Someone once told me (ok, it was my shrink who told me this) that if you want to do, be or change something about yourself that you first have to visualize yourself doing it. In my case it was quitting smoking. When he said that to me I looked at him and said “ok, that’s dumb.” Truth is, I thought it was dumb because I was unable to do it. I had just gone through a horrific divorce, moved myself and my children to a new town and then decided to take on nursing school. To say I was stressed was an understatement. I needed that cigarette and the thought of changing one more thing in my life was just inconceivable to me so when said shrink told me to visualize, all I could see was the withdrawal and thought, forget it!
Then one day I was in “cadaver” class in nursing school and that moment of pure visualization hit me. We were dissecting a cadaver which was pretty cool and as I removed this individuals lung I saw it was black. Our professor saw it and said “this is someone who was a heavy smoker.” I remember this moment with such clarity because it was a moment that changed the entire trajectory of my life.
Here I was working so hard to give birth to a new life, a new future for me and my girls and I WAS KILLING MYSELF WITH CIGARETTES. I think that line deserved caps don’t you? I had gone through all of these angst ridden changes and yet I was still shoving a cigarette in my mouth. It was in this moment that I mentally said “f&ck that.” I was NOT going to go through all of this to die of lung cancer or some other horrible disease related to that cigarette.
The next day I put the cigarettes down and I have never smoked another cigarette for over 17 years now. It wasn’t easy. It might have been the toughest thing I ever had to do in my life. The addiction is real people. The fact that I did do it taught me that I had to stop narrowly defining myself. That it was in those definitions that I had of myself where I lived in a box created by me.
We all do it. We do it to our kids too. Oh my Johnny is the smart one. Little Sally is the comedian. Susie has been chubby her whole life it’s her genetics…and blah blah blah so the story goes. How can we visualize ourselves being successful at anything if we’ve been given this narrow definition of who we are and what we are supposed to be like?
Mark Manson is a blogger and I love to read his stuff, it’s humorous, thought provoking and upbeat. He has this to say about why we procrastinate from making life changes.
“Define yourself in the simplest and most mundane ways possible. Because the narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will begin to threaten you. And with those threats will come the avoidance, the fear, and the procrastination of all of the things that really matter.” – Mark Manson
Every day I talk with people about their weight and food and run into their mental roadblocks they’ve unwittingly set up for themselves. If we see ourselves as the funny fat guy or the curvy, full figured gal then we aren’t going to change our health status because who would we be if we did? This is a narrow definition of ourself. But, IF we can close our eyes and see ourselves as the funny fat guy who is now going to the gym, enjoying healthy foods and turning into the funny thinner guy we now have BROADENED our definition enough to change.
This is what I learned from that awesome shrink of mine. I learned how to close my eyes and open my mind to the possibility of acting in a different way then I currently am. Of moving forward in a new direction. While I still surely have a somewhat narrow definition of myself it is far wider then it ever was. Now when I find myself stressing out or unable to put something I want into motion I have the tools to figure out what my roadblock is.
Take a moment and and realize that you only need to change the language in your head to change the trajectory of your future. Visualize yourself as something more then you currently are. Every day is a new chance to redefine ourselves.
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha