“I could never do that…I was always the fat kid…I give up when the going gets hard.” These and other self-limiting beliefs are holding you and your clients back – and not just in their fitness goals, but in their life in general. And the impact can be far more than just an occasional interaction with one of these beliefs – what if your whole inner “commentary” is poisonous? What if the “narration” of events going on in your life is tainted constantly by fear, failure and disempowerment? Then you’ve got a real problem, but there is a way out and I’m indebted to Michael Hyatt for first bringing this to my attention.
The starting place for dealing with this issue is to first become aware that the Narrator actually exists. Mostly people are oblivious to it, and assume their thoughts are, well their thoughts. But thoughts are tricky things, and where they are generated from is important. So step one is to ask yourself: Am I telling myself a story right now? Not sure, then let’s ask the next question.
Finding the story I am telling myself
It might help to jot down thoughts as they occur to you, because once you begin to identify this “voice” you’ll see how thick and fast these thoughts come. Things like, “I waste so much time and never get anything done”. Or, “I’ll never reach my goals.” Or, “I’m always the one no one wants to talk to at a party.” And of course in the gym, the old favourite, “Everybody else looks great but I can never lose weight/add muscle/get fit.” The things these statements have in common is that they are negative and seem to dictate the future with never, always, can’t and the other finite expressions. Oh, and they’re a lie!
Don’t accept the Narrators version if it is negative
The truly troubling thing about these Narrators is that they sound like they are just stating facts, telling the truth. One friend of mine has struggled in area of his life for 35 years, and still uses language like “never, can’t and always” leaving him disempowered. The striking thing is that he is wildly successful by any measures you could imagine – healthy, wealthy and wise. And yet when this “voice” starts reminding him of his failure in a particular area he goes to pieces. So, what could he do? He could, he must challenge the view.
Affirming what you know is true
My friend, like all of us has agency. Agency is the opposite of victim-hood. It is the realisation that we can choose. We can choose to entertain those negative thoughts, or we can choose to challenge them. For instance. “I know I was challenged today when X happened, but I have come so far. It used to be that I got angry for days/was anxious/couldn’t forgive and the like for weeks, but now I get over it and get on with life almost immediately”. Agency means you remember your greatest gift – the right to choose your future, your path.
What will be your new script?
If your current script is all doom and gloom, all about your failings, all about how useless you are, how bad the world is – change it. Decide how you want to live. There is an old saying I live by, “Two men looked out from the prison bars, one saw the mud, the other the stars.” There is also a line from a song that says “There is always some truth in every lie” which I find enormously helpful because a little bit of truth will often make us swallow a whole lot of lie.
Why not create your best possible story? One in which you are not free of all challenge, but know that you can meet challenge and overcome? As another old saying (this time from Henry Ford) goes “Think you can or think you can’t – either way you’re right”. And don’t get hung up on thinking the Narrator always speaks in a clear voice, as we said at the beginning sometimes it’s just an overall feeling of heaviness or fear – the trick is to say that is one way I could live in my present circumstances, but I am choosing to look for the good that is around me. Try it with your clients, get them to learn to challenge their negative beliefs, and adopt new positive ones.