December 5, 2006

The 20-minute Test

by Carol L. Skolnick

Why do we believe what we think? Often it's reflexive; we've just always felt this way. We don't question it. However, there are times when we believe something that might be worth looking into...such as those things which we procrastinate about or want to avoid. Why haven't we taken care of that? The stock response: "Because I don't feel like it."

If "I don't feel like it" feels stressful, there's a clue that it's not true. You do feel like it because you think you ought to be doing it.

Lately I've been applying something called "the 20-minute test" to The Work. The test was created by a life coach named Bruce Elkin, author of Simplicity and Success: Creating the Life You Long For [Trafford, 2003].

I have a gym membership and sometimes when I say "I don't want to go to the gym," I am lying. I do want to go; I joined the gym because I understood it was good for me. I truly enjoy doing things that are good for me and besides, it has a swimming pool and I love to swim. Staying at home in the moment to rest, work or catch up on my phone messages sometimes seems better and more important than sweating for two hours plus a half-hour of travel time round-trip.

In truth, it's fine not to go to the gym as long as it's fine with me. When it's really fine with me, I feel great. If not, I know I'm attaching to an untrue belief. In this instance, is definitely worth taking 20 minutes to "ask me" if I can save myself from 24 hours of self-flagellation for not going...even if it means deducting 20 minutes deducted from my time at the gym or from my time working on the Great American eBook.

"I don't feel like vacuuming the rug now." "I don't feel like sending out my e-zine." "I don't feel like making love." While it's true that I don't have to do any of these things ever again in my life, it has served me to ask myself if it's true that I don't I feel like doing them now. What are the underlying beliefs? I find that if I take just 20 minutes to find out, the answers are often very juicy. After inquiry, it could mean I get to have a clean floor, an e-zine (I took the 20-minute test today!), or a happy partner. If not, at least I'm very clear about my decision.

Here's a good one, one of my favorites: "I have nothing to write about." I've used that one, not only when I have a writing deadline, but also when I think I don't want to write out The Work. My reasoning: "Nothing's bothering me."

Is this one of yours? It may be true that nothing is bothering you right now and if so, bravo. You can always go back to the place in your life where something was bothersome. If there's any residue left there, don't you want to clean it up?

In fact, it's actually easier and very desirable to do The Work when there is no extreme stress in the moment. (I'll cover this in more detail in a future newsletter.) The great thing about self-awareness is that it compounds, like interest. If you can do 20 minutes of inquiry now, you may find you have a reserve of sanity for a "rainy day."

What a great deal: 20 minutes of your time here and there in exchange for a happier life and a clearer head.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Take the 20-minute Test

I like to put off doing things because "the weather's lousy." The other day I did not bring my water bottles to the store to refill then because it was cold out. Today it is a sunny day. What great excuse will I come up with this time?

"I don't feel like taking the bottles to the store." Is that true? Yeah!

Absolutely? Well, no. I'm running out of purified water, I'd rather not drink or cook with tap water, the empties are lined up by the door and it looks messy. So I really do want to go to the store. I just wish my triceps didn't hurt from working out yesterday, that I didn't promise myself I'd set up the new TV today, that my client had kept her original appointment, that there were more hours in the day, blah blah blah.... Okay, there goes the mind, which I steer gently back to inquiry. How do I live my life when I believe the thought that I don't want to go to the store...and I want water?

The bottom line is, I don't have to go to the store—and I'm going to. I do feel like it, because I want a neat kitchen and a well-stocked supply of water more than I want to avoid what I'm avoiding.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

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