Oftentimes, people believe that the obstacles to wellness they encounter in life are created by circumstances and events experienced in the external world, when in fact many of these obstacles often generate from within. Inner obstacles to wellness, such as thoughts, attitudes and beliefs, can be harder to overcome than external obstacles, primarily because they are not concrete and therefore are more difficult to identify. They can pose a real threat to, or even jeopardise one’s wellness and personal life satisfaction. But how can you become aware of and learn to control your thoughts and self-beliefs?
Interpreting incoming information
The brain is hardwired to interpret the verbal and non verbal messages we receive on a daily basis from family, friends, acquaintances, employers, colleagues, the books we read and the media, including social media. How you interpret these messages will determine how they influence your thoughts, your beliefs, your behaviour and ultimately your Personal Wellness Foundation.
If the messages your brain receives are predominately positive, and you accept them as such, you are likely to grow in confidence and self-esteem. However, if the messages you receive are negative, and you are vulnerable or have low levels of wellness when they are communicated, this is likely to become an inner obstacle to wellness and personal life satisfaction.
What is your Inner Commentator saying?
Most of us have listened to a radio broadcast at some point in our life. The messages or information communicated by the radio commentator often influences whether we continue to tune in, switch stations or tune out. Imagine now for a moment, that your mind is your personal radio station, your thoughts are the commentary and these are given air space by your own personal DJ, or as I call it your ‘inner commentator’. Thoughts are constantly emerging, they play for a while before then next one emerges, rather like a non-stop compilation record. If your thoughts are negative the record can become stuck on downbeat thoughts that play on and on and on, until eventually you assimilate them as self-beliefs. Once a negative belief becomes embedded, it will influence your behaviour and actions and may be an obstacle to wellness and self-esteem.
Depending on the power you give them, the messages conveyed by your inner commentator can help build a solid wellness foundation or conversely, may act as an ‘inner obstacle’ to wellness, fulfilment and personal life satisfaction. Does your inner commentator encourage you to pursue your goals and applaud your abilities and skills? Does it build you up as a person? Or, does it criticise you, erode your self-esteem and reduce your expectations of success and happiness?
How do thoughts gain power?
It is important to recognise that your thoughts create the dialogue for your inner commentator. If your thoughts are primarily negative they can lead to self-limiting beliefs and potentially self-defeating or self-destructive behaviour. Most people do not realise that their thoughts are not real: they are intangible and invisible. Thoughts are merely thoughts. They have absolutely no power, unless you give licence to your inner commentator to broadcast them. If you internalise negative thoughts you have given them the power to influence your beliefs, attitude and ultimately your behaviour. As this happens, you begin to surrender your personal power and move away from wellness toward dis-ease of mind, body or spirit.
The inner commentator thrives on inner conflict and loves to hear you doubting yourself. It is driven by the desire to sabotage your efforts at making positive lifestyle changes. If you continue to give it air-play, this negativity will erode your self-esteem and convince you that you ‘cannot’ live a satisfactory and fulfilling life. The more you identify with the negative dialogue of your inner commentator, the more you move from a can-do attitude to a fear based or can’t do frame of mind. Excuses follow and these become a significant obstacle to building your Personal Wellness Foundation.
The ‘Cannot Because’ effect
When it comes to living a well and fulfilling life, most people know what they need to do, but many craft excuses for why they cannot make or sustain, a life or lifestyle change. ‘Excusitis’ could be labelled a chronic condition, because it seems to flare up, when we are about to embark on a lifestyle change, or, when we have got off the starting blocks but are struggling to stay motivated. Often it is fuelled by the negative voice of your inner commentator. The excuses may vary but they usually start with “I cannot” backed up by a ‘because’.
‘Not’ is a negative adverb often used by the negative inner commentator to convey a refusal, or to hinder you from making positive changes in your life. A ‘cannot because’ mindset represents a surrender of your personal power. For example, when someone says ‘I cannot quit smoking because I will put on weight’, the negative inner commentator takes control. It has convinced the person that they cannot quit smoking, and has crafted an excuse about weight gain to justify this refusal.
This ‘cannot because’ effect is commonly expressed by clients I coach when they are starting out on their wellness journey but lack confidence in their ability to make positive life or lifestyle changes. Some of the statements I hear include:
• I cannot lose weight because I have a slow metabolism
• I cannot stick to this diet because I am always hungry
• I cannot give up chocolate because it is my only pleasure
• I cannot exercise because I do not have time
• I cannot go for a walk because it is too wet, too dark; or, I am too tired
• I cannot ask for a raise at work because I know they will say no
• I cannot say ‘no’ to the extra work because everyone else is saying ‘yes’
• I cannot take a lunch break because I have too much work to do
• I cannot have this conversation with my partner because I know how they will react
• I cannot go to bed early because this is when my favourite TV programme is on
Does any of them sound familiar? If you consciously tune into the voice of your inner commentator, you will recognise the inner obstacles to wellness that you have created by saying that you ‘cannot’ make a particular life or lifestyle change. If your default mindset is “I cannot make this change in my life” you have surrendered your personal power to fear of failure, and have adopted a false belief that you cannot improve your Personal Wellness Foundation.
Where does this mindset come from? Perhaps along your life journey you were not supported, or encouraged to pursue your dreams and goals. This may have eroded your self-belief and limited your expectation of success. Or perhaps you are afraid to risk failure, and so you readily give up on your dreams and goals for a better life . There may indeed be valid reasons why you cannot make certain changes in your life, but there may also be veiled excuses crafted by your inner commentator. The key is to differentiate between a valid reason and an actual excuse.
Sometimes we view things as obstacles because we are afraid to make a change. It is time to expose the excuses you make, stop feeding your fear of change, and then get on with living a happy and fulfilling life. Remember that fear, just like your thoughts, only has the power you have given it.
Towards a new script
Think for a minute about building a house. For it to last a lifetime it needs a solid and stable foundation. The same is true for wellness. However, if you allow the negative inner commentator to be the architect of your life choices then your Personal Wellness Foundation will be unstable and you will not fulfil your true potential in life. You can start to change the script of the inner commentator to one that is uplifting instead of one that creates obstacles on your path to wellness. Start by moving away from a ‘can’t do’ towards a ‘can do’ belief system.
As you systematically change the script of your inner commentator to one that is more positive and affirming, you will start to see a powerful shift in your self-belief and expectation of success. As this mind-set shift happens, you will feel the benefits and your Personal Wellness Foundation will be strengthened. When you say “I can” you are reclaiming your personal power and making those excuses and fears redundant.
Even though the common excuses mentioned above may not be relevant to you, it would be a useful exercise to start practising a new script. For example, the first item was “I cannot lose weight because I have a slow metabolism”. That can be replaced by “I have the power to lose weight.” You can go through the list and practice changing the items from a can’t do to a can do attitude.
A change of perspective
Now you can see how powerful the three letters N.O.T can be in blocking your path to wellness. However, as you change the script of your inner commentator to one that is positive and affirmative, you can take an alternative look at these three letters and use them to create a powerful acronym for positive change: from now on, NOT stands for “No Obstacles Today”!
With courage and effort you can challenge your negative beliefs, silence the negative voice of your inner commentator and replace it with positive self talk. Choose wisely from this point forward, the language you use when you talk to yourself. From today, let the commentary on your personal radio station move to one that supports positive health and wellness and greater life satisfaction. This way you will start to blossom.
Anne Marie Frizzell is a Certified Diet, Health & Wellness Coach and Founder of Well Life Journey Coaching Services. This is an extract from her recently published book Time to Blossom – Harvesting Wellness and Wisdom on Your Personal Life Journey.