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In my twenties and thirties, I was an avid kayaker and skier. I was living in Colorado and therefore had a unimaginably rich playground right at my doorsteps.
Kayaking and skiing were great fun, but they taught me an extremely valuable lesson — one that helps me just about every week — and one that could help you live a happier, more productive, and successful life.
The lesson has to do with the theme of my last three blogs: the mind can be a powerful enemy – or, in this case, an ally. Your mind is the director of your life; it can often lead us down horrible paths. But it can also become a powerful ally. What is more, it’s not that difficult to switch your mind’s role from foe to friend.
Here’s how I came upon this tiny gem of wisdom that has helped make me launch a successful writing and teaching career — and become a much better human being.
My revelation came one day while paddling the Arkansas River, one of Colorado’s wildest streams. I noticed that when I spotted a rock in a rapid — or some other treachery — if the voice inside my head said, “Damn, you’re going to hit it,” sure enough, I would.
The rock would often flip my kayak over and I’d have to roll up in the icy river fed by spring snow melt just a few miles upstream.
The same thing happened to me when downhill skilling. If I’d begin to lose my balance, that pest of an inner voice would say, “You’re going to fall.” Almost 100 percent of the time, I’d come crashing down.
In kayaking, I discovered if I made that little voice sing a different tune — “Hey dude, there’s a rock ahead…let’s get moving. Miss that bugger” — without fail, I’d glide gracefully by, feeling like a pro.
And in skiing, if that little voice was made to say to me, “You’re losing your balance, now get it back. You are not going down,” without fail, I’d find myself righting myself, often making some pretty spectacular saves.
I hardly every ran into trouble on the river after that day and hardly ever fell skiing again. That simple, conscious change in the message my inner voice was making, radically changed my skiing and kayaking forever.
The same voice saves me in my everyday life. When feeling overwhelmed by work, for example, instead of saying, “I’ll never get this done,” the new, calmer, and more productive inner voice reassures me, “Simmer down, fellow, you always get things done. You know that. It is not that much work. Take it one step at a time and you will complete the tasks that seem so formidable in no time.”
Immediately, my heart rate settles down, my mind refocuses, and I go about the tasks at hand, confidently and calmly.
If your inner voice is tripping you up, try changing it and welcome to a new world of positive energy and accomplishment. Silence the doubting Thomas, and listen to the new inner voice.
Change the message from disaster to success. And your life will change — often dramatically — along with it.
Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design.