How do you look at your life? Are you open? Are you open, curious, and want to grow? What percent of the time are you in the present? These are just a few of the questions we address in this month’s Conscious Leadership Forum.
Dr. A: All right. Well welcome, everybody. Welcome to the Conscious Leaders Forum. We’re gonna have a great time today. Hope everybody’s having a great Tuesday so far. As you come in, put in the chat where you’re from. All right everybody kinda settle in, this is our time together. This is an hour we have, where an opportunity for you to feel fully psychologically secure, feel it’s a safe place where we can talk together, and talk as fellow humans. You know, one of the things I was talking about at an event I was at a week ago, was the idea for humans really to connect with each other, and how important that is, and I’ve spent now 20 plus years working on, how do I help people improve their health and their wellbeing? And I found that more than anything, it really comes up to here [Dr. A gestures to his head], and today I’m very excited about our forum, and just to kind of orient you, if you haven’t been on here before I’m going to do a little overview of our topic today, and as I do that what I’d love you to do is take notes. See how that affects your own life. See if you have any questions, because the more powerful part of this forum is literally when you ask questions, and then we talk about yourself, or someone you’re helping, because it opens up to what we have in common and that is the human experience, and it’s so very important for us to learn how to fully be present, and understand, and become kind of a scientist and understand how our mind works. How we think. The difference between our subconscious, our conscious. It’s really important.
We go to the physical gym to help improve our muscles, but we spend so little time really focusing on what’s going on up here [Dr. A gestures to his head], and I can tell you, what’s going on up here is far more important than anything that’s going on outside of you, of how you’re experiencing life. So basically, the subject today, and what we’ll do is write down your questions, and as soon as I finish the presenter part, then I’ll open it up for you to ask those questions, and Rachel will join you. You’ll be able to say, and Rachel will be in the chat there, and you can say you want to talk about, and then she’ll get you queued up and then we’ll have some time together to really experience the human interactive. Humans being more in our lives. So hopefully this makes sense to you, and let’s go ahead and get going.
So, the first slide basically is: how do you frame your life? And I want to make sure you understand what I mean by “frame.” Frame is our orientation. It is our perception. It is how we look at life. It’s the lens that we look through life at, and that lens has occurred through our whole life. Literally from our experiences. Since we were really little, we take events and things, things that upset us, things that made us feel good, and we would try to figure out ways to reproduce it. So it kind of gave us our world view of how we look at the world, how we interact with the world, what our preferences are, what we like, what we don’t like, and we do that early on, and we continue to grow that as we get older, and it’s highly influenced by the people we’re around. So depending on what our parents were like, what our teachers were like, what our mentors and our friends were like, where we grew up, all those things come in to put down how you frame your perception and how your frame life.
So it’s really important to understand because your frame of reference is everything. If you want to pick the one thing — you know, I talk a lot about psychological flexibility. You may have heard about emotional agility and stamina, the ability to fully adjust to situations, but the frame of what you look at things through is everything. If you have only one way— Carol Dweck talks about a fixed versus a growth mindset, and a fixed mindset is, “There’s a way the world should be, and when the world is that way, I’m okay. Everything’s okay. When the world’s not that way, I’m not okay, and my personal mind tries to make it okay by making up stories.” We make meaning. We’re meaning making machines. We make meaning of everything and when we’re younger, we kind of put those experiences down, and what we don’t do — and unfortunately, most of us are in what we call a “fixed mindset. We decided the way the world is, and it’s kind of like my friend, Dan Bell, says, “A broken clock is correct two times a day,” so when the world’s exactly how we want it, we’re good. If things happen outside us — and what we end up doing is we spend a lot of time — because we’re not okay, we spend a lot of time trying to get the world to be a certain way or trying to have something — getting a new house, a new car, a new spouse.
All those things kind of help us for a very short period of time, but if we’re not okay inside, those things don’t last long. Material things just don’t really satisfy. They’re just Band-Aids. So really understanding how we change our lens, how we open up and see more is so critical. So I like to show this picture. Most of you heard about goldfish and their attention span is about 4 seconds, and we’ll talk more about that a little later on when we talk about presence, but really, more importantly, a goldfish doesn’t know it’s in water and there’s a joke about that, you know, an older goldfish is going by two younger goldfish and says, “How’s the water today boys?” And they look at each other and say, “What’s water?” Because they don’t see it and until you hop out of it, as this fish does [referring to a photo on screen], and you can change that reference, that frame, that perception and move, you can jump into a bigger pond so to speak, to one that has some nice little grasses in it. It’s more desirable. So it’s really how you look at life that really makes all the difference, and how you frame it.
You know, there’s a joy of being wrong, you know, the thing that people with a fixed mindset have — they don’t want to be wrong. They want to be right about everything. Being right is more important than being happy, and we’re going to talk about that towards the end today because basically, the important part is to realize that our frame of reference as it is right now, is one frame of reference. Your future self will be totally different. You know, there’s a gentleman, a psychologist, called Keegan, and he talked about the evolution of where we want to go as an individual, and this is really important because it should be encouraging for every one of you as we look in a moment about our past, our present, and our future, but bottom line, and when we’re young we basically fall into what Keegan would call the “socializing self.” It’s that part of us that wants to be — I watched a cute little film with Savannah last night, 13 Going On 30, it was about a girl and all the peer pressure of being 13 years old, and the people that she really loved that were in front of her she kind of ignored because they weren’t cool, and she wanted to be 30, and then the movie, you know, of Hollywood, she became 30, and then she realized that wasn’t really who she wants to be.
When we’re young like that we socialize, and we want to belong. We want to be in control, and we want people to care about us, and so we want approval, and that’s where we start, and then we go through the period. Hopefully, we evolve and we become fully responsible for ourself, and the “self-authoring self,” as Keegan calls it, and the self-authoring self, now it’s about us. We’re the center of the world. We’re the center of the universe, and then eventually, only 8% of us really spend the time to go into what we call a “transforming self,” and this is where we can actually look kind of like this goldfish, get out of our frame and go to a different frame. We’re able to communicate with others and actually look from their perspective, and make fun of — you know, one of my good friends Jim Defner talks about, we think we’re right, and this is what we believe. What if the exact opposite was true? And to start having more fun in life, and kind of question what we’re thinking and feeling, and look from a different perspective. That different frame allows us more likely to get into the bigger pool, the bigger bowl there. So it’s really important, looking to reframe, and so reframing is critical.
So, how do you look at your life? I mean I think this is so important. Are you open? You’re curious, you want to grow? I know that every day I know and I can look back and, I forgot the name of the person, but they said, “Listen, if you look back to a year ago and you recognize that person, you haven’t grown enough,” because if we’re really from the mindset that we’re open, curious, and want to grow, that puts us on a trajectory to be very valuable. To be able to enjoy our lives and learn, and not be so fixed in our ways, and right now I have to tell you, with AI, all the chaos going on in the world, the ability to do this is part of psychological flexibility. It’s a part of being able to reframe and it is critical if you want to be happy in your life.
[00:09:06] So with that basically, I have a couple questions to ask you and I’d love for you to think about, and by the way, I was listening yesterday to a podcast if you look at Einstein — any anybody that really made a major significance in mankind — and one of the things they do, and one of the things I started doing, like a couple years ago, was spending some quiet time with myself just thinking. No input, because as you know, all you have to do is go on your computer, your phone — it’s interesting because I went to see a football game this weekend and I’m looking fully intensely into the game, and half the people are on these things right, and they’re taking their photograph. Why? I mean it’s on TV. You can record it, but they’re not. They’re looking through a lens, a perception, not actually enjoying the game fully, and we’ve gotten to the point now where basically we spend very little time in the present, and so when I ask, is your past your asset? You know. we can reframe our past. One of the things I always talk about and for most people this is true basically, your past — stop trying to give yourself a better past. In other words, stop letting things from the past affect you in the present as the trauma that they were. What happened to you 30 years ago with your parents, really, bottom line, what effect should it be having now? And really shouldn’t be, but what we’re learning is that you can actually, in the present moment, you can reframe your past to actually serve you, because our memory is really a reconstruction of what happened, and it’s based on where we are now.
Your remembrance of the past can be changed and you can reframe it to what are the things you learn and I talk all the time about stoicism, about the obstacles is the way. You know, the ancient Romans and Greeks really, their philosophy was: What’s the obstacle and how can I use this to grow? So again, if you take your past and it’s now a learning, versus just an experience, because experiences if it’s passive. If something didn’t happen the way you wanted then basically, you could look at it as a negative. You can build up all the negatives, and we’re a negative-biased creature anyway because it used to protect us 10,000 years ago. It is not protecting us now. Our perceived threats in our life, by our little mini-me, our ego, are causing all of our suffering and not helping us in any way.
So we can actually reframe our past and learn from each situation. You know that’s what I do with my ski instructor for years. You know, I grew up in Florida and lived, went to school, went to college, went to medical school, so I had time to ski maybe once a year, so I never really got very good. In about 10, a little over 10 years now, I basically found a ski instructor and because I’m open, curious, and want to grow, he taught me to ski, and it wasn’t like, well this is how I ski. No. Teach me how to ski, and now I can ski fairly well. I go heli-skiing with him. I mean, I can ski where I never would. I’m a better skier now today, and can’t wait for ski season than I was 30 years ago. I mean because of that, using the past to actually now create a better future, right? So it’s really important, and that’s my next question, is your future your friend? Are you looking every day and excited about what the future can bring or are you dreading it? Our mind can be either a terrible enemy or our best friend, and you have in this day and age, with all the resources we have, you have the best opportunity you’ve ever had to now plan a future and to use future generative language. So rather than hope that it gets better, if you’re still using your past programming, basically you’re going to stay the same, and you’re not going to change much. In fact, you’ll change very little, but if you’re willing to say, “You know what? I want a lead from the future. That will allow me to become the things I want, and spend the time in the present learning, speaking from that future generative language, and every day raising my standards so more and more I am getting better at what’s important to me, and I’m saying no to all the things that I was saying yes to that basically, are not serving me anymore.”
So if you’ve decided where you want to go in your future, and you’re excited about what you want to do, and what’s important to you, then you inform yourself in the day that about 80% of the stuff you were doing before you decided where you want to go is probably not serving you, and it may be hurting you, and start saying no to all those things, and now start adding the things that can help you. This is so, so important. So what percent of the time are you in the present? And that’s what I was talking about when I mentioned the cell phone. Basically, most of people’s time is spent in reacting to what’s going on around them, putting more and more input, and not being present at all. Actually, almost, it’s kind of like we do with nutritional pollution and food eating, these heavy fast foods that basically fill us up by engorgement. Full of sugar and sweet which numb us, you know, these things can numb us, and basically getting on TikTock, or whatever the current thing that’s going on, and all these social things that actually blur you and keep you from being present at all in the moment, and you know, I was at an event that was outside. A concert. The sun was going down and it was exquisite and I’m watching 90% of the people there not even looking. This gorgeous sunset. Looking at this [Dr. A points to his phone] much more of the same and you know what? This thing’s with you 24-7. Although you should get it out of your room when you go to sleep.
So, what percent of the time are you in the present? Really being fully focused on what’s going on around you. Because only in the present can you say, “yes” in your past, to reframing, or reframing for the future you want. So what are you focusing on? I mean, the bottom line is if we’re not focusing, we haven’t sent our identity like for me, my identity is very clear. I’m here on this planet at this point in time to help people. Hopefully awaken to the potential that they can take personal responsibility, and they have the opportunity to create a future that serves them. Becoming the Dominant Force in their life and allowing them to organize their life for what matters most. That’s where I’m spending the rest of my days, and I absolutely love it. I was so excited about doing this call today because that’s what matters to me. What matters to me is if just one person out here says, “Ah. I get it.” And gets on a different trajectory, a different path.
So it’s not that you know, as I mentioned before, about that life of quiet desperation, which is really resignation that this is how my life is going to be and it’s going to be that way for the rest of my life. Now your dog’s life is going to be that way because basically, they just respond to what’s in front of you. Your life can be what you want it to be, but it’s important for us — So, what are you focusing on? These are important questions that you should take away from today and ask yourself. So the question comes down to, what do you want? What game are you playing? Are you playing the game of life to be able to move forward and do the things that matter to you? The high-valued things that are important? Or are you playing someone else’s game? Because if you’re on the internet, if you’re watching TV, if you’re watching Netflix, if you’re going to something where someone else is running it, you’re playing their game and their game is about them winning, not about you winning. So that’s an important question.
So you can reframe everything. Basically, the present can reframe your past. You can reframe where you want to go. You can connect so that you get up every day and now you’re excited. I was talking last night to a group, but Viktor Frankl, a famous Austrian psychiatrist. Brilliant man. Brilliant, was put in a concentration camp in World War II and his family were all killed. Everything was taken away from him, even his manuscript that he was working on, but he decided that you know what? They could not take his desire. What he wanted. What would fulfill him, and he wanted to write this manuscript and so he took little scraps of paper and he would store, literally hide it inside the lining of his coat to keep them safe, and he stayed alive and even though they took, food, he was cachectic, they couldn’t take his spirit away, because there was something for him to live for, and what he noticed when he was in there, when people lost that, and they didn’t know — they no longer had hope for the future, they basically died. They died within a couple weeks, and so, it’s so important for you to really find: what’s important to me? What game are you playing and what would you like to have in your life? And then reframe that around that thing.
So one of the questions — this is a question — when I say happy, I’m not saying narcissistically happy, like several people are in this society today, but I’m talking about inside, are you doing something that you’re happy with, and is that important to you? Because here’s the deal, pain is part of life. Stuff’s going to happen in your life. It happens in my life. I had some very significant events, for those that know my history, that have happened that were painful, but I didn’t allow them to suffer. I basically moved beyond them. Use them to reframe and to move forward in that. So suffering is optional in our life, and basically, true freedom only comes when you decide you don’t want to suffer anymore, and that’s what Viktor Frankl did. In the most horrendous conditions, with everything taken from him, he refused to surrender and not suffer. He focused on what was important to him and he moved forward, and you have that complete option and basically, it comes down to practice, and it comes down to when something happens in your life that’s not necessarily what you want, rather than resist it, feel that emotion.
It could be sadness. I mean, I lost my wife five years ago, and I was sad. There were many periods where I would have this feeling of great loss and great sorrow, but it would come and go, and then I would let it go. I didn’t dwell on it and feel sorry for myself. I simply grieved the loss and then moved on, and that’s a pretty significant thing. People can say, “Well, you don’t have my life.” Well, I don’t know, but losing the most important person in your life is pretty significant. So I’m speaking from experience. I’m not speaking from sitting in an ivory tower, where everything’s perfect, yet my life is — I wouldn’t trade my life for anybody else’s because I do this work, and the beauty of this work is, you don’t need to go to college, to medical school. You simply need to make the decision that this is important to you. So basically, happy. When you are happy, when you feel those moments — when you come around the corner in your car and you look and you see this gorgeous sunset, and you say, “Oh, the sun’s in my eyes. I’m blind,” or you put the visor down so it’s not directly there, but you peek and look at it, and you experience in those 15 minutes basically, that incredible joy of being connected to this incredible planet. Being part of it. So when you feel that joy and you’re feeling happiness basically, open up and feel how that feels, because we all have that.
[00:20:31] What happens is stress, when I have stress, when something happens — because stuff happens — we’re living in an intrinsically unstable world, right? I mean, at all levels. We’re at a time when you know, the world is nuts out there. That’s why this work has never been more important than it is now, and basically, you know, when I’m stressed and I feel that stress working up then I say, “Wow. This is a great opportunity for me to practice,” and I’ll take some really deep, centring breaths. I’ll feel that stress go away and kind of just go out with my exhales, and then I’ll observe, and I’ll observe from a factual of, why? I use, you know that I’ve been using this forever but — stop. I’ll challenge, why am I feeling stressed? And then I’ll choose an outcome that allows me to look at that circumstance and recognize that I’m the one that determines. How I respond determines the outcome, not what happens— there’s stuff going to happen to us. If anybody thinks that everybody’s life— there’s people whose life is perfect, and if they can just control those. If they’re worried about security, put themselves in a bunker or if they’re worried about control, be in a place where they have 10 servants or basically, about belonging and acceptance, hire a bunch of people to— none of that works. Those are all things — we have inside of us, everything we need. We just need to start to understand how our mind works.
So there are things in your life you’re trying to push away. Things that you don’t want, that you’re trying to get rid of, and others that you’re trying to pull towards you. You’re clinging to them because basically, when you’re with those things they make you feel good and it may be when you go shopping, or you buy a new car, or you get a new house, or you get a new girlfriend, you know, those things are temporary unless you come to the point where you’re working on inside. So the foundation of stress and anxiety is preference that we desire things. If we can remove desire and just basically want things because they improve your life versus needing those things to relay that I don’t feel good inside because it’s not worth it, and so, I like to end — before we open up for questions — is just put things into perspective. I have this perspective, we’re this little speck, you know, the earth is basically, 90-plus thousand miles away from the sun and we’re at the perfect space where the sun — you can go outside and feel the warmth and not burn up, right? We’re in the only place with — now with the James Web Telescope basically, they’re looking out and they’re seeing this amazing panorama of one photo that showed a thousand galaxies, and we’re part of one galaxy. The Milky Way, which is part of our sun, our solar system, and for what we know so far, we’re the only place. We’re on this bright blue planet. We get birds that sing to us in the morning. We have beautiful sway. I mean, fortunately for me, I love it because I picked here — I have these gorgeous sunsets framed with palm trees that look like a postcard, and we get to enjoy those things and put in perspective, we’re only here for you know, hopefully, if you learn the Habits of Health and you take good care of yourself, possibly up to, on average, 85 to 100 years, if we take great care of ourselves. We’re here just for a fraction of time.
We should really honor the flow of life and recognize, and be so grateful for what we have. So with that, what I always look for is this internal stability. The point where I’m not internally suffering. I’m very stable, at peace, at calm, and at equilibrium with the people in my life. That I come in front of, and being able to have those two, put you in a state of flow where pretty much you can be in the present state and really be happy most of the time, and I choose happiness over being right. I choose happiness over suffering, and I choose happiness because bottom line is, we have the opportunity to do that. Each and every one of us. So with that, let’s open this up for questions. What questions do we have? Let me come off [Dr. A stops the presentation on screen].
Rachel: All right, first up we have Cinda, and Cinda you might recognize from last month.
Dr. A: Hey, Cinda! How are you doing?
Cinda: I’m doing great. How are you doing Dr. A?
Dr. A: You look like you’re up in the mountains! I know that’s just a screensaver.
Cinda: I know. It’s just a screenshot of where I used to ride my bike.
Dr. A: Awesome.
Cinda: Right. So I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Well first off, I haven’t met you in person, but I trust you because of my coach Jen Brown, and her coach Jan Paxman, and what they’ve shared with me about what you’re doing for OPTAVIA and for life in general. For healthy living, but that gave me the courage to get on last month with a question, and that was the question regarding my son, and communicating with him.
Dr. A: Yeah, I remember it very well.
Cinda: And so you told me I can’t control when or how my son responds to my messages. Man, I used that as a mantra, you know, it’s like, “I don’t have control over this. I don’t have control over this,” and I ended up going to the concert that he was performing here in Wichita, where I live, and had a great evening with him. Then I had another month of no communication but he invited me to come to St. Louis for a concert and I actually drove to St. Louis, not knowing whether I was going to have tickets or not, but he did. He came through, and I saw him for a few minutes here and there because he was working hard, and I also saw Metallica, which was incredible. You know, I’m 74 years old.
Dr. A: I love that.
Cinda: I can still learn. I can still rock it out and I walked 14,000 thousand — normally, I walk with an all-terrain walker and it had a flat tire, and I couldn’t use it because I didn’t have the gear to fix it with me, and so I walked over 14,000 steps using my trekking polls. With my back that was a challenge, but it was awesome to have achieved it, and I’ve achieved it because of what I’ve been doing to change my body in more ways than one. Physical. Mental. Emotional, everything. So, I’ve been asked to ask you a follow-up question, so I’ve been thinking while you were talking. Your talk today was great.
So this morning I was asked to dog sit during Christmas vacation and I’ve also asked my son to come and he hasn’t committed to that yet because he’s waiting for a response on some jobs. How do I pose a question to him that I absolutely need an answer for? Because I want to respond to this offer, but I don’t want to commit myself if he’s going to come and see me, you know? And so, I know I don’t have control over his response but how do I handle these kinds of things?
Dr. A: Okay. Great. First of all, congratulations on everything you said. I love that you’re now becoming the Dominant Force in your life. You’re taking control. In this case, why can’t you do both? See you’re still— see what, I sense [crosstalk 00:28:40]
Cinda: I’m still hesitant. Right. I’m still hesitant.
Dr. A: And you’re still looking to control. Okay?
Dr. A: Listen, you had a good month.
Cinda: I’m thinking of — let me say, I’m thinking of just writing a question to him. I said, this is something I really need an answer for and I appreciate it if you can respond as soon as possible, and then just wait and see.
Dr. A: Okay. So let me ask you a question. Just so I understand. So someone wants you to dog sit?
Dr. A: At your house?
Dr. A: Yeah. No, at their house.
Dr. A: Okay, but could you dog sit – if he comes – could you dog sit? Could you bring the dog over to your house?
Cinda: That would be difficult.
Dr. A: Okay, but you can also, you know, I’m not trying to solve the problem. I’m just saying that to me, I think you can have both. I think the bottom line is if he comes and stays with you, great. He comes and stays. You go over and see the dog, take care of the dog, you know, when he’s there he’s got a very busy schedule. He’s not — or you basically, if he comes over and stays in the house, is it a nice house you’re gonna dog sit at?
Cinda: Yeah. It’s okay.
[00:29:48] Dr. A: Okay, so you can have both. See you still want control. Okay? And you can’t have control because you don’t, you had a great month. Okay, let’s look at it this way, you had a great month. Habits of consciousness, the Micro Habits of helping our mind become more and more open, being able to reframe is a lifetime journey. It’s not something you do for a month and then all of a you wiggle your nose because you’re kind of going back to similar things that you talked about last month, and you had a good month, you saw him, you got to respond, he got tickets for you, I mean everything happened in a positive way, but you are the Dominant Force in your life. So bottom line is, my advice to you – do you want to dog sit?
Cinda: Well, yeah, I could use the money.
Dr. A: Okay. Then take [crosstalk 00:30:38]. Remember, you need to make the choices that support you, not with the hope. So the money is important for you right now, so dog sit. That’s not even open, and then, if he comes? You’ll work around it. You’ll build in the flexibility. He can stay at your house, or whatever, I mean, I don’t know the logistics, but I wouldn’t waste a second thinking about it. Hope he comes, but don’t put — see you’re looking at putting him on a decision-making basis and that’s one of the reasons we talked about last month, why he kind of moved away from you, because you’re trying to control. So, stop it.
Cinda: Okay. All right. Yeah, and I need the money because one of my goals is to walk 350 miles on the Camino de Santiago next spring.
Dr. A: Awesome. That’s awesome.
Cinda: So I need money for that trip.
Dr. A: By the way, you’re not 74 years old biologically, because you’re doing this work. I’m looking at your smile. You’re basically open, curious, you want to grow, you’re getting out here and learning. You’re all the things I’m talking about. Remember, the amount of time you’re on this earth is dependent on here, not on your body, and bottom line is like you said, you’ve got some physical things, but it’s not stopping you from doing the things that you want to do. The more you focus on the things that you need to do, which include taking this dog sitting job, the more your son will want to be with you, because you’re independent first, right? Not dependent.
Dr. A: Right?
Cinda: Right, right, right, right and I’m a 9% survivor from brain surgery.
Dr. A: You keep amazing me girl!
Cinda: Yeah. It’s awesome.
Dr. A: All right. Enjoy yourself. Have fun. Enjoy the dog sitting and hopefully he’ll bring you a present and everything you want.
Cinda: Thank you. Love you. Bye-bye.
Dr. A: Okay, Rach, who’s up?
Rachel: All right, next up we have Kathryn. Kathryn, can you come off camera? There you are.
Kathryn: Hey, how are y’all?
Dr. A: Hi, Kathryn.
Kathryn: Hi Dr. A, thank you so much. First of all, I’ve been an Optavian for two years now and I’m more excited about my emotional health and the bad baggage I’ve lost from that, than I am the 35 physical pounds I’ve lost. So just going in saying thank you for that, and so here’s my question, I’m actually, today, two weeks post surgery. Two weeks post-op. I am a week ahead on where I’m supposed to be with my healing. I’ve had umpteen surgeries in my life. The last one I had, I was 13 years younger. I was in my 40’s. I’m 60 now. I was cleared to drive a week ahead of time. I was off my pain meds in four days. My muscle relaxers in five. My energy’s out the wazoo, and so at first I was thinking, “Oh. Well this is just because I’m drinking the EAA’s, and it’s, you know, the magic elixir for my healing,” but listening to you talk, it’s made me do a lot of reflection on the power of healing physically in our body based on where we are in our mind. So, I was wondering if you could kind of address that a little bit and kind of help me get my messaging right so that when I’m talking to clients, I can have it to where it makes sense.
Dr. A: Well first of all, congratulations. You look great. You certainly don’t look like you’re 60 chronologically, which is awesome.
Kathryn: Thank you.
Dr. A: The second part is, yeah, the tremendous power of our mind over our body is — you can’t even, there’s no way to really explain, but I will give you — so they took, basically, they’ve done some studies and they took a group of students and they basically, not students, they took house cleaners from hotels, and they took one group and they said, your house cleaning that you’re doing, working in the housekeeping industry. When you do that, it’s dramatically helping your body. Everything you do is a form of exercise. It’s movement. It’s tremendous in helping your body. They did that to half of the group, and the other half they didn’t do anything. They just studied and looked at their blood work, their BMI’s, they looked at all the aspects, after six months. The group that in here [Dr. A points to his head] was told that this work was helping them improve their bodies, exercising, by exercising, the movement, all their bloodwork was dramatically different. The jobs were exactly the same. So the answer is unequivocally, yes.
Your mind is powerful at helping us overcome things. It allows us to be resilient. It improves our immunological surveillance system. That’s why meditation, all these things — stress reduction — all these things dramatically improve our ability to heal and to thrive, and when we’re thriving — we can even, you know, Deepak Chopra, years ago, looked at people that had coronary heart disease and he found that there were people that lived to be a hundred. That their coronary arteries were basically, just barely open, and then there were people that died of heart attacks, where the coronary arteries had no plaque in them at all, because of the change in their attitude. So I’m a firm believer. I can tell you this, I’ll tell you a quick story, as a critical care physician I took care of this, I was board certified, was one of the first in the country, and whether people would go through surgery. When I started off in practice I would get all their lab work, look at their pulmonary functions, look at all these things about their physical body. Before we do these really tough surgeries that were really high risk, really high risk, and people could die. In fact, one of the [intelligible 00:36:40] section, there was 50% mortality on the table. So I mean that’s pretty heavy. One out of two, but if they didn’t, they were going to die anyway because it would rupture and towards the last 10 years of my practice I would actually bring the patients into the ICU, into my office, and I would sit down with them, and I would look at them, and I would say to them, “Do you want to live? Is this important to you?” And I said, “Because I can’t do it without you. If you’re willing to give everything and in here fight with everything you’ve got,” and that’s how I decided. If they look down at me, weren’t interested, then I usually wouldn’t do the surgery because again, going back to Viktor Frankl, right? If they had the desire to live and they’re willing to fight then I would fight with them.
Kathryn: I believe it. Yeah. It was crazy, even coming out of recovery, they had to go find my sister because she had left the waiting room because they were always used to it taking a long time for me to get ready to go to my room, and I just bounded out of the anesthesia and haven’t stopped, So I totally believe in what you’re saying. Thank you.
Dr. A: I love that. I love that. See, one last thing too, just to give you more encouragement, because you’re doing this work, and you’re becoming that Dominant Force, and you’re allowing — I always say that when things happen in my life now, it’s like water on a duck’s back. You know, you face it. You let it roll off, and you move on. It’s going to help you in your journey to reach your healthy weight. Being exactly what you want and create the level of fitness because you’re now becoming that Dominant Force in your life. It’s more important than anything and it gives you the versatility and the psychological flexibility to be successful in all areas of your life. So congratulations.
Kathryn: Thank you. Thank you.
Dr. A: Okay, Rach, who have we got?
Rachel: All right, next up we have Terri. Terri, can you come on camera?
Terri: Trying to.
Dr. A: Hi, guys! How are you?
Terri: There we are. Hi. I’m Terri Sprouse and this is my husband Dr. Gary Sprouse. It’s actually his question.
Dr. A: Oh, good.
Gary: Hi, how are you doing? So, Terry and I have been on the OPTAVIA program for over a year and we’ve been doing great. It’s an awesome program. I really like it, but I’m a primary care doctor, on the Eastern shore of Maryland. The opposite side of the bay from Annapolis, where apparently you used to live, right? I was intrigued by your stuff on stress because I just finished writing a book on how to have less stress, it’s called, Highway to Your Happy Place, but one of the questions that keeps coming up is, that I see a lot of, like psychologists and books are written about, “be here now” and “be present,” and saying things like, “just live for today. Don’t worry about tomorrow,” That kind of stuff, and what see though, as humans, our greatest skill is looking, being able to envision the future and plan for it or to try and avoid it. What I see then is the side effect of being able to envision the future of worry. So the question is, how do we get rid of worry and still be able to envision the future?
Dr. A: Great question. First of all, what they’re saying is not what I’m saying. I’m saying that being fully present, in the moment, allows you to reframe your past to serve you in the moment, and envisioning the future gives you — it’s the filter that allows you in the moment, in the present, to make the choices that move you towards the future you want. You know, Aristotle said this, but “final cause.” Everything we do is for a reason, right? Not necessarily for a good reason, but everything we do is for a reason, and having that guidance, that in the moment there’s something we’re doing for our future is critical. So when I’m with a patient or with a client and talking to them, what I’m looking for is to unlink their stored trauma from the past, which is having a negative effect on their present because when they get stimulus in the present that triggers that stored trauma, and they haven’t released it. They basically go to that space and they build a cognitive emotive loop, and then they go back into that place. So they stay in the past. Moving into the future is that people have anxiety, like you said, about the future, because they have a default future. They’re not putting any effort into modifying, changing, increasing, improving their identity. Improving their standards and moving forward, so they’re now creating a different trajectory for their future. So they’re worrying about their future without doing anything to impact it.
[00:41:29] They’re worried about, usually, the things that people worry about, loss of control, loss of security, loss of approval, and loss of oneness, that they’re connected to what’s going on around them, and yet we have all those. They’re all abundant inside of us, and that worry into the future, that anxiety that you’re talking about is based on repeating or seeing the trajectory of their present and their past continuing in the wrong direction. So what I say is let’s sit down and figure out, what do you want? That’s what I talked about earlier in this talk today. What do you want? What game are you playing? Are you sitting there just letting life happen to you? Because if you are, it doesn’t matter what your identity is, it’s random and you’re just going to continue to be at the effect of someone else rather than being the effect of yourself. So the first thing with patients, and I’m talking about patients that have, you know, tough, tough things going on in their lives, right? They come up, and let’s say they have — and you know, I’m not going to get into how, you know, can we cure cancer? But I will tell you this, is if you’re diagnosed with something, if your attitude is that, “I’m gonna enjoy my life, and I’m gonna focus on my family, and the things that are important. Maybe I wanted to go on a trip,” whatever those things are, I’m gonna help my patient focus on those things and the joy that comes through accomplishing those puts you into the gain that they’re having in their lives.
Whether their life has a month left or 50 years left, and so the whole idea is for people to understand, to become the Dominant Force, and take full responsibility inside and not do what most people do, which is become a victim. Right? Most people live in victimhood. They go, “Oh, woes me. I’ve been diagnosed with this or diagnosed with that,” and bottom line is, just like I was talking about, Deepack Chopra, the bottom line is, if you’re willing to now reframe yourself, open yourself up, and recognize that you can change your standards daily, figure out what’s important in your life, the high valued items, and then live your life to those high valued items, and it doesn’t require a lot of physical things to do that. It’s really more — like, I can tell you that doing this, this hour that we’re doing together, and talking to you Doc, and being able to, hopefully, you maybe tune that a little bit, right? Improve your your flexibility to work with your patients. Means a lot to me.
That’s the 8% of the transforming self is. If I can come look in your perspective and you’re looking in my perspective, and you leave this conversation better to serve your patients, and by the way, the things you’re doing, helping mentally, are more important than any of the things you’re doing physically. If they get hit by a car or need open heart surgery, or have an infection, boom, write the medication, but I can tell you the work you’re doing inside with them is more powerful in the overall quality of their life than any of those things, does that make sense?
Gary: Absolutely. That’s one of the things that I find with the new physicians. They’re not, they’re ignoring that because they’re so busy typing on their computer and checking boxes that they’re forgetting. I just had a patient who was 80 years old and had horrible emphysema and she went to see her doctor. She said, “You need to lose weight and exercise,” and the patient laughed at her and she goes, “Do you see who I am?” And the doctor’s like, “No. This is serious.” “I’m like I’m 80 years old. I have horrible emphysema. Look at me. Like, this is, that’s not good advice for me, right?
Dr. A: That’s right. That’s right. So good. Well listen. I’m really happy. I’d love to read your book. Bottom line [00:45:09]
Gary: I’ll send you a copy.
Dr.A: Great. Awesome. That sounds great and hopefully, was that helpful?
Gary: Yeah, absolutely. What I found is — what I’ve been finding is, like when people are looking into their vision, the future that they tend to focus on, all the bad things that can happen. So when I ask them, “Tell me some good things that might happen in the future.” They go, “Ummmm. Yeah.” So we’re programmed, I think you mentioned this, we’re programmed to look for the negative because that’s how we’ve survived, but it’s a habit and so we get so used to looking for the bad things and feeling bad because they’re — we’re worried about them now that we forget that, you know, good things can happen too, and I think that’s what you’re talking about. You can focus on the good things and make them happen and that’s the power of being able to envision the future. So what I try to do is work with patients. Say, “Hey, stop focusing on the bad things. Focus on the good things because that makes you feel good right now.”
Dr. A: Yeah. No, absolutely. You know, bottom line is, I always reframe. I’ve always reframed. My whole life I’ve reframed, and reframing is the most powerful thing because how you frame, how you perceive things, determines the outcome. It’s not the stuff’s going to happen to you and obviously as a physician, you know, we’ve been taught tradition. That’s why I left it, by the way, I was reacting to disease and now I’m helping people create health in their life and the therapeutic index of this hour talk didn’t hurt anybody and it might helped. So, all right Doc. Great hearing from you guys, and Terry, thanks for setting him up to be successful.
Dr. A: See you guys. Bye.
Dr. A: All right, Rach, who have we got?
Rachel: Right. Next up we have Stephanie. Stephanie, can you come on camera? There you are.
Dr. A: Hi, Steph.
Stephanie: Dr. A, what a thrill! I’ve been a coach now for a little over two years and you have literally changed my life, and one of the reasons why I became a coach was all your work on the mind. I’m a frustrated psychologist, always wanted to be one, but didn’t realize I could be one in a sense through coaching with OPTAVIA. So, two things: one, I had a question about your last several slides. Your point was pain is part of life, which is absolutely true, and I’ve been going through a lot of pain recently but, “suffering is optional.” Could you help me understand what you mean by that? Because suffering to me — somebody’s going to be walking in in just a minute so I apologize for the interruption — suffering and pain to me are synonymous. Could you just break down what you mean by suffering is optional? Are you talking about how we react to the pain?
Dr. A: Yes. Yes.
Stephanie: Okay, so [crosstalk 00:48:08]
Dr. A: Since you’re kind of the psychologist want to be, suffering is neurosis. The same thing, not the same thing, but they’re similar. So if you looked at it traditionally in psychology, the way a psychiatrist would talk about it, neurosis means you’re taking something and you’re now creating cognitive emotive loops and you’re eternally dwelling on it, right? And you’re ruminating about it. It’s the voice in your head. It’s what keeps you from sleeping at night, right?
Dr. A: The pain is the actual event that occurred that was painful. So, you know, just in my own life, obviously, unexpectedly, my wife dying is painful. It’s a painful thing, but I don’t suffer about it and I suffer not about it at all. I mean, I’m not saying that I didn’t grieve about it, but I would grieve about it, sense it, and I would actually turn it because remember, you can reframe everything. So I’ll just give you a radical example of this, so I would sense that, feel that, and I would think whatever brought the memory up about her. I would then reframe it about the joy of having that part of my life, right? So I would reframe it to the joy and one of the biggest ones are my girls, right? Oh, yeah. I see her every day in my girls. So now it’s a joy. So something that at one time was painful, now is joyful, and the memory is — we’ll cry and laugh at the same time. I was just doing it with my older daughter last night. She just got married, she’s getting ready to go to Britain and we were talking about something about her mom and we laughed and cried, but it was joyful. It wasn’t, “Oh, woes me. I’m without my mom for five years” You know? That’s what I’m talking about. So our ability to fully accept. Acceptance of what’s happening and then release.
[00:50:02] It’s basically releasing, because inside of us we have all this stored trauma because growing up we didn’t have it. As a critical care physician, I was ruthless. I used to tell people to jump and then tell them how high after they were in the air, because if I didn’t people died within five minutes. They were brain-dead. So I was at a very different level in my life. I was very much the self-authoring self. Chief of my department. Director of critical care and the nurses responded, and they responded with respect because they knew it was necessary. I couldn’t do this work 20 years ago when I was doing that. I just didn’t have the skill set. So I actually spent the time to work on it and remember 10 thousand, probably now I’ve had over 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours of deliberate practice will allow you to become a professional. Deliberate practice, not just repeating the same thing, but being coached.
I mean I work with some of the top conscious leaders in the world. They mentor. I’m mentored every week by them because this is a continual process and also, again, understanding that my frame, that every day I can look back and now my frame of reference is different than it was even yesterday, because if every day you’re not growing and you’re staying the same then you’re not going to be highly adaptable to the changing world, because five years ago you couldn’t go on and tell chat GPT to write a talk for you, just didn’t exist, right? And today the frame of those things complicates life for someone that is irrelevant, in other words, they have not done anything to grow. So the whole idea of pain versus suffering is — suffering is self-obligation. We suffer because we have preferences. We want the world to be a certain way and honestly, when we really understand — I find it interesting, recently somebody pretty well known, a professor, at a huge university started talking about predeterminism. Saying that everything is predetermined and that’s the biggest croc of crap. Yeah, you’re here because your grandfather met your grandmother, but how you are today is fully under your control. You’re the Dominant Force in your life and unless we take radical responsibility we have no chance of actually, really thriving in our lives. If we’re a victim and think that the control is outside of us, we lose that, and that is in my opinion in this day and age, where people are already pointing at each other, blaming everybody. That’s complete nonsense. So anyway, does that make sense?
Stephanie: I just want to give you a quick testimony that this whole thing about victimhood really has helped me because I didn’t realize that was the loop I was in, but my brother is fighting for his life with cancer right now and it’s the third time the cancers come back. Real quickly, I looked at and thought about going below the line and I realized I have been a hero and it’s because I’m the middle child, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right? I want to rescue my brother. I want him to live. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but all of this is very helpful. Thank you for clarifying that, and one thing you said at the end of your talk was about practicing gratitude, and you said honor the flow of life, and these are very strong biblical concepts to me and I see that all throughout what you do in OPTAVIA, and practicing gratitude, and just talking about this wonderful place we live in. So, thank you. I could talk to you for hours, but I know you got others, so thanks for clarifying that. I hope I get to meet you in person one day.
Dr. A: Thanks. Enjoyed it very much. Okay, we have time for probably one more question, Rachel.
Rachel: Okay, we have Tonya up next. Tonya, can you come on camera? Tonya?
Tonya: Yes, I am trying to.
Rachel: We can hear you. There you are.
Dr. A: Hi, Tonya.
Tonya: Hi, Dr. Anderson. I saw you last weekend.
Dr. A: Yeah! Great seeing you again.
Tonya: Yeah, you too. I had a quick question because I help a lot of people in, just kind of, in a group of women, and they ask the question a lot about wanting to personally grow but there’s conflict in their relationship when they do that because their spouses might not be on board with wanting to personally grow. So there’s a fear of separation. Of growing apart. I was wondering if you could speak to that, just in a growth mindset. When your spouse or significant other doesn’t want to join that, and the fear that spouses might have. Just speaking to in general of growth.
Dr. A: Yeah. Yeah. So, the thing that comes to mind is the difference between co-committed relationships and codependent relationships, and if they’re saying that then they’re most probably, I mean, I’m not there with them, and I’m kind of projecting, but I would just say, because, from my experience, they’re probably in a codependent relationship. So a codependent relationship is you need each other because you fulfill holes you have in your lives where you have trauma inside of you and you take care of that. So if the conditions are right, and usually just like we were talking about just a moment ago, if you’re a hero for your spouse, right? And they see you as a hero then you built dependency versus co-commitment. So here’s the thing for each and every one of us, if we’re in a codependent relationship, we’re unconscious, and we are actually suffering because there’s nothing that causes more suffering than being in a codependent relationship because conditions have to be a certain way or they don’t get along, right?
So they’re forcing people to do things that are inauthentic and when we’re out of integrity with ourselves it causes all kinds of problems. So, my advice to them is they have to make a decision: do they want to work on themselves and be able to start becoming conscious, and thriving, and being the Dominant Force in their life? With the consequences that it may not bode well for the relationship or do they want to stay in a codependent relationship? It really comes down to that. Now here’s the good news about it, if someone becomes more conscious, because I know in some relationships I have with family members, because I’ve become highly conscious, I have great relationships because I no longer allow them to trigger me. They don’t trigger me. So I basically challenge versus you know blame. I basically coach versus hero, and I basically am in position where I’m a creator versus basically a victim in those circumstances. So it’s actually improved the relationship.
So with that, as they do this work they can become actually more in the empowerment triangle, and what they’ll sense is that in their relationships rather than having conflict, they won’t allow that to happen. So before if, it’s like this and now they’re here and their spouse is like this, they’re not there to resist and that will dissipate and bring this down. Does that make sense?
Tonya: It totally makes sense and what if there’s, I mean, I guess it comes to like a future decision when just the one doesn’t want to shift at all or doesn’t want to be flexible about it, then just continue the personal growth, which is most important.
Dr. A: Yeah, because again, your ability to thrive in your life is dependent on only you. It’s not dependent on anybody else. Your ability to love somebody isn’t dependent on anybody else, that’s conditional love. Unconditional love is that you are full of love and you want to share that and you share it without conditions to your significant other, and if you’re in love with someone then you’ll start realizing that I’m gonna stop “heroing” them. I’m gonna stop enabling them, and I’m going to start supporting them in a way where they can empower them to become successful because otherwise, it stays in the victim triangle. It becomes a reactivity. It’s full of fear, distrust, judgment, and none of those things create healthy relationships.
Tonya: Excellent. Thank you very much.
Dr. A: You’re welcome. All right. Great seeing you again, Tonya. All right everybody. Well listen, we’re out of time and I want to thank you guys so much. This was really exciting. I thought we had a lot of great questions. I love the courage of really, you guys reaching out and talking about the things you talked about. Very excited about where we’re going with this. Remember, I just want to end with two things: this is designed for anybody. Anybody in your community. Anybody you know in your life. Not just people that are part of our mission, but just people in general that want to learn more about themselves, and you want to help them. So with that, you guys, have an amazing rest of your week. God bless. See you. Bye-bye.