Listening to Language/Limits – 7 Habits

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.

Changing your life isn’t easy and if you’re serious about it, you are likely to fail in some way before you succeed.

We’ve been told that failing is bad, but failure is the ground that leads to success. I don’t like to fail, but every time I have a perceived failure at a job or a relationship I have moved closer to what I want.

I have gained knowledge about what job I don’t want and how to work more skillfully with a partner. It’s not the mistakes, rather it’s not learning from mistakes that we have to fear. We must be willing to fall short of our aspirations.

We must take responsibility of our choices. If we have any hope of changing, it will be us that manifests that change. No one can manifest change for you, you are the only one who can truly change. That is the burden and the gift of a human life.

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,
Be Well

*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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Listening to Language / Consequences – 7 Habits

Again just a reminder I am reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey right now. I am using my blog as a way to take in the material with a mind towards teaching it to others.

There is a part of 7 Habits where Covey talks about listening to our language. Specifically paying close attention to when we use reactive phrases, as opposed to proactive ones. Very often when I talk about fitness or training I hear reactive phrases from people.

When I tell people about training for and racing triathlons, I usually get one or two reactions. Most people say some version of, ‘That’s great, but I could never do something like that,’ or ‘I wish I could do that, but (enter excuse here: I’m too busy, I’ve got a knee injury…).’

Few people acknowledge that they are making a choice not to do triathlons. Now I’m not advocating everyone should do a triathlon (seriously you should though), I’m merely saying in most cases not doing a tri is a choice, rather than the result of some outside force.’

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 this post I’ll talk about the first case and I’ll discuss the second case in a later post.

A clear example of the first case can be found in this statement: “I can’t work out in the morning, I have to be at work at 9:00am.” What choices does this statement hide?

For one the choice not to wake earlier before work or the choice to get more sleep. Another would be the choice to be on time to work instead of working out. Another would be the choice to go to work at all, instead of spending time on fitness.

Many of us would think the last choice is a reasonable and prudent one. The choice to keep my job, or to be on time, instead of working out seem like wise ones, but we still choose.

In truth I could choose to lose my job and work out instead. But if I don’t want the consequences of losing a job, then I’d be wise to choose work over working out.  In many instances changing our language wouldn’t mean changing our choice, but it does reveal that we are making a choice.

To use proactive language in the example above, you could say “I choose not to work out in the morning, because I want to get 8 hours of sleep and get to work on time.”

When we read this phrase we can see all the possibilities I’ve overlooked. Maybe I could go to bed earlier, so I can wake up earlier. Maybe I could choose to get less sleep and use the extra time to exercise.

By using reactive language we disempower ourselves. Instead of taking responsibility for our choices we paint ourselves as victims who can’t choose anything else. When we use proactive language we paint ourselves as capable people who are choosing what we want in our lives.

Listen this week to yourself and others, and notice when reactive language is being used. When you catch yourself or others take some time to think about the hidden choices.

How could you restate the some thing and acknowledge the choice involved? When you see those choices can you see other choices you could make?

The Buddha talked about karma starting with thought. Before any volitional unskillful act occurs an unskillful thought must occur first. By listening to our language we can reveal the illusions and delusions in our thoughts.

By taking responsibility for our language we can learn to take responsibility for our lives. Covey talks about this as the ability to choose our response. Change comes from choosing a new response to our lives and language lies at the door to this change.

Thanks for reading,
Be Well



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A gift to your future self – 7 habits

    So I’ve recently been reading the 7 Habits by the wonderful Dr. Covey. One of the things he suggests in the book is that you read the book with an eye towards teaching the concepts to others.

So I thought one way to make that really hit home for me is to write a few blog posts about my reflections on the concepts he presents in relation to finding balance in both body and mind. 

    One of the concepts he introduces early on is the idea of finding a balance between P, which stands for production and PC, which stand for production capability. It’s kind of like making coffee:  Coffee is the product, while the Coffee Maker is the production capacity. The goal is to find a balance between these two, so that we produce the best product, while keeping our capacity at a sustainable level. 

    Often when we exercise we have a hard time striking the balance between the two, because they are both very intimate to us.

When we seek balance through fitness, our bodies are both the P and the PC in this equation. We use our body, to improve our body. Of course there is something very poetic about that as well.

In one way, it’s very easy to maintain this balance, because the more effort we put into our body, the P, the more we build our fitness, the PC, which lets us put more effort into P. 

The problem comes when we separate ourselves from our bodies. When we make our bodies the problem. 

No matter what your fitness level, your body is a product of 2 things:
1.Your karmic patterns.
2. Your mind. 

    Let’s take a quick look at the first.

Your body is a very clear example of karma. Karma can be very complicated, but fundamentally it’s just cause and effect. You body is the result of a combination of causes.

Things like heart disease are caused by family history (genetic cause), how active you were growing up (past cause), and what your diet is life (nutrition cause). This isn’t supposed to make you critical of your actions.

Instead thinking this way encourages us to notice,  ‘oh my body is a combination of factors some of which I can control, some of which I can’t. This also means that your future body will be a result of current causes and conditions.

I’m never going to be 6ft tall no matter how fit I get, but depending on what I do today I can change how fit I am in the future. What I do today is a gift to my future self. What gift do I want to give? 

    The second factor is your mind. Not only is our body image largely determined by our mind, but also our actual body represents the way in which our mind turns.

Karma starts with a single thought, which then turns into repeated thoughts or actions or both. Those thoughts and actions turn into patterns, but it is all dependent on that original thought.

When we bring more awareness to our minds we make it possible to see our thoughts and step in between them and the things that come afterwards. 

    Awareness it the key to transforming our way of thinking. By acknowledging that our current body is the result of past factors and past states of mind, it becomes clear how important it is to have a compassionate attitude and approach to our fitness journey.

If we make our body the enemy to achieve fitness, we are focusing on the P but not the PC. We are focusing on the effects, but not the causes of our future self.

Fitness must start with a gratitude for the body we have now. Your body is the vehicle that will take you where you want to go. If you treat it with honor and respect you will be giving your future self a body that has been honored and respected.

If you treat it with disdain and criticism, you give your future self a body that has been criticized. Which body do you want to give yourself? 

    Take sometime at the end of the day or before you workout to reflect on all the good things your body has done for you. Reflect on how it’s carried you along, digested your food, helped you do work, and all the other things you can do because you have a body.

Then take some time to think about and write down the gifts you want to give your future self. More ease, more confidence, a half marathon finish, appreciation, whatever it is remember that your future self is relying on this very body, this very mind, to help it manifest.

Your body and your mind are your companions, your teammates on the path to a balanced life.