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The Power of Honesty and Lies

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

I had a talk with my coworker again today. She’s always saying that she envies my motivation. (Don’t worry, I told her that motivation is a lie, a myth people tell themselves to keep them from having to put in the work.) The other day she said, “If I could just lose like 10 pounds, I know I’d be motivated to really do it!” (Wow…there’s something telling in that statement!) I’ve heard it all before and I’ve said it all before. Finally today she said something again about how she needs to do SOMETHING. This time I got, “But I’m so tired when I get home.” Finally I said, “You know, exercise will make you less tired. I used to say the same thing, and then one day I just decided that I was tired, yes, but I could do 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes. One day you’ll decide that you’re done talking about doing something and you’ll do it. You’ll do just 10 minutes. And the next night, you’ll think, ‘Hey, I did it last night when I was tired, I can do it again.’ And you’ll start a streak.” She didn’t respond, but I hope and pray I put just a little glimmer of doubt in the truth of her excuses. Maybe not this week or next, but someday she’s going to do 10 minutes of exercise and she’s going to realize that it’s not REALLY that hard. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves when we don’t want to face the truth!

Lie, blame, avoid, deny. We’ve all done it – it’s part of human nature. Do you remember the first time you blamed a broken toy on someone else? I think it’s a bit of the survival instinct, learning to lie. We know that telling the truth will lead to getting in trouble, so we try out a lie. And you know what we learn? That lies are very powerful things!

I remember when I was a kid, about 6 or so, my sister told me that I could take some candy from the Brach’s mix and match candy section in the grocery store. She said it was alright and that people do it all the time, and she asked me to grab a few pieces for her as well. I walked out of that store with pockets full of candy. And then my mom found out, and she marched me back to the store, made me hand it back to them and apologize for stealing it. My sister didn’t say a word. Last year, she finally admitted to me and my mom that she had convinced me to take that candy. A lie that held for 23 years! That’s a big, powerful weapon, isn’t it?!

When I was a kid I was addicted to lying. I lied so my friends thought I was cool. I lied so they thought I had money. I lied to keep myself out of trouble from my abusive father (though that rarely worked). I lied CONSTANTLY. And I was damn good at it too! It wasn’t until I had kids and grew up a little that I realized I didn’t want to be known as a liar. I wanted people to know that I meant what I said and said what I meant (for the most part). For a while I was brutally honest. It took me time to learn a good lie from a bad one. And it took me even longer to realize that I was better at lying to myself than I was anyone else. I actually believed the “I can’t”s and “I’m not good enough”s. It’s really quite crazy if you consider that I KNEW I was telling a lie, but it was so much easier to believe that I couldn’t do something than to put in the effort and risk failing. So I started questioning everything I told myself. “Will you REALLY do that?” “Do you really mean that?” “Do you know that to be a fact?” And I started being brutally honest with myself.

You know what I learned? Honesty is also a powerful tool! It doesn’t give you power over others, though. It gives you power over yourself. I decide what I am and am not willing to try. Jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Yea, I don’t think so. Not for me. Rock climb the side of a huge cliff? Well…maybe. Sounds a little fun actually. Could I do both of these things? Do I have the ability to tackle both challenges? Absolutely. I may need to lose some more poundage before I trust both the parachute and the cords keeping me up on the cliff, but they are both completely, 100% doable and achievable. Sure, I’m going to have to put some major work in to get there, but I’m no longer a stranger to hard work. I can DO what I want. I suddenly have the choice and the world is wide open.

What can’t I do? I can’t make someone love me. I can’t make a friend treat me right. (Though I can show people how I want to be treated by treating myself and others with respect.) I can’t make an employer hire me. (Heck, I’ve tried! But I can sell myself the best I know how, have confidence in my abilities, and really make a great impression…still, the final decision is not in my hands.) I can’t make my coworker workout either. (Though I can keep encouraging her and spreading that Spark, hoping it will catch.)

Control over others = can’t.
Control over self = CAN!

So while both lies and honesty are powerful tools, the honest truth? A lie, in itself, is a lie. It gives us a feeling of power over other people. Yeah, we can convince that adult that it was that little boy that broke the toy, not us. But both me and that little boy will always know the truth. Who really has the power here? Honesty is powerful because there's no denying it. It reminds me of what we learned in science about a fact. A scientific fact is something that has been proven, but that can be tested over and over again with the same results. The theory? That no fact is a definite fact unless every test that attempts to deny its validity fails. Try testing those lies of yours. They fall down quite quickly.

I can't run.
Have you tried? Have you done all you need to train for that level of fitness? Have you worked your way into it? Do you have legs? Can you breathe air? Do your muscles function?

Sure, for some people "I can't run" is a fact. But, for you, is it fact or a lie you tell yourself to make it a little easier to accept that you don't run or won't try? Is it your fear holding you back instead? Give yourself a little honesty and try it on for a bit. Maybe you don't WANT to run. Maybe that's never been anything that interested you. Fine! Go with that! Be honest with yourself and say, "I can run, I just chose not to. I like to do other things instead, like swimming!" Or, "I can run, I'm just afraid of the injuries I've heard runners get. I think it's safer for me to stick to my aerobics classes." Nobody can tell you that you're wrong. They can try, but trying to deny honesty is like trying to teach a hippo how to play the piano - funny, but completely useless.

So my challenge for your today is to question all the lies you tell yourself.

"I'm not pretty!"
By whose standards? Who decides what is pretty? If I polled 100 random people, would they all agree that I'm not pretty? Is pretty even something that can be determined objectively?

"I can't lose weight!"
Are you following the guidelines that you know work? Have you talked to your doctor? Has it been medically proven that it's impossible for you to lose weight?

"I'm too tired to exercise!"
Are you too tired to lay on the couch and watch TV? Have you tried just moving? March in place or do crunches. If you feel yourself getting faint, then, yes, you're too tired to exercise. But if you can make it through 10 minutes of even something light in the way of movement, then you prove to yourself that it was a lie. You weren't too tired to exercise, you just didn't want to put in the energy because you were feeling lazy.

Trust true power of honesty, not the false power of lies. It's amazing how in control you begin to feel!
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