A person who lives out the understanding that our thinking is cemented by our actions as much as our actions are the results of beliefs.
Our beliefs are the products of neural networks strengthened through repetition, evidence, and reinforcing behavior. Let’s say toddler Johnny, while learning to walk, hears, “How clumsy” every time he falls over. That repetition may ingrain the belief that he’s clumsy, and he’ll interpret each misstep going forward through that lens and use it as further evidence of his clumsiness. Through the years, the neural connections around the belief become thicker and stronger, further encouraging him to leap to “I’m clumsy” whenever he’s looking to understand a situation in which his body doesn’t function perfectly.
What fully cements the belief in Johnny’s mind is Action. Perhaps he won’t try out for soccer when he’s nice, or he’ll hesitate to learn how to cook because he’s scared to handle dangerous utensils in the kitchen. He wants to believe his behavior is justified, so he’ll further reinforce the idea that he’s clumsy with other supporting thoughts like “I’m not coordinated,” “I’ve never been good at sports,” or “Cooking is not my thing.” Action has the dual effect of strengthening the original neural connections and building a web of beliefs around them, a veritable Tower of Babble.
Offering at least three pieces of evidence holding up a turnaround strengthens a new neural pathway, and the more we support this alternative perspective, the more ingrained it will become. After we’ve completed an Inquiry, we can search daily for more evidence. Johnny can reinforce the turnaround, “I’m not clumsy,” by noting all the things he does effectively each day, like drive his car to work, eat without spilling his food, and fold his clothes into neat piles. He can also take Action by trying out for sports and cooking dinner. Johnny can also create a Tower of Benefit to support his new understanding with thoughts such as, “Sports involve a lot of trial and error,” “No one gets the ball in the goal every time.”
In Lessons From Your Opponent, Linda was dealing with the belief that her mother didn’t love her. Her fourth turnaround, “I don’t love me,” proved particularly insightful.
Chana: Can you tell me some ways you haven’t been very loving
towards yourself ?
Linda: Well… I love bubble baths, but I take one maybe once a year. I’m often exhausted by 10pm but will keep myself up another hour folding laundry or something. And… I never wear the jewelry Mom’s given me. It’s shoved it in a drawer somewhere. It’s actually quite pretty.
Chana: How do you feel when you aren’t loving yourself ?
Linda: It really hurts. I blame my mom for not loving me, but even when she gives me love, I come up with some story about how she’s just trying to manipulate me. That’s so sad.
Chana: So how would you like to treat yourself ?
Linda: Lovingly. I want to love myself.
Chana: What is some Action that you can take to get that going?
Linda: First off, I can take a bath tonight instead of a shower. If I don’t
watch that stupid cop show, I can easily make the time. I can do that every week. Wow.
Chana: Why did you say, “Wow?”
Linda: I feel good. I thought getting love would be so difficult, that I’d have to work hard for it, but taking a bath is so easy, and it goes a long way.
Chana: What else would you like to do?
Linda: Go to bed earlier. But how?
Chana: How do you think?
Linda: This is embarrassing. My kids are teens already. They can fold their own laundry and prep their own lunches for school. I guess if they did that they’d be loving me more. And probably loving themselves more because they’d get to pick what they eat rather than nag me about what they don’t like.
Chana: Why’d you smile?
Linda: This is great. I’m doing less and feeling better. It’s revolutionary! Okay. What else can I do?
Chana: What’s your answer to your question?
Linda: I can wear Mom’s jewelry. The few times I’ve worn a piece, I’ve gotten tons of compliments on it. Just imagining myself wearing the pearl necklace she got me for my 30th feels good. It’s like I’d be enveloped by her love all day. Hmm.
Chana: Why did you say that?
Linda: It just occurred to me how much time and thought and effor Mom probably puts into buying me gifts. I bet every year she tries even harder, hoping that this time, I’ll be happy with what she gives me. Another thing I can do is wear them, thank her, and tell her about the compliments I get. I bet she’d feel loved by that, too.
Chana: I’d like you to close your eyes and imagine it’s tomorrow. Your kids are now responsible for their laundry and school lunches, you’ve taken a long bubble bath, and you’re wearing the pearl necklace. How do you feel?
Linda: I feel warm inside, full of light, excited for the day. The biggest thing is that I feel grateful for the people in my life. It’s good.
Chana: What thoughts, if any, come to you?
Linda: It’s not a thought so much, more a feeling. I feel warm and just… good inside. I feel loving. I like everyone more. Life is okay; I’m okay. If I could put it into words, it would be, “I love you.”
As a product of engaging in loving behaviors, Linda created a Tower of Benefit filled with thoughts of love and acceptance. Becoming an Action Superhero shaped how she saw herself and the world around her. Jefferson says we’re defined by Action because we not only judge others by what they do, we assess our character, capabilities, and motives by our Actions. Building support for our beliefs is a great start, but what brings lasting peace and joy is acting in alignment with the truth.
Summary of Action Superhero
You are an Action Superhero when you integrate the lessons that turnarounds teach you. Acting upon those lessons hammers them home and makes you a more honest, compassionate, and value-driven human being.
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