Conquer Your Whispering Devil

Posted on | March 25, 2013 | 26 Comments

There are mornings I wake up feeling awful. Sore, fatigued, jet lagged, anxious… It’s as if a devil is whispering in my ear, “Oh, you’re gonna have a bad day today. You have way too much work to do. You didn’t get enough sleep. That appointment is going to go badly. The airport is gonna be a mess. The kids are gonna fight all morning..”
Shaking that devil from my ear and replacing it with positivity can be a serious challenge.

Am I alone in my battle to fight back negative thoughts? Not according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), which reports more than 1 in 10 Americans are on anti-depressants. For middle aged women it’s even worse: nearly 1 in 4 are on this medication.

How did this happen? How has the whispering devil become so influential that we’re now a nation hooked on happy pills? Surely doctors can offer a scientific answer to why this happens but let me share my own secret formula for purging negative thoughts: Reset and Power Up.

We are fire hosed with information like never before: Emails, texts, TV, social media, cell phones.. The truth is, the default setting today is a constant barrage of messages from the moment we awake to the moment we fall asleep. Is it healthy? Absolutely not!
How can we consume a non-stop flood of urgent work requests, social media postings reminding us how glamorous everyone else’s life is, news coverage trumpeting doom and gloom.. without feeling like crap?

As challenging as it is, make time every day to reset: No phone, no email, no news channels. Get as quiet as you can both on the inside (your head) and the outside (your surroundings) and let your mind reboot. For me, that means an early morning swim, bike, or run without the iPod.
For you, is it a walk? Yoga? Whatever it is, schedule it in your calendar no later than the day before and make it a top priority.

Power Up:
When most of us hear “power up” we think of turning on our computers, right? Eeeek! Don’t do that.
A challenge for you, something I often struggle with myself but never regret: In the morning power up your body before you power up your computer.
Do you think humans were designed to roll out of bed only to flop into a chair and stare at a screen? Ha! Our able-bodied ancestors are laughing at us.
Imagine describing the start of a modern day to your ancestors: “Well, first I wake up after 4-6 hours of fitful sleep.” [By the way: Before the advent of electricity people routinely slept 10 hours/night.] “Then I stumble to a desk, turn on this bright screen that’s bad for my eyes, and start reacting to a bunch of mail messages that piled up while I was trying to sleep. I do this until I have a headache, at which point I reach for a salty, sugary prepackaged snack with a shelf life of 5 years…”
And on and on it goes until we find ourselves at the pharmacy picking up a package of Xanax.

Listen, I’m not advocating we go off the grid and live in mud huts. And clearly some people truly need prescribed medicine because there’s no other answer.
What I’m suggesting is we reconsider how we begin our days.

Power Up your mind and body first. Get some physical activity. Eat a great breakfast. Welcome in a new day before you fill it with modern day work and family realities.
Reset occasionally throughout your day before the information onslaught becomes too overwhelming.

Ben’s unscientific yet effective tips for destroying the whispering devil:

1. Turn on your smartphone or computer only after you’ve checked the box on two critical items: physical activity and breakfast.

2. Schedule the important parts of your day – including your exercise break(s) – no later than the night before.

3. Turn off the email fire hose while you’re working on important projects. Check email 4-5 times/day and stay off it otherwise.

4. Early to bed, early to rise.
(“Yeah right, Ben. How can I possibly go to bed earlier?” Well, kind reader, move on to point #5…)

5. Kill your television.
Two things about TV: 1) Studies show that people are most miserable and feel worst about themselves while watching TV. 2) TV Prime Time, which begins at 8pm, is when most of us click on the TV and sink into brain drain mode. Replace late night TV with early morning Reset and Power Up time.

6. Focus on getting one thing done one at a time. Don’t kid yourself, multi-tasking doesn’t work. (At least for the male species!)

Power Up + Reset = A happier, healthier, more productive you.



26 Responses to “Conquer Your Whispering Devil”

  1. Sudhanshu
    March 26th, 2013 @ 6:11 am

    Awesome message. Very useful tips.

    I enjoy reading your blog, and am planning to start my own. You are an inspiration. Any tips on how to get started?


  2. Suzy
    March 26th, 2013 @ 6:55 am

    Good call on the TV. It’s how I got through grad school in one piece- years later, never opted to bring it back!

  3. Idélcia Nascimento
    March 26th, 2013 @ 8:14 am

    Great cooments!! And all true. I loved it!!

  4. Matt Koster
    March 26th, 2013 @ 8:18 am

    Good information. Implimentation is the

  5. Ronnie Schmeilski
    March 26th, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    Ben, your blogs are always full of good information. I love this one and hearing from you on occassion brinks back kind thoughts of you and Maureen. Thanks for the tips. I’m going to paste these 4 steps in strategic places as a reminder so I can reinforce and remember daily.


  6. J. Werner
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:13 am

    Perfect timing…I needed to hear that today! Right on all counts.

  7. Sam
    March 26th, 2013 @ 11:43 am

    Great stuff Ben. It’s reassuring to learn we all have a common enemy….

  8. Chuck Kahl
    March 26th, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    Ben, This is wise counsel! I have been feeling exactly the way you described and fighting the “defeating voice” in my ear to GET GOING. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I enjoy your blog.

  9. Jeff Lee
    March 26th, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

    Ben I’ve read your blog for a long time but never commented until now. On the TV thing, I pretty much just watch news and sports these days except the time I watch Disney channel with my son. I think technology has definitely contributed to a big part of our stressful life these days, in both obvious and subtle ways. Take social media as an example. I don’t have a Twitter account and pretty much just view updates on my Facebook account to see what some people are up to. I’m just amazed to see some people need to constantly tell people what lunch they’re eating, their dog just peed on their neighbor’s lawn, or they’re about to take a shower. Some people are simply addicted to the 24×7 non-stop ‘broadcasting’ of their life, and they may feel guilty if they aren’t equally quick in responding to their connections’ broadcast of their life.

  10. Antonio
    March 26th, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

    thanks for the perspective on how to overcome that annoying little whispering devil

  11. Jim Aden
    March 26th, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

    Right on, Ben! As usual – great advice and right to the point, especially the exercise part. Running always makes me feel so much better! One question though – what ‘salty, sugary, prepackaged snack with a shelf life of 5 years’ were you referring to? Sounds like something I may have eaten a lot of about 30 years ago, back when I was suffering through the worse two years of my life.

  12. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

    Jim, You’re living proof of the quote, “No one has ever regretted a good workout.” Imagine what the difference would be if you were still eating the stuff today that you were eating 30 years ago. Something tells me there’d be far fewer marathons and lots more doctor visits than you’ve racked up over the years! Keep runnning, Mr. Barefoot.

  13. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

    Glad to see you visited the blog, Antonio. A few more weeks until spring, at which point I know you’ll be leaving that devil in a trail of Trek turbulence.

  14. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

    Jeff, So pleased you made the time to comment! Your remark about watching little TV except sports reminds me of a quote I once heard about a US Supreme Court Justice. I cannot recall which one but he said, “When reading the newspaper I always begin with the Sports section because it’s the only section that reports on man’s achievements rather than his failures.”

  15. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

    Chuck, Among your many other talents I know you throw a mean spiral so put it to good use! Defeat that nagging voice with a round of those hard core Nebraska football workouts :)

  16. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

    …and a common way to defeat it, right, Sam? Thanks for sharing your comments and for earlier today letting your amigos know about this blog.

  17. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

    Timing is everything, isn’t it, Jake? Glad you found the this blog helpful and thanks for making the time to read it.

  18. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

    You are very kind, Ronnie. Maureen and I really miss our Wonder Twins in Peoria and I’m glad we use this blog as a way to keep in touch. Your comments always motivate me to going with this. Thank you :)

  19. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

    Totally agree, Matt. It’s easy to know WHAT to do. Hopefully this blog gives you at least one takeaway that you can incorporate into a busy family/work life. Thanks for commenting!

  20. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

    Thank you, Idelcia! Love your enthusiasm. Wishing you a Happy Easter!

  21. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

    Wouldn’t that be an interesting study, Suzy? Divide college kids into two groups: One with TV and one without. I wonder what the difference would be? Regardless, I’m glad it worked for you and you’re sticking to it.

  22. Ben Lawrence
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    Sudhanshu, I look forward to reading your blog! As for tips, I encourage you to read anything written by Seth Godin. He’s full of ideas on how to choose topics that are well aligned with your passions. Also, don’t worry so much about the technical parts: how to set it up, which software to use.. Start with a pen and paper jotting down key topics you’d like to write about and then complete 3-4 of them so you have something to publish. It’s easy and relatively mindless to do the techie setup. The real value begins with capturing your thoughts on paper.

  23. Winnie Chu
    March 26th, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, start the day with things you feel good about and good things will follow through. Thanks for the sharing!

  24. Caryn Jaffe
    March 27th, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    Hey Ben, Somehow you always seem to know exactly what I need to hear when you write your blogs…and I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate your words. You are 100% right about power up and exercise time. I wish I could impart that on all of my athletes and patients. Perhaps I will just print out your blog and ask them to read it when the perfect moment arises and someone needs to hear exactly what you have said. I imagine it will happen quite often. For me, after discovering that I got an unexpected VIP slot into Ironman Florida 2013 (from TEAM REFUEL: Got chocolate milk?) and my chronic illness has taken yet another ugly turn, I need to POWER UP, SHUT UP, and just GTE OUT THERE fully fueled, energized, with a smile on my face and a LUCKY LIZARD in my hand. (If you haven’t checked out my website lately… come see my inner power! ) Thanks for your amazing sentiments as always!

  25. Ben Lawrence
    March 29th, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

    Nicely summarized, Winnie. Speaking of starting the day right, last time I was in your town I opened the blinds in my hotel room early one morning and saw hundreds (thousands?) of people in the park across the street doing tai chi. Average age must have been 100 but they all looked so healthy and content! It was inspiring.

  26. Ben Lawrence
    March 29th, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

    Caryn, Just visited your website and love the lucky lizard story! First I’ve heard it. In my mind I can see you in FL blazing all 140.6 with a very lucky lizard along for the entire ride. Keep moving, finish strong :)

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    Ben Lawrence Ben's expertise is helping organizations reach their full potential through an empathetic, value-first, challenger-based focus on their customers.  Data analysts want to choke him but entrepreneurial, sales driven, profitable, customer-centric organizations (or those who aspire to become one) love him.

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