Condition or Definition?


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In talking with a coaching client recently, she made a statement about a negative habit followed by these words: “that's just who I am. " I challenged her to re-examine what she had said. In fact, the truth was, she had a habit, but it was no more “who she is" than to say that the package your food comes in is the food. It is the package. It may represent the food or cover the food, but it isn't the food. And therein lies a key distinction. I challenge you this week to examine whether you have given power (identity) to something that is actually a condition rather than a definition of who you are.

Listen for how often in casual conversations we associate our identity with something we do or don't do. “I'm just disorganized" becomes the definition of who I am instead of a description of a messy desk. “I'm sick, " becomes part of my identity rather than the truer statement, “I have X condition. " A condition doesn't have to possess you, unless you wrap your identity around it. When you do, you automatically ascribe power to that condition that it doesn't have. You'll hear this powerlessness come out in statements such as, “I'm no good at. . . " or “When I get X, then I can truly be happy or satisfied. " In other words we delay “being" happy or satisfied until some future time when a certain condition is met. In truth, if we can't be happy or satisfied right now, no condition in the future will make us any more so.

In 5th grade, my male teacher told me I (because I was a girl) wasn't good at math. From that point forward, I unconsciously adopted “I'm not good at math" as part of my identity. And sure enough, I struggled in every math class from then on. It caused me other problems as I grew up and convinced myself that “not being good at math" also meant I couldn't balance my checkbook. That's because the moment we give something an identity in ourselves, we begin to align “reality" to concur with that picture. A more accurate statement of my math proficiency might have been to say that I had the ability to handle concrete mathematical problems but was challenged by conceptual mathematics like algebra (a subject I could never see much use for anyway!)

Listen to yourself today. Where have you defined yourself and then aligned your behavior with that definition? “I'm fat. I'm lazy. I'm no good at public speaking. I'm disorganized. I'm sick and tired of X. " The examples are everywhere. Our language about our situations reveals whether we've acknowledged a condition or adopted a definition. Realize that a condition is usually temporary. Create some space around it by simply noticing how you've allowed it to define you. Oh yes, and notice how much judgement you're carrying around about yourself over whatever condition you've adopted as a definition. When you can get to the point where you simply notice, “Oh I've gained 5 pounds, " without wrapping an identity of “I'm fat" around it, you're free to choose a set of behaviors that produces a different set of conditions for you.

Learn to distinguish between conditions and definitions. Beware of definining who you are in terms of habits or behaviors. Refuse to allow your identity to be limited by a limited condition. It can be the beginning of a very real place of peace and choice in your life. And as always, enjoy the journey.


Quote of the Week

"The Master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. He allows things to come and go. His heart is open as the sky. " ~Lao-Tzu

Betty Mahalik has been coaching small business owners, independent professionals and leaders who want to achieve more but stress less, since 1996. Her background includes several years in the broadcasting and public relations fields prior to starting her own firm in 1987. She is an accomplished public speaker and corporate trainer specializing in communications, goal-setting and leveraging your strengths. Since 2001, she has written a weekly motivational message, free to subscribers, titled Monday Morning Coach. To subscribe or learn more about Betty's coaching and training services, visit


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