I read an Op Ed this week in The Washington Post from George Schultz. Remember him? He is a former U.S. secretary of labor, treasury and state, with public service going as far back as the Reagan years. He just turned 100 years old, and was looking back at the most profound lessons he learned throughout his career. The most important one, he said, was that “trust is the coin of the realm. When trust was in the room, whatever room it was—the family room, the school room, the locker room, the office room, the government room, or the military room—good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details.”
I was pondering that as I exercised this morning. What if someone had shown me a magic mirror that could tell the future? What if that mirror said I had two paths. In one, I would be obese and in pain and unable to participate in life—and in the other, I could change things, work to lose weight and keep it off, work to get strong. Would I have believed that? Would I have trusted myself enough to know that the second path was every bit as real as the first one?
Nope. I wouldn’t have trusted myself to change my life that drastically. I would have trusted that I would keep on doing exactly what I had been doing my entire life to make me so unhealthy and unhappy.
OK, how about if that magic mirror became mega magic, and told me with 100% certainty that I would work hard to lose weight and keep it off, and work to get strong? If I knew that mirror was exactly right, would it have made a difference? Yes. Yes, it would. I would be so excited about that outcome that I would have gotten started right away on that journey to becoming healthy.
That is the kind of trust we have to have in ourselves if we really are going to change our lives. We have to hold an internal certainty that we can do exactly what we are setting out to do, and that we will achieve our goals. That isn’t just true for a path to wellness; you can only achieve your tough, stretch goals if you have complete trust in yourself.
Social scientists note that to make a transformational change, you have to have three things: knowledge, beliefs and attitude. Start with knowledge—the intellectual understanding of the steps you will need to take. Of course, you might need physical knowledge as well, such as learning how to exercise appropriately and safely, concentrating on an array of exercises aimed at strengthening, endurance, flexibility, balance, and cardio.
Then you have to believe in yourself, trust in yourself. You have to know that you will reach your goals. You have to believe that the steps you are taking are the best ones to get to that outcome.
I think of attitudes a little bit like the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the spirit within you, always there, to guide and comfort and inspire. It is a daily presence that gets you through, that keeps your eye on the road in front of you. It doesn’t let you down. Having such a powerful attitude in your daily existence is a game-changer.
Now, although George Schultz didn’t speak to current events in his piece, I’m pretty sure he was talking about trusting one another, not about trusting ourselves. In my career, I trusted too easily and was often disappointed. As I have reflected on that, I believe it’s because I had so little trust in myself that I simply handed my trust over to others to take care of what I could not. That wasn’t trust so much as abdication of personal accountability. I absolutely believe that for us to learn how to build strong, trusting relationships, we have to learn how to trust ourselves first. I think we need to know, deep within ourselves, that we come together as equals, each worthy of respect and dignity, each with creativity and will and strengths. We need to all have the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes
When we trust one another, when we stand with one another, we are together a powerful people. We can and will accomplish great things. As Schultz said, good will happen.
I fought a great internal war to learn to trust myself, and I finally do. Let’s all learn that life lesson, and then let’s learn how to trust one another again. It is past time.