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The Two Lies We Tell Ourselves

There are a couple of lies we frequently tell. I am speaking of myself primarily of course, but these are actually pretty common. Almost universal. We proclaim these falsehoods in an effort to excuse all sorts of behavior. We tell these lies to others, but even more destructively we convince ourselves that they are true. There's an almost urgent defense of these lies when confronted, because if they ever were to be exposed as illegitimate we would no longer be able to hide behind them comfortably. We would then be faced squarely with the reality that we can make the changes that are painful or frightening for us, or we must admit that we really don't want to that badly. Even though we think we do or really know we this creates a crisis internally. You don't have to listen unless you are ready to. I for one have decided to make myself see and hear the truth on these insidious little lies once and for all. Or at least for awhile, since we all know I will forget and have to be reminded many times again in the future. Today, though, I am prepared to admit openly that although I am an otherwise truthful person, I am guilty of telling the following two lies.

1) I don't have time.

     I love this one. It's my favorite. I use it all the time, and it feels really true because I am genuinely very busy. Time is indeed finite and often seems scarce. The truth though is that we all have equal amounts of it. We each use our allotted daily time allowance on the things we personally value most. When someone tries to point this out we will argue vehemently that they just don't really know our lives and schedules. We HAVE to do this or that. We are more pressed than most people, because of something or other. It's harder for us to find time than everyone else, because of XYZ. In most cases though these statements are false. The people who are succeeding at the things we don't think we have time to do are those that are willing to make the hard choices to create the time they need. It takes brutal honesty sometimes to admit that we actually are doing what we want to be doing most, even though perhaps we are ashamed of our own choices. A good example is exercise. I'll throw myself under the bus on this one. I was way overweight. My health was suffering. I felt embarrassed by the size of pants I was wearing. I stressed over what my husband or others might be thinking about my appearance. I knew from research and past experience that I needed to exercise 4 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes to lose weight and improve my health generally. I thought this was very important to me. I cried over it and dreamed of being thinner, but yet I didn't do what needed to be done. Month after month I didn't exercise. I searched for alternative methods even though I knew deep down that the answer wasn't really that complicated. I started workout programs many times, but stopped after a week or so. Why? Because I just didn't have time. I was already so tired and worn out from my busy schedule I simply couldn't add one more thing. This felt real to me, but looking back now I know it wasn't. How do I know? Because I changed it quickly and relatively easily once I firmly made up my mind to. I still have the same basic life, the same amount of kids and the same job. But now I either walk or run for 30 to 60 minutes at least 5 days a week. I had a health wake up call and a personal one that made this issue go from REALLY mattering deep down in my soul. As soon as it did I miraculously had time. No more actual time on the clock was created. I still had the same 24 hour block every day. I just suddenly chose to spend it differently. When I said I didn't have time before what I really meant was that I didn't like the discomfort of leaving my warm bed early in the morning and going out in the cold. Working out was difficult and felt overwhelming at first. I liked staying up late watching TV more than going to bed on time so I could wake up more easily. Even though I had told myself that exercise was important to me before, it really wasn't. Or at least not as important as other things. Once it was it took priority.  

Sometimes we make a choice consciously to say NO to certain activities. This is both healthy and good. When we are asked to serve on a committee for a cause we don't really care about, we may say we don't have time so we don't feel guilty. We don't like people to be mad or disappointed in us, so the time excuse helps us back up from it with the message of, "I would if only I could, but..." Truthfully though what we mean is that we don't have time for THAT. We DO have time. We just don't want to spend it in certain areas. And that's ok. Learn to say no guilt free. It's allowed.

What if we truly are spending all of our time on things that don't matter deeply to us to the detriment of the things that do? Better make some tough choices plain and simple. Only you can fix that. If you don't than you did actually make a choice, and maybe the current lifestyle is more what you really want than you are ready to admit?

2) I have no self discipline.

Hogwash. What we really are saying is that we aren't disciplined in certain particular things. The things we deeply value though we do consistently. A good example of this is the person who says they don't have enough self discipline to stop smoking. False. They have enough self discipline to KEEP smoking, and it takes quite a lot actually. It takes discipline to be sure to manage the supply so you never run out of cigarettes. To be sure you always have a place to smoke even though so many places are smoke free now. It takes discipline to continue the habit even in the face of negative medical research and the nagging of family of friends that you should quit. To keep smoking in our society today actually takes a great deal of will power and effort against quite a lot of opposition. Quitting smoking is difficult, yes, but addictions can be overcome by people who want to badly enough. How do I know? Look how many people have done it. Tons, my husband among them. Smokers are turning their self discipline toward smoking rather than toward the steps to end the addiction, because they choose to. Smoking makes them feel good, while quitting is hard. It's not that they lack discipline though. It's that they value smoking and what it does for them physically and emotionally more than they value the benefits of stopping. When something happens in their lives that that changes that they will quit, and not before.

The same can be said for other bad habits we want to stop, or good habits we want to start. If we struggle with them we often throw up our hands and cry lack of discipline. If we examine our lives honestly though we will see that we demonstrate plenty of discipline when something matters to us. It takes discipline to be sure to pay the rent every month, feed ourselves a few times a day, and brush our teeth every morning, but most of us do this things because we would be uncomfortable if we didn't. Gaining pleasure and avoiding pain are huge motivators, and we typically will go to great lengths to do both. When we feel we are lacking willpower it's usually because we aren't feeling or understanding how this benefits us in those pursuits. We can turn things around when we examine them in that light. Find something that feels better than smoking to replace it with, and someone will quit enthusiastically in order to access that new pleasure. Make the added weight a person carries hurt more than the exercise (like with a dr. diagnosis) and the exercise suddenly feels like something the person wants to do, rather than a burden. Every situation is different, but altering the pleasure/pain ratios is powerful. Discipline kicks in when we are working toward what we really want. If we can't bring ourselves to pursue it, the underlying issue is that we don't actually want it as much as we want the alternative. To find the answers we need to openly and honestly examine the 'why' behind our actions.

I picked on smoking and weight loss here only because those are two typical instances where these lies are told, but the principles can apply to almost anything. And nothing said here is meant to shame anyone. The reason I want to break free of these lies in my own life is because they keep me feeling weak. It feels like I am not living the life that I want to because of external forces or faults within me. It's liberating and freeing to accept and own the truth that I can live whatever life I really want to. Life isn't controlling me, I control IT. There is time, energy and discipline for all that I want to be, have and give. That's pretty exciting actually. I just now have the task of deciding what that will be. Maybe I will decide upon close examination that I really love things just as they are and will finally have the courage to admit that and live my truth free of guilt or stress. Stop trying so hard to conform or change into what I always thought I SHOULD be or do, and accept that who I am is awesome. Even if I never lose weight or change a thing. Maybe in some areas I will discover that I really truly do want something to be different. I can figure out for myself what the former success roadblocks have been, and how to make it hurt less or feel better to live now the way my heart guides me. No guilt for the past, only strength for the future. I may need to finally be brave enough to see a dr. and address underlying physical or psychological issues I have avoided. Maybe I need to join a support group to get extra help. But it's essential for us to know that we can shift our thinking and take control of our own destinies. To wake up every day and know that we DO have should we spend it? We DO have should we direct it? We can choose. We are powerful.

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