body / buddhism / health / mindfulness / zen

Listening to Language / Consequences – 7 Habits

Again just a reminder I am reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey right now. I am using my blog as a way to take in the material with a mind towards teaching it to others.

There is a part of 7 Habits where Covey talks about listening to our language. Specifically paying close attention to when we use reactive phrases, as opposed to proactive ones. Very often when I talk about fitness or training I hear reactive phrases from people.

When I tell people about training for and racing triathlons, I usually get one or two reactions. Most people say some version of, ‘That’s great, but I could never do something like that,’ or ‘I wish I could do that, but (enter excuse here: I’m too busy, I’ve got a knee injury…).’

Few people acknowledge that they are making a choice not to do triathlons. Now I’m not advocating everyone should do a triathlon (seriously you should though), I’m merely saying in most cases not doing a tri is a choice, rather than the result of some outside force.’

Whenever we do or don’t do something, it is rare that we are compelled or prevented from doing it. In reality we are making a choice of one action, over another.

We do this primarily because: 1. We don’t want to suffer the likely consequences of the choice, or 2. We don’t want to put in the effort to manifest that action in the world. In this post I’ll talk about the first case and I’ll discuss the second case in a later post.

A clear example of the first case can be found in this statement: “I can’t work out in the morning, I have to be at work at 9:00am.” What choices does this statement hide?

For one the choice not to wake earlier before work or the choice to get more sleep. Another would be the choice to be on time to work instead of working out. Another would be the choice to go to work at all, instead of spending time on fitness.

Many of us would think the last choice is a reasonable and prudent one. The choice to keep my job, or to be on time, instead of working out seem like wise ones, but we still choose.

In truth I could choose to lose my job and work out instead. But if I don’t want the consequences of losing a job, then I’d be wise to choose work over working out.  In many instances changing our language wouldn’t mean changing our choice, but it does reveal that we are making a choice.

To use proactive language in the example above, you could say “I choose not to work out in the morning, because I want to get 8 hours of sleep and get to work on time.”

When we read this phrase we can see all the possibilities I’ve overlooked. Maybe I could go to bed earlier, so I can wake up earlier. Maybe I could choose to get less sleep and use the extra time to exercise.

By using reactive language we disempower ourselves. Instead of taking responsibility for our choices we paint ourselves as victims who can’t choose anything else. When we use proactive language we paint ourselves as capable people who are choosing what we want in our lives.

Listen this week to yourself and others, and notice when reactive language is being used. When you catch yourself or others take some time to think about the hidden choices.

How could you restate the some thing and acknowledge the choice involved? When you see those choices can you see other choices you could make?

The Buddha talked about karma starting with thought. Before any volitional unskillful act occurs an unskillful thought must occur first. By listening to our language we can reveal the illusions and delusions in our thoughts.

By taking responsibility for our language we can learn to take responsibility for our lives. Covey talks about this as the ability to choose our response. Change comes from choosing a new response to our lives and language lies at the door to this change.

Thanks for reading,
Be Well

Gentoku

 

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