Changing What I Choose to Hear

Barbara A. Bernard

Barbara A. Bernard

Because challenge and change are part of the human journey, understanding how I respond when theyshow up is key to my life of discovery. Because I am the only one in my head, I have a responsibility to observe my thoughts as they arise and to double-check them for authenticity and truth.

Arianna Huffington refers to the limiting voice in our head as our “obnoxious roommate.” This voice gleefully tells us all the reasons we might not do something. It’s the internal self-talk of a wonky Champion, saying,

•I can’t do that.
•I am dumb.
•Everyone is better at this than I am.
•If something bad will happen, it will happen to me.

It’s up to us to take responsibility for keeping our wonky mind chatter in check. This way of thinking is habitual, and we need to remind ourselves that habits can be changed. So, when these kinds of thoughts come up, we can pause, look at the idea, check it for truth, and then replace it with a different thought. Learning to do this takes time and practice. It takes self-discipline, and it takes effort.

An approach that works for me is to replace the habitual internal dialogue with something that supports me in continuing to grow and expand as a human being. When I want to move out of wonky back to an inspired self, I say, “I can believe in possibility in the midst of my present reality.” Statements like these have helped me move beyond my fears and back into seeing possibilities in whatever seems unfamiliar in the current moment:

•I choose to try this again.
•If I wait until the circumstances are perfect, I won’t ever try.
•I don’t have to be good at it to begin with. I can learn.
•Other people like me do this.
•The only way I will try this new idea is if I make the time.
•If I try this a few times and don’t like it, I can change my mind and choose not to pursue it.

Being brave is highly individual. One person’s brave is another person ordinary routine. When we don’t know how to do something or when we don’t know where to start, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. As adults we often have things we do well, work that we have mastered, or areas in which we feel highly competent. But it can often take courage to choose to do something that makes us feel vulnerable, unsure of ourselves, or even fearful.

IMG_4692A woman I know trains staff in a gym. Recently she told me the story of the very first time she entered a health club. A “traditionally built” woman who had just birthed a child, she looked around and thought, “They must be looking at me. It’s pretty obvious I’m not fit.” Following the Nautilus circuit with the assistance of a staff member, she cried as she moved from one machine to the next. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she felt even more vulnerable, and yet she knew this was a new beginning for her. She tells this story to prospective staff members to let them know the role they can have as a compassionate person in helping people take brave steps in a new direction.

Now stop the movie of this trainer’s story. What if she had allowed her wonky Champion to persuade her not to go to the gym or not to go back after that first time? Believe me, she had a long list of reasons, including a two-month-old child at home. If she had stayed in her fear, if she had not been willing to be vulnerable and try something new while in front of others, the next part of the story wouldn’t have happened. Read on.

Because this woman works out regularly, because women often see her at the front desk as they enter, and because she uses the machines, she has become a role model for other women of similar build. Many of them have told her she saved their lives. She doesn’t work out to become a certain size; she works out to be fit and healthy. Others see her and think, “If she can do it, I can do it.”

Not only did this woman change her own life, but in the process of her change, she is also impacting the lives of other women. Whenever we demonstrate our personal courage—our brave—it can have ripple effects in the world in ways that surprise us.

This blog is the third in the series “Harnessing the Full Power of the Mind.” This series explores some of the tools and strategies featured in our forthcoming book, The Art of Living in Discovery: Thriving in Life with Intentional Resilience. Designed to help you to take responsibility for your mind, the blogs offer a variety of ways to become more aware of how your mind functions and how to identify when your mind is wonky. As you play with and practice these ideas, you will find that you can bring your mind back to an inspired state and into balance.