I went to a BBQ on the weekend and caught up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in 15 years. The last time we met was in our 30s. He had married since and taken a corporate role. I asked him what he was up to and whether he was still into his poetry and literature.
The responses I got during our subsequent conversation included three two-word statements that are (in my opinion) the cause of most of life’s dramas.
In my coaching I see these statements come up all the time and I immediately challenge my clients when I hear them because every time I do we have a much-needed conversation re what is blocking them from being fully effective. In the space of a 5 minute conversation I heard him say he “had to grow up and earn more money”, you know Niall when you get married you “need to get a job that pays more” and finally finished with “you know you should really…”
My response to each of these statements was the same.
“Who says You have to, Should or Need to do anything!?”
In other words who is this person (in your head) telling you all these things and why should you listen to him/her?
Your self-talk is the key to understanding the conditions you put onto yourself and your life. These conditions are “conditioned” into us by societal norms to the point where they become immutable beliefs. For example:
“Sooner or later you have to Grow up and get a real job where you earn six figures…
“poetry is a hobby not a career, you should get another more useful degree”
“I have to put my kids through private schooling”
Now I’m no different, I have a big basket of “should”, have to” and “need to” lines of self-talk going but more and more lately I’m catching myself in the act and challenging myself on exactly what I need to be doing in any given moment.
Put simply I’m living more consciously as a self-aware, “choice-full” person rather than being a slave to automatic reactions from conditioned self-talk.
Breaking the cycle
The gap between you receiving a stimulus (sound, sight, taste, touch, thought) and you responding (acting) is the space I work in as a coach. It is this gap in which choice resides that we as humans have ultimate power (no where else do we have control, only in the moment of choice). The key is knowing you have a choice and structuring your life so that you maintain enough space in your mental processes to leave room (a gap) where choice can be present. That’s half the challenge.
The other half of the challenge is to boost your self-awareness, live more consciously so that you see your “gap” being bigger and bigger to the point where you become lighter and less weighed down by all the non-essential conditioning you have taken on. The conditioning is still there but you are not its slave. In my coaching work I create a space where that gap is opened up for a period of time and I ensure you become aware of your conditioning by “playing back” to you what you are saying to yourself. By me highlighting your conditioning you are no longer under its spell and have created choice. This is cool and for some people quite enlightening; it also creates hope.
The other do-it-yourself technique to improving your self-awareness is mindfulness and mediation; which I’m a big fan of as a core life skill. Very small amounts of this produce huge returns. Try sitting still for a few minutes per day and check out my recorded webinar on exactly how to do this if you are interested.
That’s all from me for now, please comment and share this people who may need it