Archive for May, 2010
Things a Four-Year-Old may think or say:
- It’s MY ball! (even though it belongs to someone else)
- I don’t need a coat (even though there is snow on the ground)
- I’m not tired (as they yawn)
- I don’t like that (although they have never tried it)
- I’m allergic to that food (because it looks different)
In her book Father Hunger, Margo Maine talks about being stuck in childish forms of reason, an all-or-nothing mentality. I have seen this with clients and often marveled at a 30, 50 or even 70 year old telling me they can’t or won’t eat a certain food or do a certain action because of something that happened in the first grade, fifth grade, jr. high, etc.
Then I catch myself doing the same thing. Acting upon something in my life based on a decision or observation I made as a child. “Black and White”, “Good/Bad”, “If only” or a “cause and effect” type of thinking. These ways of thinking are important for children to learn principles, however, for an adult they equal powerlessness, victimization, entitlement.
My good friend, Ken Cope, an amazing life coach in Franklin, TN drew it out for me like this:
From ages 0-12 maturity life is experienced in concrete thinking; black and white, yes or no, good or bad.
Ages 13-21 life is experienced through actual hands on EXPERIENCE and MENTORING. This is why your teenager wants to try things that may not be such good choices or become a part of a group you may not approve of. They want to experience life and they want people to look up to and copy. (Which is why you need to be a big part of CHOOSING the mentors your child has).
Ages 22 and older life is experienced through KNOWLEDGE and SKILL. As adults, we learn concepts and gain skills then we practice them in every day living and become successful at them.
Almost a year later, I am still processing this truth, I have worked it out in my own thinking this way:
Everyone has at least one area they consider themselves a success. In this area they have grown from an “all or nothing” way of thinking, they have gained experience and some level of mentoring. The have knowledge and developed skill in their area of success and they practice that knowledge and skill to remain successful.
For instance, if you are successful in business, you have gained knowledge, you learn skill and you practice those skills and become proficient at them. Along the way, you gain more knowledge and skills and become more successful. Likely, you also developed some good black and white concepts about business as a child, you had experience and a mentor so you have everything you need to be successful in business.
Everyone operates in the Knowledge and Skill, mature view of life in some area of their life and conversely, everyone has areas where they are immature in their life view.
People who struggle with body issues and food issues tend to be stuck in the 0-12 age of black and white good and bad or in the teen age of trying different things and looking for someone to “make it happen” for them. The right diet, the right trainer, the right motivation. But life is not black and white or just good or bad and No One, now matter how skilled, rich or strong can “make life happen” for anyone else. Success is dependent on you gaining Knowledge and Skill and then practicing what you have learned.
What does that look like in real life? A person stuck in the childish view of their body and food is either healthy or unhealthy at any given moment. They are going to be all or nothing. They are gun-ho for days, weeks, months, possibly even years exercising, eating salads, drinking water. Then one day they suddenly fall off the wagon and can’t even remember what the wagon looked like! Back to junk food and couch potato. They just can’t seem to make their way to a life change and they beat themselves up over it feeling they are hopeless and helpless, doomed to failure.
Growing to the next stage; Experience and Mentoring. If you judge yourself for being an “all or nothing” person you will be stuck in that childish way of thinking. You probably have areas you feel stuck in right now.
Why are you stuck? For some people, being stuck in the childish view of life is a result of abuse or trauma. When we have a traumatic event we aren’t helped to grow through we continue to view life at the age level the event occurred. Phil recognized that he was always waiting for something bad to happen; as a mature adult he has identified this as a result of coming home from the hospital after an auto accident injury. He was so excited to see his mother and then quickly devastated after finding out she had died in the accident. For many years of his life he waited for the “shoe to drop” in almost every area of life; Black and white/good bad thinking.
Some people are stuck in their teen-age years, after a traumatic event or abuse. As adults they are continually looking for an experience to change their lives or a mentor to “fix” everything. They go from person to person, plan to plan but never find the answer they so long for.
How to stop thinking like a four year old and start thinking like an adult?
- Agree that there are some black and white rules to a healthy life. You must DO some things and NOT Do others. (wiping your butt is a good example of this. As an adult you would NEVER let your job, your spouse, your money keep you from wiping your butt).
- Look for someone to mentor you who is currently experiencing a healthy life. You may want to pay a coach or a trainer. You may have a friend or family member who would gladly share their journey with you.
- Recognize there are more than one aspect to healthy living; it’s not just about diet and exercise. For some it may start with food, for others it may start with exercise, still others may need to work on heart issues like negative thinking first. Negative thoughts, bitterness and resentment are more dangerous to your health than hot fudge sundaes.
- Follow the plan your mentor followed but do it for yourself, not for anyone else. If you are doing it to “please” your mentor or “pass the program” you won’t stick with it, in fact, you will run and hide when you fail. Getting your driver’s license is a good example of this. Even if you failed the test more than once, you were determined to get that license for YOU, so you kept trying until you were successful.
- Understand that your success in reaching your goal will come from the Knowledge you gain and the Skill you acquire as you Practice from day to day.
- Practice, Practice, Practice. When you get one skill down, add another. In our book, Wonderfully Well, we recommend our life change plan be done one simple step at a time. Start with drinking water every day and move on from there.
If you have been stuck in the childish, black and white way of thinking, it is time to move into experience and mentoring. Look for someone who can show you how to do it and walk you through the process. This is the basis of Alcoholics Anonymous. They call it Sponsors and Programs. AA has very specific steps for recovery. First it is up to you to admit you need help, ask God to change your heart. Next find a sponsor and start to work the program. Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t “Fix” anyone, they move into maturity and gain Knowledge and Skill and every day they practice a life of sobriety.
PRACTICE is the part most of us balk at. How many of us quit piano lessons because we would rather play than practice? A mentor helps you to remain accountable with the practice. Just like your piano teacher, a mentor can spot when you have not been practicing, which is why we often resist even finding a mentor. The truth is, you have to decide on priorities and then practice them daily. John C. Maxwell, in his book Today Matters, states that there are really only 12 areas of life we have to decide on. Once we make a decision in a certain area, all we have to do is manage that decision TODAY, in success the only day that matters is TODAY. Maxwell points out that failure happens when we
- “Over-Exaggerate yesterday, allowing our past successes and failures to look bigger to us in hindsight than they really were”.
- We “Over-Estimate tomorrow” giving it more power than it deserves “hoping for a good future without investing in today is like a farmer waiting for a crop without ever planting any seed”.
- We “Under-Estimate Today”. The truth is Today is the most important day of my life. This moment is my only “for sure”.
As Healthy Life Coaches, we provide you with the experience of eating healthy foods and cleansing your body and mentor you through the process. We teach what we have learned and continue to learn. You gain Knowledge and Skill and then the rest of your life you PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE what you’ve learned to become successful and reach your goals.
A great way to practice is to begin to teach others what you know. You see children doing this with other children. A five year old learns to tie their shoe and then proudly teaches anyone who has a shoe lace.
When I was training to be a medical assistant in a family practice clinic. My teacher’s philosophy was “Watch One, Be One, Do One, Teach One”. This is how we learned all our medical skills and techniques. Watch a blood draw, Be the guinea pig for a blood draw, Do a blood draw, Teach someone else how to do it.
Unfortunately, many adults want to become perfect at a healthy lifestyle before they share their experience. They are stuck in the “All or Nothing” cycle, falsely believing that they must live it out perfectly before they can share with others. The truth is the more you share, the more you practice, the more you help and watch others, the better skill you develop.
In my medical assistant training I learned a valuable lesson in the “Watch One” stage as I watched another student draw blood. It was picture perfect except she neglected to remove the needle before removing the tourniquet. The pressure of the tourniquet sent blood shooting strait up into the air, an extremely alarming sight. As a result of watching that person try and make a mistake, I never made the mistake myself, thank the Lord!
Other things that have helped me:
- Become more realistic
- Work with what I have
- Look for resources
- Ask questions, take and act on advice, even if “I don’t need it”, “I’m not tired” or “I don’t like it”
- Invite others into my thought processes
- Really listen to what my mentors have to say rather than just shooting off my mouth has also proved very helpful (Dr. Pamela Peeke, in her book Body for Life for Women calls this the “bitch, moan and whine syndrome).
For me the greatest temptation is the “not enough” of something; whether resources, skill or time. “Not Enough sends me right into the “If Only” pit. When I get tired of being there, I start listening again, thinking like an adult and things start to move forward.
How about you, do you find yourself thinking like a four year old on some level? How do you get out? If you decide you are ready for some mentoring and experience look for a class or a coach or just open your eyes to those around you, you may find what you need right in your own back yard.