Whenever we do or don't do something, it is rare that we are compelled or prevented from doing it. In reality we are making a choice of one action, over another. We do this primarily because: 1. We don't want to suffer the likely consequences of the choice, or 2. We don't want to put in the effort to manifest that action in the world. In my last post we discussed language that fell into the first category. In this post I'll look at the second case.
We often portray ourselves as having some limiting quality, that prevents us from achieving what we want. You might hear someone say, 'I'm too old to get in shape, ' or 'I've tried to lose weight I just can't do it,' or maybe 'I'm too stupid to get a good job.' In most cases these limiting qualities are our negative self image and talk solidified into some fixed view about what we are capable of. We do this ,as an excuse, to not make the effort it takes to get to where we want to go. It hurts less, in a way, to say 'I can't quite smoking,' instead of 'I tried to quite smoking, but when it got hard I chose to give it up, because I was unwilling to deal with the discomfort.' To take responsibility means that we are admitting we made a choice. If we make ourselves the victims, maybe we don't have to feel bad about our perceived failures.
In the examples above we can change our language to reflect our ability to choose. We can say, "I'm old so working out is harder than it used to be. I choose not to work out because I don't like the discomfort it causes. " or we can say, 'I've tried to lose weight before, but chose to stop, so I'm choosing not to try again right now, because I 'm afraid I might fail.' When we read these statements now, we see that the speakers are making a clear choice, which means they could make a different choice. It also reveals the motivation behind their choice. In the first case it's the discomfort of exercise, in the second it's the fear of failure. When we see these choices, we can weigh our options better. For example, for the first speaker maybe not being active is actually causing more discomfort than exercise would cause. Then again maybe not, but until we knowledge the possibilities a serious examination can't happen. In the second case, perhaps the fear of diabetes or other health risks is greater than the fear of failure, but if I'm not empowered to make that choice, it's hard to see that I could actually prevent that from happening. Few things are as inevitable as we perceive.
By reframing the way we think and talk about ourselves and the things in our lives, we gain access to more power and more choice. We can acknowledge when we are limiting ourselves and see other possibilities. Perhaps the greatest effect that can come from this change is a perception of control. I heard recently that higher level managers suffer from less stress, not because they have less to do, but because they had a greater sense of control.
Notice when you use language that portrays you as weak or that limits your capability. Take some time and reflect on the beliefs that limit what you think you can do. Ask yourself Is this true? Then ask, Is it really true? Finally ask, What if it weren't true, what would that mean?*
Often the solidity of our beliefs are based solely on the strength we give them. We can use this truth to both bolster the beliefs that empower us, and to deconstruct the ones that hold us back. Fixed ideas lead many of us to suffering. The world is a variable and changing place and our minds must reflect that or we are doomed to fight against the current of being. By seeing our choice and having a flexible mind, we become more free and more nimble in our response to life's big and little challenges.
Thanks for reading,
*disclaimer - This technique is one I heard somewhere, and is in a book, but I don't remember what book or who wrote it. But I felt I should acknowledge it didn't originate with me.
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