One of the hardest things for people to wrap their brain around is the simple but profound truth that our life is the life we’re living, not the life we’re imagining. A corollary is that the only things we’re trying to do are the things we’re actually doing, not the things we want to do or think we should do.
Coaches run into this all the time. People spend years “trying” to do things. Trying to lose weight. Trying to save money. Trying to get organized. Trying to find work. People spend those same years making excuses: “It’s the holidays.” “Something’s always pressing.” “There’s not enough time.” “I don’t have what it takes.” These excuses leave people feeling frustrated, victimized, short-changed, and defeated • a terrible way to be.
In the second part of the original Star Wars’ trilogy, Yoda teaches his young charge this important truth. Luke is having trouble raising his ship from the swamp. After a valiant attempt, Luke complains that it’s just too big and too hard. He’s trying but he can’t do it. In fact, no one can do it! It’s impossible. Yoda shakes his head and says, “Try not… Do or do not. There is no try.” At which point he proceeds to raise the ship from the swamp all by himself, with the power of the Force, as if to make his point crystal clear.
Here is how that works in my own life right now. I intend to run the Cleveland marathon on May 2, 1999. I want to improve my time from my last marathon in November. As a result, I’m running 40+ miles a week and doing occasional speed work. That is what I am trying to do because that is what I am doing. If I was only dreaming about running the marathon in May, or putting in an occasional training run, or gaining weight, or slowing down my pace I would not be trying to run a marathon in May with an improved time. I would just be fooling myself.
Coaches assist people to take responsibility for life, as it is, and to change it. One doesn’t have to go through years of therapy in order to make a change. To borrow a phrase, one just has to do it. In relatively short order, people can stop blaming and start claiming the life we live.
Becoming a creature of habit helps people to make this shift. It is a vicious cycle to decide what we want to do and then to fail because of a lack of willpower. This is the classic dieters’ syndrome. People decide that they want to lose some weight, but they lack the willpower to say no to their favorite foods or to resist other culinary temptations.
The key is to not rely upon willpower but to become a creature of habit. Set out a routine of what to eat when, a particular pattern of meals and snacks, and practice that routine until it becomes second nature. Plan out ahead of time what to eat, in the course of everyday life as well as in special high-risk situations (e.g. parties and holidays), write the plan down, review the plan daily, then do it. We call this self-coaching and it’s critical to turning dreams into deeds.
Straying from the plan does not reflect a lack of willpower but a different underlying plan. Coaches assist people to see this simple but profound truth. If you are eating more calories then you are burning each day, then your plan is to gain weight regardless of what you might say or think. Coaches assist people to see these underlying plans, to accept them, or to change them. And it usually happens in far less time, and with far less effort, than one might think.
Accepting the underlying plan can happen in an instant. Look at the patterns in your life and embrace them. How much do you take on? How much do you work? How much do you play? How much do you sleep? How much do you eat? How much do you exercise? How much do you give? How much do you pray? There’s more to life than that, of course, but answering those eight questions is a good start. Write down the answers and claim them as your own. It’s your life! Stop blaming yourself, others, or God for the life you’re choosing to live. You may already be happier than you think.
Changing the underlying plan can take longer, but not a lot. Develop a plan, write it down, make it plain, do it, and review it. In the next six weeks we’ll look at six tips for managing successfully the change process. Whether it’s weight loss or any other change, the principles are the same. People can change their life in laser-like fashion. Stop making excuses and become a creature of habit • good habits that bless, energize, and restore.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
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Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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