Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was born in 1686 to a German merchant family in what is now Gdansk, Poland. Orphaned at the age of 15, he was apprenticed as a bookkeeper to a merchant in Amsterdam, but he had other ideas and ran away. Daniel Gabrielʼs real passion was natural science, especially physics, and he successfully evaded a warrant for his
arrest in order to pursue it. Years later, as a respected member of Europeʼs scientific community, Daniel was elected a Fellow of Englandʼs Royal Society in 1724. Today he is best known for the temperature scale named for him and for the mercury thermometer. A thermometer is simply a reporter. It gives us information about heat and cold. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Daniel really helped us all understand our comfort zones.
What makes you boil? What makes you freeze? What makes you passive-aggressive? When we boil, we lash out irrationally with an angry word, a mean intention, or a cutting remark. (Think of Donald Sterling, ousted owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.) When we freeze, we stonewall others, we shut them out, we withhold information, or we walk away. We are frequently unaware of these actions, but our co-workers, family, and friends are always aware of them.
In his philosophical work, As a Man Thinketh, British author James Allen wrote:
Mind is the Master power that molds and makes, And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills, Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: - He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass: Environment is but his looking-glass.
Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he..." A man is literally what he thinks; his character is the complete sum of all his thoughts. What kinds of thoughts dominate your mind? Do you boil often with thoughts of resentment, fear, anger, malice, and revenge? Or do you freeze yourself and others with thoughts of self-pity, doubt, uncertainty, and worry? Itʼs a choice.
Do you keep an even keel? Boats used to tip over in rough waters until the keel was invented. A keel is a longitudinal structure along the centerline at the bottom of a vesselʼs hull on which the rest of the hull is built. It provides balance to the boat and peace of mind for the sailor. Just how do we keep an even keel?
I am fond of the question, "How important is this really?" One of the most challenging things you will ever do is to identify your self-talk. It takes real mental energy and focus to listen to your own self-talk.
There are three kinds of self-talk:
- The thoughts you think SILENTLY.
- The words you use to YOURSELF aloud (driving is a great place to evaluate them).
- The words you use with OTHERS.
Scientists tell us we have 60,000 thoughts a day. For most of us, 75 percent of those thoughts are negative. Isnʼt that amazing? So just how to do a better job of controlling our thoughts and words? The first step is AWARENESS. Pay attention. Listen and jot them down. I noticed lately I judge others with great regularity. We are all guilty of putting others into categories: smart or stupid, fit or fat, tall or short, clean or dirty. I must admit to myself that I do it. Only then can I stop it. Goethe wrote: "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do." Pay attention this month to the words you use. Be aware of the thoughts you think and the words you use aloud and silently. Ask yourself, "Is this thought helping or hurting others and me? Are these thoughts causing me to freeze or to boil?"
Thoughts are things. If we maintain them long enough, they become habits. First we form habits and then they form us. As soon as you trust yourself, you know how to live. It takes 21 to 35 days to form a new positive habit. Thoughts> Words> Emotions> Attitudes> Beliefs> Actions> Results> Repeat.
Stopping a behavior is simple, but not easy. There is a great old Bob Newhart skit where he plays a psychiatrist helping a patient. You can view it here.
Successful people became successful because they adopted certain habits and qualities that got them there. Unfortunately, itʼs a double-edge sword. The very thing that GOT them to a level of success is the very thing that will hold them back from going to the next level.
I recently discovered I do seven things I donʼt like. Iʼm not proud of them. I am human. I have given the people in my life I care about the most permission to tell me when I am being passive-aggressive. There are some things I need to stop. I have given each of them a name:
- Uber-Competitive - an overwhelming desire to win at any cost in everything from sales to ping-pong. I need to STOP IT!
- Shooting the Messenger - the misguided need to attack the innocent, who sadly, are usually there to try to help me. I need to STOP IT!
- Know When to Shut Up - the need to add my two cents in every conversation. Itʼs adding too much value. I need to STOP IT!
- Captain Judgment - the need to rate others and impose my usually unrealistic standard on others. I need to STOP IT!
- Class Wit - making destructive comments and using needless sarcasm, usually in the form of a cutting comment. I need to STOP IT!
- Not Listening - Itʼs the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect of others. I need to STOP IT!
- But Out - After listening, I say, "but" or "however" or "no." It invalidates and tells others they are wrong and I am right. Itʼs the annoying use of negative qualifiers. I need to STOP IT!
This is my short list. For a more in-depth study of bad habits like these, read this monthʼs book of the month. It will change your life. What got you HERE wonʼt take you THERE! If you are a serious student of change, aspire to go from GOOD to GREAT, employ the opposite. In most cases, itʼs as simple as doing nothing. Saying nothing. Remaining silent. Smiling and simply saying "Thank you. I will work on that."
I want to be comfortable and make others feel the same way. Boiling and freezing doesnʼt work. I want an even keel. Do you?