Just before my mini-retirement last week I had my annual checkup at the dentist. The first thing my dentist did before looking at my teeth was to examine my tongue. When that quick tongue exam was complete he looked at me and said, “You’re in great health this year aren’t you John?” To which I responded, “Well, I certainly think so. What makes you say that Doc?” He explained that the reason he examines the tongue first is because a person’s tongue is the window to their body’s overall health. (If you’ve ever been to an acupuncturist you’ve probably also noticed the first thing they do is ask to look at your tongue as well.)
Chinese medicine sees the body in terms of microcosm as well as macrocosm. Chinese medical theory believes a single pattern can repeat itself from the largest to the smallest scale. The tongue is a great example of this. I would like to focus on the figurative definition of “watch your tongue” as opposed to the literal definition. I believe the words that fly off our tongue are also a window to our health, our mental health.
The words that fly off our tongue are often directed at others, but more often they are directed at ourselves. Did you ever say the following phrase.. I said to myself? I thought so. You definitely talk to yourself, but the real question is, what kind of things are you telling yourself? The most important conversations we have are usually with ourselves. There is always a conversation we have with ourselves when there is a change in the market, a new policy at work or when we have personal challenges. We talk to ourselves about these issues. If only we could eavesdrop on those conversations listen in on them and direct them. What if I told you that you can?
Case in point: I dislike flying and all the logistical nightmares that tend to accompany travel. It stresses me out, always has. My wife commented on how easy it was to travel with me to and from the Florida Keys last week. She asked me what was different. I told her I’ve had lots of practice. Let me explain on all my business trips this year I consciously “talked myself” through each trip. I told myself that, “this trip will be easy if I just take it easy.” Regardless of the hotel shuttle being late traffic jams in downtown Boston, the Hilton messing up my reservation, United losing my luggage (that’s a tough one), or Enterprise not having my rental car ready, I just repeatedly told myself “take it easy, this is easy.” I’ve found talking to myself more helpful than listening to myself. It directs your thoughts in the right direction. Here is why…
Events don’t cause the way you feel, the conversation you have with yourself about that event causes the way you feel.
One of the highlights of my trip to the Keys was visiting with one of my former players from my 2002 NCAA Final Four team, Ryan Snovell. Ryan is now a Petty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Key West. We discussed the challenges of his base being located just 90 miles from Cuba. I thought the biggest challenge would be people smuggling drugs. He informed me the Coast Guard has done so well with that issue that now most of the drug trafficking goes by land from Mexico to California. The biggest challenge the Coast Guard deals with are illegal immigrants. They risk their lives on boats of different sizes or homemade vessels that are not always sea-worthy. He explained that Cubans are motivated by the “wet-foot dry foot” policy that allows those who reach dry land in the U.S. to remain in the country and are granted Green Cards. However if they are intercepted at sea the Cubans get deported. Even though the U.S. Coast Guard constantly patrols the waters it is estimated that more than 16 000 Cubans make it to the U.S. successfully every year.
Did you know research indicates that legal immigrants who come to our country are five times more likely to become self-made millionaires than people born in the United States?
Here’s why: It’s in how they talk to themselves. They talk to themselves differently about our country. They view the United States as the land of opportunity. We say to ourselves, “the economy is bad” and they say to themselves, “The United States is a place where anything is possible.” We are dispirited by challenges in the market and they say to themselves that the U.S. is the land of opportunity. Remember, events don’t cause the way you feel the conversation you have with yourself about those events causes the way you feel. Many natural born citizens view the economy as bad whereas the immigrants look at that same economy and say to themselves “back in my homeland we’d kill to have an economy like this.” They are two very different conversations taking place aren’t they? This is why they are willing to risk their lives and the lives of their family just to reach dry land in the United States.
Seeing Ryan reminded me of some great memories from our 2002 lacrosse season. Specifically one of my fondest memories was after we won what was our quarterfinal game and advanced to the NCAA Final Four. After giving me the traditional Gatorade bath all but one of my players rushed the field and made a pig pile. That one player was Ryan, he was a starter but I found him seated on the bench talking to himself. He was watching his teammates with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. I sat down next to him and just listened. He kept saying, “It happened. We really did it.” I asked him, “did what?” and he responded that we set a goal to make it to the dance and now we’re headed there. I attribute our achievement to the conversations my players had in their heads (and hearts) about key events that season. The key events were losing two of our best offensive players in the pre-season and losing the conference championship. The conversations they had with themselves about those events clearly served to fuel their competitive fire.
How are you talking to yourself to fuel your competitive fire?