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
Gentoku

*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

Gentoku

 

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