162. He is David by default.

David called last week and asked if he could take me for lunch. He had a story he wanted to share with me.

I am not one for turning down free lunch invitations so naturally I accepted and we set a date for the following day.

I have known David for many years, initially as a client, but mostly as a very good friend and I was curious to hear what it was he wanted to tell me.

In the time I have known David he has always been a happy, gregarious, fun loving person with a strong zest for life and an unshakably optimistic view of the future.

Lunch with David, as always, was a fun, laughter filled event and the story he shared with me certainly came as a surprise.

Long before David and I met his life had been a challenging one filled with depression and frequent suicidal ideation. Neither the drugs he ingested nor activities he undertook seemed to help with the relentless feelings of sadness and doom that filled his whole body and occupied most of his waking thoughts.

One day a good friend – a man who had successfully overcome 22 years of chronic alcoholism – sat down with David and shared his belief that each of us owns all of our emotions at all times and that it is possible to change our entire persona and, in so doing, reorganize our internal biochemistry, by committing to certain new behaviors and doggedly sticking with them.

This was David’s first introduction to The Habit of Emotional Ownership and as much as he viewed his friends statement with strong cynicism he was desperate and willing to try anything that might offer him hope for a new life. He began doing exactly what his friend encouraged him to do.

Many times throughout each day he would pause to ask himself a simple question, “What am I focusing on right now, what am I feeling right now?”

Most often the answer was the same. He was thinking negative, self-critical thoughts and feeling – in his own words – “mega crappy”.

At that moment he would do as his friend had insisted and force himself to do three things. Firstly, he would direct his focus to past experiences when he had been having fun and had been feeling happy. Secondly, he would make statements attesting to his own greatness – “I feel fantastic, I am awesome, I am happy, my life is amazingly wonderful and filled with joy”. Thirdly, he would get up and move his body in ways consistent with what we all do when we feel powerful and strong.

He would stand tall, make his body as big as possible by pulling his shoulders back, pushing his chest out and walking with meaning, purpose and intent.

At first David felt this to be a “monumental waste of time” but he had made a commitment to his friend that he would do this as many times each day as he possibly could for 100 days.

During those 100 days there were many times when doing this exercise was the last thing he felt like doing and each time that happened he would open the piece of paper his friend had given him and read out loud the famous quote from Calvin Coolidge.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved, and will always solve the problems of the human race.”

And a strange thing happened.

David noticed that over time when he asked himself that very important question, “What am I focusing on right now, what am I feeling right now?” The answer, increasingly frequently, was positive, inspiring and accompanied by strong feelings of joy and happiness.

What had started out as a chore simply to meet an obligation made to a friend became a habitual part of David’s everyday routine until the day he realized that by repeatedly doing what he had been doing he had created a new “default” David – a new way that he felt most of the time.

And so by the time he and I met several years later, this story had become a part of his distant past and his habit of asking himself that all-important question throughout each day ensuring he spent most of each day in his “default” state has created the David I’ve always liked and whose company I have so enjoyed.

To David, The Habit of Emotional Ownership is as much a part of his life as breathing and his love of life is infectious.

He is proof positive that The Habit of Emotional Ownership is not a myth but an irrefutable, indisputable fact and that the first step in creating the life we want for ourselves is to adopt this habit into every cell in our being.

Can’t think of any reason not to, can you?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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