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Monday, March 30, 2009

Voices Inside My Head (and Yours Too!)

(This is from my Improvised Musings E-Zine. Sign up for it now and get the MP3: "How to Think Quick" Free!!)

I have a confession: I hear voices.

Here's a secret: you do to.

We all have "little voices in our head," that give us lots of advice and guidance on what we should do. Unfortunately, a lot of times we put way more weight on that little voice, even if the information makes no sense or doesn't serve us.

This year, I started a new weight lifting program which I have really been enjoying. One of the premises of the routine is that you start with extremely light weights on workout one (just the 45lb bar), then increase the weight by 5 pounds each time you do the exercise. By training in this way you develop really good form while slowly increasing your strength to handle heavier and heavier weight.

Those of you not ridiculously bad in math will realize that in order to add 5 pounds to a barbell, I needed to use 2 1/2 pound plates. The first time I grabbed the 2 1/2 pound plates a little voice popped into my head:

"Don't use the 2 1/2's. Those are weenie."

Where did that come from?? Then I remembered. It wasn't me, it was a friend from years ago.

I have a good friend I used to workout with. Let's call him "Spigot," since that was his nickname back in the day. Don't ask...

Anyway, when we started working out together, Spigot was a much more experienced weight lifter than me. I wasn't a novice, but he was more experienced (and bigger and stronger, and when weight lifting, it is natural to follow the lead of the bigger and stronger guy).

I was very into squatting (putting a heavy barbell across your back, squatting down, and then pushing back up. Sounds silly I know, but it is the single best exercise you can do). I had been doing sets with 195 pounds, and was excited to finally break the 200 pound mark. I grab two 2 1/2 pound plates to make an even 200, when Spigot looks at me and says, "Don't use the 2 1/2's. Those are weenie."

Hmm, what to do now? My experienced weightlifting buddy was telling me that real "lifters" don't use the small plates. And you don't argue with a big guy names Spigot.

So I diligently put the 2 1/2 pounders away and added 5 pound plates and squatted 205 pounds instead. So I suppose it all worked out ok.

But now here I am *10 years later* following a program where using the 2 1/2 pound plates was essential, and I still felt an internal resistance to using them based on that one conversation. Ding!

Because I was consciously aware of the voice and where it came from, I was able to evaluate it and push it aside since it did not serve me. But how many times do we all make decisions and act in ways that don't serve us simply because we have some voice in our head from years ago that will still blindly obey.

One conversation from ten years ago was still effecting my decision-making process today. How much more subversive would that voice be if it was from a influential source (say, a parent) and was repeated over and over years ago?

Start paying attention and evaluating those voices as they come up. You may be surprised at why you are (still) making some of the decisions you are...

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