I recently listened to a great TED talk which essentially taught that ‘At the heart of success is effort not talent’. You don’t “have” success you “do” success. It’s not a noun, it’s a verb. The same as “motivation” is also a verb. Will power doesn’t exist because we assume, we have to “have it” then all we need to do is tell ourselves we have lost it and self-sabotage wins!
I used to write for a national Slimming mag as their “ask the expert” and one Christmas I got a letter saying ” Dear Janet over Christmas I lost my willpower and ate all the chocolates off the tree too many mince pies and a tin of quality street. I gained 8 lbs – please help!”
Will power does not exist in that sense. You can lose your car keys, but you can’t lose will power because it’s a process not a thing. If you tell yourself you need it to succeed, your clever unconscious mind will simply tell you that you have “lost it” anytime it wants to self-sabotage. The first and most important step is to take personal responsibility for your choices and admit to yourself that you made bad choices and now you don’t like the consequences….
I got a phone call from the editor saying “Janet we can’t print that – it’s too strong! I resigned on the spot as that’s exactly what she needed to hear. No point me saying you can get it back – because it doesn’t exist!
I have mentioned your ‘internal voice’ many times throughout my book The Placebo Diet. Your internal dialogue, above all else, influences what you do. Over the years I have researched the best teachers so that I always bring you the very best of the best information available and for me when it comes to the concept of internal voice, the person who best explains it is Michael A. Singer whose beautiful book, The Untethered Soul (which works even better when listened to as an audio book), elegantly takes you through the process of what it is and how to change it.
Your internal voice is simply the language of conscious thought, presented as internal dialogue. We need our internal dialogue to make sense of everything around us; otherwise we would just exist in a world full of meaningless ‘stuff ’. Look at these two examples of the internal dialogue of a person sitting under a tree. The exact same situation but completely different internal representation:
• ‘There’s a lovely tree; it’s just like the one in my garden that I love to sit underneath. Oh, and there’s a puppy! How cute, he reminds me of Sandy the dog I had as a child, I loved that dog!’
• ‘There’s a lovely tree; it’s just like the one in my garden I used to sit under when I wasn’t so busy. Oh, and there’s a puppy, he looks dangerous and reminds me of when I got bitten by a dog as a child.’
Neither dialogue changes the fact that there’s a tree and a puppy; but they do change the way you react to them. Either way your dialogue is bringing the world around you into your own personal reality. Your internal dialogue manipulates what you see to make it fit your map of the world.
‘Your internal voice is the narrator of your life – but it is not your life.’
You gave your internal voice a very important job i.e. ‘look after me, keep me safe, make me happy and successful’. Once you did that, you set in motion a life’s work for your internal voice, constantly challenging everything you see, feel or hear so that you can strive to be safe, happy and successful. Once instructed, your internal voice began to work day and night on the job in hand: it never has a day off. You become so used to your internal voice being part of your experience that, in the same way as a fish doesn’t notice the water, you don’t notice the voice. The difference is, of course the fish doesn’t want to get out of the water, but you want and need the ability to be able to tune out the voice and recognize it is in your environment, but it is not your environment. It’s so active because you have given it an impossible job to do. If you put the same workload on your physical body, it simply would not cope.
The sign of an overworked body is physical pain, the sign of an overworked psyche is fear and anxiety, as everyday it strives to come up with solutions to overcome the days ‘problems’ that are keeping you from all of your goals. It is constantly telling you to change something in your external environment in order to make things better, instead of controlling your internal environment.
The problem with this scenario is that many situations conflict. If you accept that the job of your unconscious mind is to keep you alive, safe, healthy, happy etc. and that your internal voice is simply commentating on the best options available at any given time, then what happens when you are presented with a heavy food that has made you fat, but that you love?
One of the ways you know your internal voice is simply a commentator or narrator and not the real ‘you’ is because it always gives you both options. Take this example, I will use cake but please insert any heavy food of your choice that you are regularly tempted by:
Voice 1: ‘Ooh there’s a cake – it looks soooooo good!’
Voice 2: ‘You shouldn’t have it, you know you need to lose weight.’
Voice 1: ‘Yes, I know, but it looks REALLY good.’ (Pleasure centres activated.)
Voice 2: ‘If you have it, you will regret it – you know you shouldn’t.’
Voice 1: ‘Just one won’t hurt – I’ll start my diet tomorrow!’
You then eat cake.
Voice 2: (Five minutes later) ‘I should not have had that cake, I feel really bad now.’ (Associating the pain with being overweight that it was not able to access at the time because the pleasure centres in the brain were firing).
I have news – you do not have to do what your internal voice tells you to do! It’s just a voice; it is not you. When you hear it say ‘have the cake’ you can take a second (slow thinking) and use the new associations you have made to present you with a different option so that you associate more pleasure with not having the cake than with having it. Think of the lady who ate all the chocolates off the tree. When she said that her will power had left her, she was creating the illusion that some other entity (will power!) had control of the situation and her internal voice backed her up. If I teach her to change the internal voice to, ‘Eat me and I am going to make you fat and feel uncomfortable!’ that is when things change…