“Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”                 – Lao Tzu

We say something similar in our circus arts program when a child or teen says ‘I can’t do this’: “If you say ‘I can’t’ you won’t; if you say ‘I can’, you will.”  I repeat this over and over again to my students. They are tired of hearing me say it. But it’s true. Why? Because your subconscious mind will believe anything you tell it…and then you will act on it because that is what you have programmed yourself to do.

Being negative is so easy…it just rolls off your tongue and spills out your mouth and there you are…berating yourself for not being able to do something and then paying the price for not being able to do it.

Try this for one day only: count the number of times you say something negative about your self, your work, a colleague, a stranger, a tv show, anything. Just one day…see what happens. Even count the negative thoughts, if you are hyper-aware. Crazy, right?

So, what’s the cure? There is no cure. There is only shifting of a behavior enough to make a small change. I call it the 2% Solution. If you can shift a behavior from negative to even semi-positive, and it accounts for only a 2% shift, you have accomplished what most people don’t: the desire to change.

Alwin Nikolais, the choreographer I studied with in the 1970’s, and whose company I toured with internationally for many years, put it another way: “If you keep dancing the same way all the time, you are going to get bored, and then the audience will be bored, and then I will be bored, and then you will be bored in the unemployment line.” He was a realist. He wanted us to explore, innovate, improvise, improve…not remain static. Our motivation? Holding onto our jobs!

My circus arts education partners and I recently conducted an artist-in-residence program we call CircusWEEK at a school in Irvington, NY. One of the teachers kept saying to her kids: “What you think is so; what you say is so; so what do you want to think and say?”  The kids latched onto ‘what you say is so…soooooo?’

The fact is that Lao Tzu was right: by your thoughts, words, actions, and habits you build your character and, eventually, your destiny. Enjoy that ride…it is very exciting to shift your behavior about 2% and then watch the change take place before your very eyes.