Do you believe every stupid thought you have? It took me a while to break that bad habit. I used to listen to my own mind like it actually had all the right answers. Sometimes it did and I am grateful for that. I like my mind most of the time. In fact, it has been one of my superpowers when directed at understanding the nature of health and disease and the mysteries of human biology and in translating that into practical approaches to bring Functional Medicine to hundreds of thousands of people and helping them get healthy.
But often my mind tricks me with thoughts and beliefs that don’t align with what’s good for me or what is actually true. It kinda pretends to be my friend, feeding me information as though it was true when actually it wasn’t. I am sure you can relate to this.
Think of any opportunity you missed that you now regret or any change you made but it was “too late” by the time you did. For me it took years of suffering in certain areas to change my mind and realize it was me, not my mind, who was in control.
There’s a whole bunch of personal examples, but I’ll start with a simple example. I used to avoid weight training like the plague. Even though of course I know it’s important, I had decided it wasn’t for me. I found it boring and difficult, even painful. You can just hear my inner “brat” saying “I just don’t wanna!” But as I got older I realized I had to deal with that “story” and my belief that I couldn’t do it, and I had to change my mind.
It took a good friend pushing me a little, and my learning how to make it something I would do every day by “designing” it into my daily schedule and that’s when I started actually doing it. I just decided to do push ups and triceps dips in the bathroom before I took a shower every day. I had the motivation, a trigger and the ability. I also know, as a doctor, that keeping muscle mass is the key to healthy aging and I both wanted and needed to do it. So I swallowed and accepted I would be in pain and uncomfortable at first and I keep it pretty simple, usually only using my own body weight. I’m so used to it now, I can’t imagine going back to my original thinking on the subject or not being as strong.
I have a similar story at work. For years I told myself, “I have to do everything myself” thinking I was the only one who could. This made me feel indispensable and useful, but it often left me overwhelmed and ineffective. And my team felt disempowered, too! There is only so much one person can do, and there is really no point in hiring and paying other people if you aren’t going to empower them to accomplish the collective mission! My coach helped me wake up to my leadership capability that I was not exercising.
I changed my mind in one very important way, I decided my job was to inspire and lead, not “do everything” and complain. I am sure you can imagine this changed everything about my business, my feelings about myself and my team’s experience with me. The results have been immeasurable. In my work, I empowered doctors and my administrators to know that I trusted them and believed in them, which allowed my practice to grow and develop without my having to do everything. And everyone is much happier.
And for my birthday this year, I asked for a coaching session with my kids to clear up any lingering stories, beliefs or things that kept us all from being great together. We were already pretty great, but I want our relationship to be awesome and by spending time having real conversations about how we are with each other and how we have been, we were able to heal a lot and get to new ways of thinking about how to love each other better. Best birthday present ever!
It would be nice if we were all born perfect with nothing to work on, but that’s not how we’re designed as humans. We are made with a wonderful goody bag filled with positive qualities and then some not so helpful qualities and behaviors. All of us get stuck in thought patterns that, if left unchecked, can cause very unhappy circumstances.
I encourage myself, all of us, to have a sense of humor about this, lighten up about it. Realize, everyone is dealing with some areas of life where their thinking just doesn’t line up with what they most want or wish they believed. A coach showed me how to reckon with this and talk back to the voice in my head with the voice of my vision and what I really want for my life. It took courage, but each time I did it, the results were immediate. I wish I could tell you I was done with my journey but I know enough now to know I’m not. The better I get at changing my mind and attracting more of what I want, the bigger I get to dream. I wish the same for you. I’ll keep you posted on my discoveries and would love to hear your stories about how you have dealt with tough issues and shifting your thinking in a way that made you happier.
Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician, a ten-time New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and a founding doctor of The Daniel Plan. He has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show.