similar problems (which is a large database, after 18 years), stories from my friends/colleagues, examples from my own life and relationships, or even “pop” culture of movies and television. My latest source of inspiration comes from the critcally-acclaimed television series, “Friday Night Lights”, about a small town in Texas obsessed with its high school football scene, led by the school’s head coach, Eric Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler) whose dour, no-nonsense style masks a profound dedication to his players and family. Coach Taylor teaches a phrase that the players use as a final affirmation before taking the field: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” This could apply to more than just football.

For it is ideally with “clear eyes” that we see the challenges we face. When confronting a problem, we try hard not to let an unrealistic perception of the situation, or a distorted view (such as denial) obscure our view of understanding of what is really going on with ourselves and others. How do we see others? Are we getting an accurate picture, or one that is marred by our perceptions (or misperceptions)? Are we able and willing to “see” another person’s point of view, without just getting defensive in a conflict? Can we see how they might disagree with us, and still have a valid point that is important to them? Can we empathize with their feelings on why their point of view is treasured by them? Can we see clearly not only our strengths in a situation, but can we also see (if we dare to look) how WE are contributing to conflict and our own unhappiness? Our “clear eyes” are about using our skills of rational thinking and reasoning, and not just being a slave to our immediate (often knee-jerk) feelings.

Similarly, how can we bring “full hearts” to the situation? Are we applying the virtues of forgiveness, tolerance, patience, and compassion? Or, in some cases, having “full hearts” means that we need to bring courage, determination, or even a righteous anger that makes our hearts full to work toward justice? Our full hearts means we’re bringing all that we can to the things that are important to us – working it all out in relationships, work, and social interactions.

Coach Taylor’s premise is that if we combine the virtues implied in “clear eyes”and “full hearts,” the result is that we “can’t lose.” In his case, he means winning the football game. For us, what does “winning” mean in each situation? Being ‘right’? Being happy? Being fulfilled? Being validated? Being calm, with a situation resolved?

Think about to what degree you see yourself, the world around you, and your future with “clear eyes.” Identify what gets in the way of a clear view, and eliminate it. Think about what a “full heart” means. If yours isn’t as full as it could be, what internal resources (such as courage, determination, compassion) do you need to evoke in yourself? And what would “can’t lose” mean to you? How would you recognize the “win” when it happened to you?

If you need help with what these mean for you, consider therapy or coaching. Having clear eyes and a full heart can empower you to… Have the Life You Want!

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