I’ve attended more than a few seminars, conferences, and corporate retreats over the years. Some were life changing while others were just o.k. Regardless, each presented an opportunity to improve myself in some way, either professionally or personally. I’m a huge fan and proponent of personal and professional development. I don’t believe there’s ever going to be a time in my life when I’m not able to learn or discover something new.
The self-discoveries that are usually the most profound (for me) are the ones in which I finally comprehend something I’ve heard a dozen different times over the years but never truly understood. I’ve learned over the years that people get what they get when they’re ready to get it.
I was recently asked to take part in an executive retreat with some colleagues and friends from different businesses. We invited a facilitator to attend and offer some training around improving our communication skills. She was awesome and offered a ton of great insight. It was one thing she said, however, that I took away as my “pearl of wisdom” from the program. She said something I’ve heard a hundred times before, but wasn’t ready to understand. She said, “We do what we practice.”
It seems so simple, right? And you’ve probably heard it before, too. We do what we practice. Growing up, I’d heard, “practice makes perfect” several times a week from my mom or dad. In the Navy I heard, "perfect practice makes perfect.” And in the corporate world, I’ve heard a dozen different variations from, “test and measure,” to “work smarter, not harder.” All the sayings represent the same basic principal – We do what we practice.
So then the question for me became, “What is it that I practice?” I went right for the obvious choice. My career, role, job, and other roles in my life like father, son, friend, etc. What I missed was what I hadn’t been ready to understand to that point. What kind of thinking do I practice? That’s the gold. That’s the real question I hadn’t ever thought to ask. And once I decided to ask the question, I was a bit startled by what I discovered.
I’ve been practicing a lot of negative thinking, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m punctual, but because I don’t want to deal with the ramifications and conversations around being late. Nine times out of ten, I’m not punctual because I’m genuinely excited to get where I’m going. It’s a simple example, but hopefully a decent illustration about a way of thinking. I choose to think that way just like I choose to wake up and dread the day ahead or welcome it. I’ve been thinking of my life and my work as a way to survive, pay the bills, and hopefully give my daughter the things she needs to survive so that one day she can pay the bills. I’ve been hard on myself for not progressing as fast on the new book. I remind myself regularly of what I don’t have, what I can’t do, and what I’ll never be. It’s become a way of thinking because it’s what I’ve been practicing.
But it doesn’t have to be what I continue to practice. The mindset and way of thinking can be changed and transformed. We see it happen all the time. A guy has a near death experience and suddenly realizes that there’s more to life than surviving. A young woman struggles to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis and then fights. She changes her way of thinking. She makes the choice to live.
So thank you, Alana Winter, for reminding me that my mindset and my way of thinking is my choice. I now know that positivity and looking forward is a practiced way of thinking, and until I practice changing my way of thinking, it never will.