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Who is your biggest enemy?
“My greatest enemy is my inner me.” – Lupe Fiasco
Enemies come in all shapes and sizes. Some offer minor threats like a table leg that seems poised to trip you up. Others are diseases and illnesses that are hiding in your body right now waiting for an opportune time to show up.
Why you’re biggest enemy is yourself
There are many threats to our security like the robber I once caught in my house or an internet hacker waiting to steal money from my bank account. Other threats are that coworker that wants my job and believes the best way to be the tallest building is to tear all of the others down.
Any one of these alone could make for a really bad day. To be honest though, none of those things seem to be my ruin. The one person that seems to trip me up the most is I.
Below are some of the ways that I prove to be my biggest enemy.
I know the right things to eat, but I choose ice cream.
Many years ago when I had an addiction to alcohol I could get past the addiction by simply not drinking alcohol anymore. Drink or don’t drink was the only two options. But when it comes to food this is much more difficult. I listen to podcasts routinely and read blogs about nutrition.
I have studied nutrition in relation to endurance sport and also in relation to growing old. I have studied charts and watched videos. From time to time I purposely spend time with overweight friends just to remind me of what awaits if I don’t watch what I eat. But somehow when ice cream is offered, I’m a goner.
My mind tells me very quickly, “You really should not have any. You don’t really need that.” But there is this little part of my brain that is ready to betray me. At first I hear it in almost a whisper, “Ice cream fits in the dairy section. You need more dairy for strong bones and teeth. You don’t want to be seen as rude, do you?” The debate happens quickly and the betrayer gets louder with each passing moment.
Before I even realize it I hear myself say, “Chocolate chip mint, please.” Oh my! What just happened? It often happens with pie or cake at birthday parties. The betrayer within is always prepared to make the argument for foods that I know that I should not be eating.
I know the right way to exercise but I choose sleep.
I have a solid training plan embedded in my planner of the exercise that I should do. Some should be done in the morning and some at night. All of it is reasonable and right and comes with all of the benefits that solid exercise can bring.
I know that exercise enables my mind to work more efficiently and effectively. I know that a healthy body can endure more stress and can accomplish much more on a regular basis. Looking at my schedule I realize that what I have in my planner is an effective way to get in the exercise that I need. However, in the morning I am under my covers and my alarm has gone off I lay there thinking of my day.
It is only for a few minutes, mind you. But I lay there and the excuses begin to pile up. The betrayer inside starts pointing out how warm the bed is and complements me on how hard I work and how I deserve to stay in bed a little longer. This voice is always soothing and comforting. Never is it accusing nor attacking. Before long I have slept an extra hour or two and the opportunity to exercise has come and gone.
When evening comes I fully intend to make up for it. However, my wife needs time with me and my kids need time with me. The voice here is much more accusatory and attacking. Guilt gets piled up and soon I have all of the excuse that I need to sit quietly and again not exercise. Again the betrayer has won.
I know the right things to say but I choose sarcasm.
Over the years I have taken countless classes on good parenting and healthy marriage. Add to that all of the relationship and counseling classes that I have taken. Then multiply that by the countless books, podcasts and Youtube classes on healthy communication and I should be an expert on the right things to say.
I teach a class on conflict resolution and often serve as a mediator for individuals or groups that are in conflict. But there are moments where I am put into a stressful situation. My internal dialogue gives me direction on the right things to say and even the right expressions to put on my face.
Again though the betrayer is right there ready to pounce. “That was stupid. He is disrespecting you. If you don’t insult him he will think that you are a wimp.” The betrayer pushes and pushes and before I know it, sarcasm has seeped out of my mouth and my enemy has defeated me.
I know the right things to do but I choose fear.
I have been trained to look for opportunities to grow and help my organization to grow as well. My first waking thought on my good days comes to a desire to try finding success. Weirdly, most of these opportunities come with a certain amount of risk.
Some might include a little risk of embarrassment if I fall short, others might actually threaten my life. That risk is presented by the betrayer and he is ready to exploit the worst possible scenario and plays that scene in various ways until fear takes root. Once the fear is rooted most of the time the betrayer will win because I choose fear.
Even though I have lost more times to the betrayer than I can count I choose to never fully surrender. When I get knocked down I get back up. I will face my enemy and do what I need to do to defeat him.
One of the most important steps in defeating an enemy is discovering them. There are likely more ways that you can identify specifically how your enemy either within or without is causing major disruption in your life. Below are three strategies to defeat that enemy.
When the temptation to slack off comes up solid discipline can make all of the difference. Set up a plan and allow no excuses to hinder your efforts. Silence the voices with music or videos or whatever it takes to inspire you.
Surround yourself with peers that have high standards
We tend to gravitate to the standards of those that we call peers. Choose wisely who you hang out with, they will either draw you up to their level or pull you down. They may not even deliberately try to pull you do but pull you down they will.
Set purposeful goals
Several years ago now my little sister was getting married. My mom had wanted to lose weight and get healthier for many years but never seemed to win the struggle. For the wedding she picked out a dress that she had been wanting for a long time but would require her to get healthy to make it work.
She bought the dress and hung it up on the door of her closet. The effort to lose weight was now attached to a visible goal. Why do you want to get smarter, get healthier or earn more money? Create a strong enough why and you can do almost anything.
This enemy that is yourself can be defeated and the self that you want to be can be strengthened. Identify the enemy within and then think strategically about what you will do to succeed.