McDermott: Control your tense

Scott McDermott’s weekly column about health and wellness

You may be thinking my spell checker got me… but hang in there!

My English teacher would be proud of what I am about to try and explain. You see, I am a big fan of self-observation and learning. I am nearly always too self-critical, and I get that, but I am clear that I need to always be learning, so I read and listen to audio books as well as other people smarter than me. I have several coaches for different areas of my life, and I am a firm believer that the things that we say to ourselves and others matter. To that end, I am speaking about ‘self talk’ today, and specifically what ‘tense’ we use.

Let me explain.

I want you to say to yourself a few different phrases, and then we are going to change them up and see how that alters things. I want you to picture a way of being that matters to you. Since I am writing this about health and fitness, I will use that for the example. “I will be healthy someday.” How does that feel? I mean…. It’s OK. It has some hope sprinkled in there. Let’s try another tense: “I was healthy”. Oof. That one really feels sad to me, like the loss of a friend. That one used to hit me hard after my crash, all busted up and 25 pounds overweight. It really upset me to say that. It made me feel weak, small, sad. Now, let’s try present tense. “I am healthy”.

OK, maybe you are thinking, “yes, but that isn’t true for me right now, I have [insert whole list of evidence why you don’t feel you are healthy].”

What if you add that present tense sentence element to the choices in your life. For example, someone asks you to join them in an unhealthy, calorie laden, sugary drink: “No thanks, maybe another time. The thing is, I am being healthy.” By placing it in the present tense, right now, it has power. If you were to say: “I will be healthy (later)” you might choose to have that 350 calorie drink and ‘start tomorrow’ on that healthy meal plan. That is indeed where the trouble is found.

Let’s try another example. Try this one: “I was awesome.” Kind of sad, hey? Like the good old days are gone, never to return. Now try: “I will be awesome.” I like that better, there’s that dusting of hope, but possibly a risk of procrastination as in: “I will be awesome later, but right now, not-so-much.” Great, let’s do the present tense: “I am awesome!” NOW we are talking! This one has the most power! The most potential!

Here’s the deal: we cannot change the past. It’s done. Go ahead and close your eyes, concentrate really hard and change what you ate or did yesterday. Any luck? If you figure this out, you will change the world!

In the same way, close your eyes and change what you will eat or a workout you want to do next week. I mean, you can change your plans, and you can set up a goal, but you really cannot change it yet. You might end up on a surprise trip to Manitoba next week, and whatever you just thought about cannot possibly happen.

The present. Right now. This is the only place of power – where choices matter and you can make a difference. Right now. Eckhart Tolle wrote a great book called “The Power of Now”.

The past is great. Whether it was horrific or brilliant, it made you who you are, and got you here. It shaped your life and everything around you for better or worse. Each twist and turn created this reality and you can celebrate it, mourn it or whine about it, but it will not change anything. It’s done. Anything you should have, or could have done matters not.

The future is also amazing and great. And it is full of variables that you are not yet aware of. I am a huge believer of goals, and plans and intentions, for they are magic and affect what matters most.

This moment, right now. You can make a great decision, a supportive decision, one that moves you closer to your goal. You can say yes to a great workout or a healthy meal, or a glass of water, a good night’s sleep or time with family. You can say no, yes, maybe or anything you like in this moment. “I am awesome.” “I am relentless in the pursuit of my goals.” “I am amazing.” “I am [whoever you want to be.}”

Happy Training!

Scott

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