Please Do NOT Listen To Your Body (Without Doing This First)
I was reading Chris Bosh’s book, “Letters to a Young Athlete” (which is great, by the way), and something he said reminded me how much it bugs me when people suggest you should “listen to your body.”
Now, I know what they’re getting at, of course. But the truth is, it’s actually terrible advice, UNLESS you add one important element.
Unfortunately, almost no one does. :-) Which is why this is one of the most powerful aspects of learning to raise your Inner Game.
So, that’s what this post is about—the correct way to take what your body is telling you and use it to help you be your best.
- Why advice to “listen to your body” can be such a bad idea
- The reasons it keeps you from being your best
- The simple change that makes all the difference
- Listen/read to get the full message
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[ transcript ]
It’s pretty common to hear health and fitness gurus suggest that you should “listen to your body.”
The idea being that somehow your body knows what it needs and if you just tune in to that, it will tell you how best to take care of it.
I’m David Levin. Author of Raise Your Inner Game, founder of Raise Your Inner Game Sports Academy.
And I’m sorry, but that is truly terrible advice, and the people who suggest it are simply not paying attention to how the Inner Game really works.
First of all, you can’t really separate what your body is saying from what your mind is saying. They work together.
If your body feels tired, your mind will say “We need to rest.” If your body is craving sugar or caffeine, your mind will say, “Boy, a nice cold Coke sure sounds good right now. You should have a Coke!”
And if you listen to your body in that situation, you’ll have a Coke, even though it is almost certainly not what you actually need right then—or even really want.
So THAT is the problem with listening to your body: most of the time, what it wants is simply not in line with what you want for yourself.
And this is especially true as an athlete.
Chris Bosh, the hall of fame NBA star, speaks to this in his book, Letters to a Young Athlete. He says, “When you’re tired and your mind tells you you ain’t got nothing left, it’s lying. Because you do.”
Again, it’s not actually just your mind saying that, your mind is speaking for your body. But if that’s what it’s saying, should you listen to it? No. Not if you want to play at your highest level.
On the other hand, sometimes your body does know what it needs.
Bosh adds this later in the book “A while ago, I told you about how important it is to know when to ignore your body’s ‘distress signals’ and push through the pain. And yeah, that’s part of being an elite athlete. But so is understanding when to shut it down and let your body recover.
“How do you know the difference? Well, for the most part, you just know. If you practice hard enough and get enough experience in pushing yourself up to and past your limits, you’ll know what ‘tired and sore’ feels like. And if you do that, you’ll also know what ‘legitimately hurt’ feels like.”
So, if your body is telling you that you are legitimately hurt, should you listen to it then?
Absolutely. No doubt. And you should trust that no matter what anyone says. And Bosh shares a good story about that in his book, too.
So now which is it then? Listen to your body or don’t?
The answer is, listen to it but think things through before you act. And that might seem obvious, but we tend to not do that, and it’s actually an important difference.
When people say “listen to your body,” what they really mean is “let your body be in charge, let IT decide what you do. Whatever it tells you, do that because it knows best.”
That is the actual bad idea here, because as we said, our body’s desires are almost never in line with our goals for ourselves. It just doesn’t work that way.
Our body’s concerns are basically survival-oriented and fear-based, and they have nothing to do with trying to be our best.
So when we just blindly go along with what it’s telling us, we will always do less than we’re capable of.
But if instead we listen to what our body’s saying but think things through before we act using our broader perspective and higher reasoning, now we can take what it’s telling us and use it to achieve our higher goals.
So that’s the approach you want: listen to your body, respect what it’s telling you, but think things through before you decide what you do.
If your body says “Let’s have a Coke,” rather than just going along with it, stop and think. Hmm. Do I really want that?
Most of the time your answer will probably be no. Water or something else would be better. And sometimes, maybe you’ll decide you really do need some caffeine, and that’s fine, too.
Whichever decision you make is fine, as long as YOU make it rather than letting your body be in charge.
The take-home message here, and this is just so powerful for your mental game, is that your body is wonderful and strong and you love it and you’d be nowhere without it. But if you let IT be in charge of what you do, it will not lead you where you want to go.
For that, you need to decide for yourself.
So, yes, listen to your body. But think things through before you decide.
That is the key to operating at your highest level.
All right, that is it for this post. Please Do NOT Listen To Your Body (Without Doing This First). I hope that’s helpful. Please do ask a question or post a comment. Let me know what you think.
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