This morning, after engaging in a solid morning routine involving some Wim Hof breathing exercises and a cold shower, my wife and I sat down for breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed our first meal after a short 30-hour fast. We were sipping our tea, enjoying the aftermath of this intense start to the day, when she said: “Ugh… I don’t feel very focused right now.” I knew she was referring to the heavy workload that she was going to bury her head into.
I smiled because I totally understood her feeling: I myself felt really calm and relaxed but also a bit slow and tired – in part due to the very busy week abroad we both had just come back from, but also perhaps due to the very early start – 5am – and the new routine which we are not used to yet and which impacts the mind and body significantly.
However as she said this I also immediately noticed an unhelpful use of language in her sentence. We are constantly prey to such deceptive phrases and meanings, and we speak them out each and every day without conscious awareness of our doing so. I do it all the time and sometimes she catches me on those. These distortions limit our experience of reality.
Language describes and language creates.
I have a bias to look for the creative power in everything, and how our thinking and our speaking have a direct impact on the life we live. When we got married about 9 months ago, I sent an email out in which I was referring to a friend commenting on my decision: “I don’t know how you managed to do this. I really like my girlfriend but I don’t feel committed enough to get married“, he said, using the same cognitive distortion in language as the one my wife used this morning.
My friend didn’t “feel committed”. My wife didn’t “feel focused”.
By doing so, both of them used language to describe a feeling, an emotional state in the moment; that very same language inevitably – and perniciously – created a sense of powerlessness in their internal experience. Through this use of language, both of them described something that was seemingly happening to them, and which therefore limited their possibilities. They described a feeling which was constraining them instead of looking at where their power resided. We do this all the time. In a way, we create our reality and then we forget that we are the ones who created it, and we experience it as if it is happening to us. No agency. No power.
I smiled and thanked my wife for giving me the idea of a new blog. She laughed and asked me what about.
I told her: “About the fact that focus is a verb, not a feeling”. She squinted at me and then grinned as she often does, getting what I was pointing her to. (Yep, she’s incredibly patient and open-minded to hang out with me…!)
I gave my friend the same answer some 9 months ago: “commitment is a choice, not a feeling”. I still firmly believe so, because this is my experience of marriage and it has been my experience of every achievement I ever created.
Anyone can focus: it’s about making a proactive choice in the moment to connect deeply with the task at hand. It has little to do with how you feel. Same with commitment. And probably a good many other verbs which we inadvertently turn into feelings. Consider that when you do so, you let the victim in you take over the owner, and you undermine your power to create.
Over to you now. Which feelings will you turn back into verbs?
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