Brazilian skateboarder Italo Romano lost his legs in a train accident when he was 13-years-old. Did that limit his beliefs about what he could do? After watching this video I really don’t think so. Yet another example of the indomitable human spirit.
This men is AMAZING! Wednesdays are for AMAZING MEN Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE
The first video I posted got pulled for copyright issues, let’s see if this one lasts:
Think back to the last time that you can remember disagreeing with someone else’s actions. Perhaps they acted like a jerk or a fool. Perhaps they were mean to someone else or spewing anger at the room. Perhaps you can think back to a time that you saw someone being wasteful or seemingly unconscious in their actions?
Did you feel that? Did you feel the judgement? The self righteousness? Did you hear your mind say, “I would never….”? Did it feel healthy? Did it feel true? Might your thought be nearly as counterproductive as their action? Might there be a way to reframe the situation that is both more loving and more productive?
I was reading Charles Eisenstein’s latest book “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible” this morning when I came across this distinction between dispositionism and situationism. Perhaps you see where this is going? In a chapter titled “Judgement” Charles brings up the body of research that demonstrates that ‘good people’ in difficult circumstances act like ‘bad people’. Essentially, what an objective perspective seems to say, time and time again, is that we all do the best that we can given our resources at the time and the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
The example Charles offers is of the 1973 experiment by John Darley and C Daniel Batson where seminary students are sent off across their campus to deliver a lecture on The Good Samaritan story, a biblical tale about the one man who pauses to help a stranger moaning by the roadside (after a priest and a priests assistant do not). Along the way to their lecture they will have to actually step over a man in distress, collapsed in a doorway. These students are, quite literally, dedicating their lives to becoming ‘good samaritans’. They have also had their intention brought to this story. In their shoes, would you stop to help the moaning man? Would this tell me something about your character, your core disposition?
There is a twist. The students are broken up into three groups. Those in the first group are told that they are late for their lecture and better hurry. Those in the second group are told to hurry, their lecture starts in a few minutes. The third group is told that they have plenty of time, but should head over.
Can you guess who tends to notice the man in distress and stop to aid him? 10 percent of the first group and 60 percent of the third group stop. Clearly circumstances played a major role in their actions. It was not these students core disposition that determined their actions, it was the situation they found themselves in. Still telling yourself that you are different?
Any time that we judge someone we are saying that based on our observations we can tell some core truth about their disposition; who they are. In essence, we are saying that if we were in their exact position we would have acted differently. But what can we ever truly know about another’s exact position? Do we understand their entire upbringing? Do we understand the dreams or nightmares they had last night? Do we know if they are feeling nourished, loved and whole in their body mind and spirit? Do we know if they just received a crushing blow that has them crying on the inside, but lashing out on the outside?
Clearly we do not ever know the entirety of another’s truth.
So what happens if we instead work from the default assumption that someone’s ‘stupid’ actions are something that we might do as well given the exact same situation? What happens if we switch our default judgement from being dispositional, judging a person, to situational, looking at them as a product of circumstance? Might we approach others with more compassion? More patience? More understanding?
This does not mean that you must condone their actions. It does mean that you begin to make a distinction between their actions and them as a human being worthy of your love. It means loosening your belief that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people as well as the idea that you are ‘one of the good ones’. It means reconsidering your partisan beliefs that Republicans or Democrats are idiots at their core. It means relaxing your judgement that the violence in others is a product of some innate insensitivity that you could never be guilty of. It ends up meaning that a lot of the self-righteous congratulations that we give ourselves at the expense of others need to be reconsidered with a lot more humility and compassion for just how much others have had to struggle through things that we take for granted.
You may be asking what the point is. What is this effort worth? Why give up the my high horse? This is something I have struggled with. I was an angry, self-righteous young man with a chip on his shoulder and a desire to ‘set the world right’. How do you think I felt as this young man who knew better than those around him? I felt lonely and I felt judged. When we project judgement out into the world it finds resonance and it is the very thing that we then feel coming from others minds as we assume that they are judging us. But when I choose to search for understanding and offer acceptance as my default perspective I feel held, understood and appreciated in almost any situation. The simple truth is that judgement creates separation where there is always an option for compassion and understanding. If our intention is truly to right perceived wrongs and bring light to darkness it is worth questioning our assumption that people have a default disposition that is fundamentally different than our own. As Charles says, echoing saints and mystics, “you and I are one; we are the same being looking out at the world through different eyes.” “Moreover, situationism says that the “I” in every situation is bigger than the individual. The subject, the actor, the chooser, is the individual plus the totality of his or her relationships.
The self has no independent existence. Consider what that statement implies. Abstracted from its relationships to the world, the self is not itself.
So who is there to judge?
This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life & Career Coach.
If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose then I would love to be of service.
Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.
“The greatest illusion of this world is the illusion of separation.”
How do we realize the more beautiful world that our hearts know is true?
Check out this beautiful video set to the words of Charles Eisenstein.
This man is AMAZING!
Wednesdays are for AMAZING MEN
Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE
The following is an exercise I gave to a client of mine recently. She has a “great” job producing television commercials (you have seen her work). Objectively her situation is great. Subjectively she wants to be doing something else. Her heart is not in it. She has other dreams and she has started working with me so that she can pursue them. The problem is that until she quits her advertising job she will have to put an amazing amount of time and energy into producing those TV spots. When in production she works 12 hour days. She is rarely 100% off the clock. Until the time that she makes the Big Leap into her dream job she needs to be very careful to protect her mind, to continue to cultivate her next steps and to keep her sense of hope and possibility alive. In short, she needs to keep dreaming.
What happens if we take that literally? I told her we could make a big impact in less than 5 minutes a day. Here is her exercise:
TAKE BACK YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS
You don’t yet have full control over your schedule. This is the situation. No reason to struggle with it. But, in the process of dealing with it, perhaps you have given up too much of your mind. This dream journaling practice is a subversive way of tapping into your subconscious. It is about shifting gears before you go to sleep (if not much sooner). It is about preventing your day job from cannibalizing your dreams….literally. It is also about planting positive seeds in your unconscious that, believe it or not, will sprout later in your waking and dreaming minds. This will also help to develop your intuition (which is already stronger than you trust)
It should take up about 2 minutes of your time. Seriously. If it takes more than 5 you are doing it wrong. (Caveat: If you get inspired and want to journal that is cool with me 🙂
BEFORE BED: Write “Dream Career” and tomorrows date in your journal. Place the journal next to your bed so you can reach it with as little movement as possible.
1st THING UPON WAKING: Write down the 1st FIVE words that pop into your head.
Worried you’ll forget? Writing on the top of the page each night sets an intention and starts the process. Place your journal on your pillow every morning after you write in it so you have to pick it up just to go to bed.
Do you see what this accomplishes?
- Curbs the inertia of your days stresses, most of which stem from a job you want to move away from.
- Shifts your mind towards positive thoughts before you go to sleep. You should feel a smile when you write “Dream Career”. This is both a title and a command. Dream about your dream career. You are programming your subconscious. Don’t believe me? Try it.
- You are stimulating your unconscious mind to focus on something that is not yet real. You are asking yourself to be creative. Ever wake up with a great idea? Inventors do it all the time. Musicians and artists as well. A lot is happening while you are asleep. Why not harness this potential?
- Bracketing your nights (and your days) with positive thoughts. This is good sleep hygiene and a great way to start your day.
- Having an impact on your waking consciousness. Ever wake up from a bad dream and have a terrible morning? Ever ask your unconscious to dream about the life you want to create and then walk around in the wake of those dreams all day?
No? Why not try it? Let me know how it goes in the comments below.
This post is from a series called INSIGHTS that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life & Career Coach.
If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.
Were you born to be a super hero? A Star? A billionaire? Can you be anything you want to be? Did your parents tell you that you could? Have you heard this message from others around you? From movies and TV and maybe your teachers? Can you see how incredibly empowering this can be? How about how damaging it can be? Have we really created a cult of self esteem?
I am from a generation that was told that we are special and that if we put our mind to it we can be anything that we want to be. For some of us this worked out incredibly well. But this also left many feeling insecure and unsuccesful. What if you had the potential to be president, but you ended up being an employee at the bank? What if you dreamed about being a ballerina, but haven’t danced in a few years because you dedicate all of your time to raising 3 kids? Is it harder to feel like a success because of the infinite potential you were led to believe we all have.
And what of your uniqueness? Might this have contributed to your sense that no one understands? That no one gets you? That you will never find your one true love? What if you were raised being told just how wonderful it is that you have so much in common with each and every person on this planet? That we all have the same dreams, the same pains and the same struggles? Might you feel less alone and less like you need to accomplish something great in order to be happy? That is the goal right? To be happy, not to be a star. We want stardom because we think it will make us happy.
This topic surrounds me lately. In the media, in my mind, in my friendships and certainly with my coaching clients. There is only one president and not too many more professional ballerinas or ball players. There are a lot of highly skilled blue-collar workers. I spent the better part of a decade as one myself. The entire time I was both haunted and inspired by a sense that I was intended for greatness, that I was unique and special and that doing what others do couldn’t possibly be good enough. At times it drove me forward. Far more often it left me feeling inadequate and like a failure.
The author Keith Martin-Smith, whose brilliant novel A Heart Blown Open I wrote about earlier, recently started a kickstarter campaign to help him write a novel about this idea. Check out his rather funny video explaining the topic and contribute. I really want to read this book! (only hours left!!!)
We have all been told that chasing your dreams is at the core of being an American. What we haven’t all been prepared for is the immense work this takes and the simple fact that as long as we keep growing we will always have a future dream. This means we MUST learn to appreciate the present no matter how much more we want. Otherwise happiness will remain elusive. My goal is to strive for more because I love what I have so much that of course I want more. Not because I want to get away from the current reality.
The Atlantic recently published an article about what they call the “magic-feather syndrome” titled “You Can Do Anything: Must Every Kids’ Movie Reinforce the Cult of Self-Esteem?” The article breaks down the childrens movie formula of “outcasts who must overcome the restrictions of their societies or even species to realize their impossible dreams…by believing that their greatest gifts come from within.” The piece goes on to detail how it is not hard work and years and years of effort which, without resilience and determination might resemble failure, that will get you to your goal. In these movies it is simply belief in your own greatness which grants you shortcuts to the big leagues. This is what we are all raised on. We all get what they are trying to accomplish. It feels great to think you can be great. And it is a decent first step. There is much truth in this. But all of the other steps resemble really hard work. This is what we need to be trained to love! How often did your parents praise you for your Charlie Brown like failed attempts? How often were you told that it is only failure if you stop trying, but a learning experience if you take notes and adapt to what the world needs? In an interview with Martin-Smith, Robb Smith (no relation) recently said that when speaking with his children “I would translate…’You can be anything you want’ to ‘You can be be anything the world needs you to be’. I say, ‘You are kind, you are smart, you are important, and you will put love first.’ How different of a message is that? It may sound limiting, but it can be incredibly inspiring once we feel what it is like to be of service to others.
If you saw Ashton Kutcher’s surprisingly great acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards recently than one of the three things that you learned is that “opportunity looks a lot like hard work.” He talks about working one menial job after another as he moved from one job to another slightly better job. The point is that he didn’t stroll the streets of Hollywood avoiding day jobs as he waited to be discovered. He worked hard to better his situation constantly and most of the time it wasn’t glamorous.
I don’t actually know much about Ashton’s story, but I love the message he offered. I think that all of our parents who told us to dream big did something incredibly right. They created a space for our dreams to grow and for game changing ideas to emerge. What some of us did not learn was a work ethic and a tolerance and eagerness for things which are not our ultimate dream, but which moves that asymptotic line a bit closer to the ideal. Most of all, few of us learned gratitude, that deep bow to the awe and wonder that is our every breath here on earth no matter how that time is spent. Let your striving be a celebration. Let your dreams create movement that stirs you towards service.
And check out Aston’s speech. It may pleasantly surprise you:
Find More Amazing Men by clicking HERE
Michael Phelps has won more Olympic medals than anyone else ever. I have heard a number of stories about how he achieved this. Some people cite his natural physique, his arm span, the size of his feet, his height or the fact that he is double jointed. Some talk about his diet, his workouts, his unwavering commitment, his attitude, his bong hits (really). Some say it was his coach.
As a coach myself, sure, I want to think that his coach had a positive impact in some way. Confirmation bias somewhat aside, one thing that his coach taught him struck me as absolutely brilliant and Phelps has said many a time just how big an impact it has had on him over the years.
Michael Phelps coach, Bob Bowman, taught him how to “play the tape”.
Playing the tape is a catchy way to refer to his use of visualizations to prepare himself for races. In years past many assumed that the best (and perhaps only) way to prepare for an activity was to do it. Practice makes perfect became a truism we all believed. Don’t just sit there, get up and do it! Well, not so fast the science now says. Back in 2002 a psychologist named Alan Richardson studied how visualizing free throws compared to actually shooting them. The results were clear. Those who spent 20 minutes per day visualizing improved almost as much as those who physically practiced. We learn by doing, but we also learn by imagining doing.
Now I am not suggesting that you couch potato your way to success. Clearly the best results come when you combine the two methods. Go out and work your but off, but then, when you are not on the court, or holding your instrument, or in the office or doing anything that you want to excel at, you should learn to hold a vision of exactly how you want this pursuit to go in the future.
Another key element of visualization is relaxation. Anyone who has been in the zone, who has stepped into a FLOW state, knows that we can only drop fully into the moment when we are free from any concerns about the future or the past. Anxiety is our enemy when it comes to performing at the highest level. To this end, it is incredibly useful to practice deep relaxation while visualizing things going perfectly. But this is not only about visualizing a perfect world. Visualizations are also incredibly useful for preparing to overcome obstacles you may encounter. As Phelps once said about his visualization practice, “I do go through everything from a best-case scenario to the worst-case scenario just so I’m ready for anything that comes my way,”
Picture the high pressure situation you would like to conquer. Can you see the ideal unfolding of events? This is the first step. This is your “tape”. Once you know what is on the tape, it is great to “play the tape” before bed, upon waking, or just before your big competition, test, interview, performance, presentation etc. But once you get that down, once you have written the tape and you can play it at will, you are ready for the next step. Now, can you allow yourself to CALMLY see something going horribly wrong, but then also see yourself overcoming this obstacle and being massively successful regardless. This is the expert version of visualizations. The goal is not to leave yourself stranded with the difficulty, but to sink deep into a relaxed state and experience yourself overcoming any and all obstacles. Here is where playing the tape really becomes powerful.
Philosophers have said for years that our minds can not tell the difference between what is real and what is only inside the mind. Dreams are real until we wake up. The mind works in mysterious ways. Some have postulated that dreams are actually a way for us to practice life before it happens; to re-live events that did not go as planned and to play with possibilities that the future holds for us. This is pure speculation, but what is abundantly clear is that people who are masterful often have a clear vision of how they want things to go long before it happens. This is not about being attached to outcomes. This is about resonating with and stepping into the reality that you want to create for yourself.
Tiger Woods was taught to visualize his golf ball going exactly where he wants it to go from a very young age. Jim Carrey once wrote himself a check for 10 million dollars and carried it with him every day until he actually started making that much money. How’s that for a vision of the future? Arnold Schwarzenegger used visualization to see not only exactly how he wanted each and every muscle in his body to grow during his body building years, but also to hold a vision of himself as a movie star when his body building career was coming to an end. Each of these people learned to believe deeply that something would happen long before it actually did.
Much of what we are discussing here is about belief. As I have discussed before, belief is an incredibly potent ingredient when trying to change a habit or stimulate growth. The powerful, yet simple act of “playing the tape” will never happen if you don’t first let yourself believe that there is a possibility of being successful. So play the tape. Try it when you are in bed with your eyes closed. Let visions of your future joy and success fill your dreams and wake you from your bed. Cultivate belief in your every fiber and let these ideas, emotions and actual skills work there way into the very fabric of your body and your mind.
Do you consider yourself to be creative? Do you have a strong critical mind? What connection do you think there is between these two? Which has your education helped develop? Which does the world need you to have more of right now?
Reading the first chapter of the book Presence today I came across the words of Stanford business school professor Michael Ray. Mr. Ray teaches very popular courses on creativity. His courses start with three assumptions:
- Creativity is essential for health, happiness and success in all areas of life, including business.
- Creativity is within everyone
- Even though it is in everyone it is covered by the Voice of Judgement
I couldn’t help but be reminded of the work of Ken Robinson. Sir. Robinson has written some wonderful books on creativity, the modern education system and finding your purpose or “element”. I wrote about “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” earlier in one of my posts on FLOW. In his previous book “Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative” Robinson raises the very pressing possibility that “we are educating people out of their creativity.”
In an article on the Huffington Post Robinson writes, “First, we’re all born with deep natural capacities for creativity and systems of mass education tend to suppress them. Second, it is increasingly urgent to cultivate these capacities — for personal, economic and cultural reasons — and to rethink the dominant approaches to education to make sure that we do.”
Years ago I came across a popular story, perhaps from Robinson, about what happens when you ask school kids who in the room is an artist. The story starts out in a kindergarten class. The question is asked and every hand goes up. Then the question is asked again in the 1st grade classroom, then 2nd grade and on up through senior year in high school. In elementary school the number of hands going up quickly drops towards half and then less. By high school there are only a few hands and by the end of high school a room is lucky to have one hand go up. Often all of the other students agree and say “yes, she is the artist.” What happened? Is school to blame? And does this narrowing of identity really have an impact on our health, happiness and success?
Mr. Ray tells the authors of Presence about “a study by Howard Gardner’s Project Zero at Harvard that involved developing intelligence tests for babies. The project also tested older subjects. The researchers found that up to age four, almost all the children were at the genius level, in terms of the multiple frames of intelligence that Gardner talks about – spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, intrapersonal and linguistic. But by age twenty, the percentage of children at genius level was down to 10 percent, and over twenty, the genius level proportion of the subjects sank to 2 percent.
Everyone asks, ‘Where did it go?’ It didn’t go anywhere; it’s covered over by the Voice of Judgement.”
The solution offered by Ray? Become aware of the Voice of Judgement, the voice that tells you “that’s a stupid idea” or “you can’t do that” and choose to disregard that voice. In a sense we must practice willful disobedience within our own minds. The key is simple awareness. Much of what he describes sounds just like meditation, albeit meditation with a specific intention. The first, hardest and most powerful step is simply deciding to notice this voice and label it. That’s it. As I am found of saying, consciousness is curative. When we decide to bring awareness to something with the intention of loving and healing ourselves the solutions do become apparent. We don’t have to be fearlessly creative to begin. We simply have to open up to the possibility that deep within us there lies an immense capability to be creative. We must consider the possibility that our education, training and cultural conditioning has been unbalanced and has favored critical reasoning (the Voice of Judgement) over creative imagining.
If you would like to re-invigorate your creative side and are having a hard time doing so perhaps it is time to look for, label and summarily dismiss your Voice of Judgement. The Voice of Judgement relies 100% on the past to determine what it thinks is possible or reasonable. Being creative, being an entrepreneur or an artist is an unreasonable act. It must be. It is about bringing into being something which does not already exist. All great creators are unreasonable in the eyes of those who did not share their vision. There is a playfulness, a childlike naivety, in all acts of creation. What would you do if you were suddenly free from your Voice of Judgement?
This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.
If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.
Do you always want more? Do you always feel like you are one accomplishment away from happiness? What if I told you that this striving, this desire for change, for growth and transformation can become an expression of your satisfaction with the way things are right now?
You would likely ask me what I am talking about.
On one hand the desire for growth is an incredibly powerful force for positivity. On the other it is a potentially destructive force that posits happiness as that ever elusive next step. What is the difference?
Gratitude is the feeling of appreciation, of thanks; the essence of grace. Cultivating gratitude changes the entire experience of striving. People with gratitude may work far harder than those without it, but the effort is more joyful and less tied to a specific outcome. When we accept and appreciate what we already have the effort to grow and to change becomes more of a celebration and less of a competition or struggle. When we root our life in gratitude we judge both ourselves and others with less negativity. We are more likely to see potential and less likely to focus on lack.
Many of my clients end up with a gratitude practice at one point or another. There are many reasons to practice gratitude and many more benefits of doing so. For many life is an experience of constant low level anxiety that occasionally erupts into a full blown panic attack. For many such as myself there is a tendency to slip into depression. Cultivating gratitude will help with both of these. The key is to realize that gratitude, like all emotions, is not something that only happens to us, it is something that we can choose to feel more often.
For most of us there are two times when we really feel gratitude naturally. One is when we get something. The other is when we almost lose something, but then manage to hold onto it. Have you ever met someone who had a near death experience? If not, I am sure that you have heard a story or two. When someone comes face to face with a potential loss of life or limb, but then, at the very last moment, recovers or is saved, there is a very real, very beautiful and potent gratitude that permeates even the most mundane of experiences. Flowers smell fresher. The sun shines brighter. Getting to see a friend or even talk to a stranger is a gift. In the moments right after a brush with mortality simply taking a deep breath can fill one with wonder, awe and appreciation for the gift that is life.
What has changed for these people? In all honesty, the only difference between them and you, right now, is that something truly terrible almost happened to them. Think about that. By this logic, the only thing standing between you and feeling joy just for being alive is something terrible happening to you. Is that why we spend so much time thinking about what might go wrong? Are we wishing for disaster so that we can learn to appreciate life? Or does a brush with disaster help us to realize that this moment, right now, is an incredibly precious event that will never occur again? My money is on the latter.
We can start appreciating life right now. If this is not your default mode, and for most of us it is not, then it will take a bit of practice. You will have to deliberately choose to seek feelings of gratitude. And note what I just said. I did not say “thoughts” of gratitude, I said feelings. This is the key. It starts with a thought and then becomes a feeling. Here is a VERY quick exercise that I have been offering to a number of clients recently. It takes 5-10 minutes a day and it can change everything. There are two steps:
1 – LAST THING AT NIGHT: Write down 3 things that you are grateful for and FEEL the gratitude in your body. Let the thoughts and sensations that you fall asleep to be full of appreciation for what you already have.
- One thing about yourself
- One thing about someone else
- One random thing
2 – FIRST THING IN THE MORNING: Read the three things that you wrote last night and FEEL grateful for them. Let them run through your mind and your heart. Root your morning in them. Let them become a mantra. When another thought arises push it aside with gratefulness. Let the mood of your morning become gratitude.
For every client this practice is a little different. I suggest that some focus on specific areas of life. Some keep these notes in a gratitude journal, others put up a giant poster board and create a gratitude wall full of gratitude that they see last thing before they go to bed and first thing upon waking up. The picture above is a sheet of plastic that I hung on the wall in my apartment so that my Hana and I can write on the wall with a dry erase marker. I sit by this beautiful energy every time I write a blog post or notes to a client. It roots me in positive feelings for the many ways that I am already truly blessed. I feel so good about my current situation it is only natural to want to encourage my life to grow, to evolve and change and continue in new directions.
Do you see how this shifts the energy around wanting change? Do you see how seeking growth and transformation can stop being about what you lack and become a celebration of what you do have? Hating what you already have is the energy of death. If you hate a child for being small you are not encouraging growth, you are punishing youth. We are all young. We are all naïve. Recognizing a place where we can get better should be exciting. It should generate an appreciation for what is and the fact that it can be improved.
I used to be terribly depressed. I spent years thinking about all that I hated about life. I was great at finding things to dislike. I could barely sleep. I was practicing disgust. It was deep in the fabric of my being. Every where I looked I saw it reflected back at me. Now I practice gratitude and guess what I notice when I look at the world?
The world is full of opportunities. Our perspective is primary. If you look down you see the ground. When you look up you see the sky. If your default frame is ruminating on what you don’t want, on what you lack, on why you are lonely or sad or tired then you will find 1,000 reasons for this. But if you break the pattern, if you choose to consciously look for things to be grateful for then you will find that this type of thinking creates a self-fulfilling virtuous cycle, a feedback loop, that teaches you to reach out for more simply because what you have is so wonderful. Who wouldn’t want more when they feel wonderful? Before long you may just find that you are overflowing and the only thing left is to want more for others as well.
This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.
If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.
Have you ever read the AA bible, the 12 steps manual? For those at all familiar with AA’s approach to overcoming alcohol addiction (a STRONG habit) there is one crucial element that appears repeatedly. It turns many off, but those who are the most successful with AA often site it as the thing that empowers them to succeed in overcoming their drinking problems. These people make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.”
AA was started by a one time agnostic who, while in the hospital being treated for alcoholism was given large doses of the psychedelic belladonna. He had visions and wrote ‘the book’ very quickly afterwards. This book mentions God in 7 out of the 12 steps. A belief in a higher power is not recommended for AA, it is required. For many, a lack of this type of faith is enough to turn them off form AA altogether. For years people have debated whether or not a belief in god is crucial to recovery. I suggest that it is not god, but the belief itself that is transformative. Faith is the key. A higher power is the thing that inspires such unwavering faith, but it is the belief itself that inspires and transforms.
Two weeks ago I introduced you to the habit cycle as described in “The Power of Habits” by Charles Duhigg. Last week I introduced the technique known as Habit Reversal Training that can be used to help change any habit. I also mentioned that there is one crucial element that can make any habit change either bulletproof or susceptible to failure at a crucial moment. This element is belief. More specifically, it appears to be belief in something bigger than oneself.
A study conducted by the NIH, UC Berkeley and Brown University looked for correlations between religious belief and how long people stayed sober. What they found was what that while yes, habit replacement works, it also fails at critical, stressful moments. A woman may get sober for two years, but when circumstances arise, when strong enough cues are present, she may well go back to drinking UNLESS there is a strong enough belief in place that empowers her to maintain her course. In AA this belief is that a higher power has entered ones life. People who succeed genuinely believe that things are going to get better. Faith is not a simple, black and white happening, but it may not be all that mysterious either.
In AA God is the name given to this faith. When it comes to habit change in general it might be more helpful to think of this faith as not in god, but in the process itself. AA inspires this in a few ways as well. First, AA provides you with proof. When you sit in an AA meeting you are surrounded by those for whom this process has worked. It is hard for even the biggest skeptic to maintain disbelief the entire time. Reality is telling you that this has worked before. You would be a fool not to believe. The second thing AA provides is the experience of something greater than yourself. You are part of a group and you are offered opportunities to serve that group. Whether setting up chairs, offering encouragement or becoming a sponsor for someone earlier along the path there is the continuous experience of being part of something that is bigger than the individual. The process itself is something bigger than any one individual that you must surrender to for it to work. It may feel like a stretch to call this god, but the AA book does ask you to define God however you choose. For many the need to have a specific definition is trumped by the direct experience of being a part of process that they can not fully understand. The key for many, if not to fully believe, is to at least suspend disbelief for long enough to let grace in.
One other key to belief that AA provides is community. Whether or not you have a supportive group of people around you can make all the difference in whether or not you believe that change is possible. remember, community can be as small as one other person.
What habit do you have that can not be addressed by applying this process of Habit Reversal Training coupled with a healthy dose of faith? Almost no matter what you are struggling with, you know that others have succeeded before you. You likely know that you yourself have succeeded at times. The key is to remove judgement, apply a healthy dose of logic via a proven process, all while letting go and having a bit of faith, in yourself, in the future and in the fact that you are a part of something far bigger than yourself that will carry you when you allow it.
You may have noticed that changing some habits seems impossible while other, really simple habits are easy to change. What is really amazing is that if you find just the right simple, easily changed habit it can create a cascade effect that leads to effortless change in the rest of your life. Duggins refers to these as keystone habits. I wrote about something quite similar a while back. I call them TrimTabs.
What habit would you most like to change?