Leading with the chin

Leading with the chin: A term that analogizes a boxer squaring off with his opponent with his chin exposed as the most vulnerable target.  Basically, setting himself up for failure.

I do this.  I often lead with my flawed thinking and emotions.  When faced with a decision or challenge, I find that by habit, I tend to send in flawed thinking and flawed feeling first.  Thoughts and feelings that never return a good report of the challenge ahead.  And always a fatalistic forecast.  The thoughts tell it, and the feelings jump immediately into line and begin to feel it… doubt, dread, failure.  What a way to approach life eh?

Gladly, over the years, I have been slowly and gradually changing this approach.  For years, I didn’t even know I had a choice in the matter.  I didn’t know I was by subtle choice actually dispatching flawed aspects of my thinking and feeling to jump in and take the first swing at the problem.  Every time, they would get their ass handed to them then come running back to tell us how tough the task was going to be.  Yet seldom were they right.

Not to long ago, I put a specific question to myself.  When faced with a challenge or decision, I asked myself, “Why don’t you lead with your actions, and not with your flawed thinking and flawed emotions”? 

By this I simply meant that when approaching a task or decision, I would shut my brain off so it didn’t dispatch any weaklings, and just start doing.  Doing what?  Doing the most simple part of the task at hand.  Then when done, do the next simple task.  And the next, and next, and next.  All the time, keeping my chin protected by not engaging my flawed thinking and feeling.  I shut it off and shut it out.  I did not invite it to help with the fight.  And at the same time, my actions were beginning to get the upper hand in the fight.

Within a very short period of doing the simple beginning tasks, lo and behold, the healthy part of my thinking showed up.  The unhealthy part had always in the past, shoved healthy aside at the outset.  But this time, actions started, and healthy then jumped in.  There is no room for both healthy and unhealthy at the same time.

So as healthy thinking and actions work together, healthy feelings then show up.  The three together then really get to work on the task at hand.  I find I am really able to work my opponent into the corner.

Does this mean I am 100% successful at every challenge I take on?  No.  But it does mean that nothing defeats me the way it used to.  I seldom feel those dark feelings of dread and anxiety over a challenge.  Nothing is as bad as the unhealthy part of my thinking forecasts it will be.

The day may come when I begin to actually lead with my healthy thinking and healthy feeling.  But for today, leading with my actions helps get the first few blows in, and doesn’t leave me exposed to start each fight with taking one on the chin.




About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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11 Responses to Leading with the chin

  1. Heidi says:

    Great imagery. Of course, I agree. I couldn’t have said it like this but I’m glad you did! Thank you, Chaz!

  2. Chaz says:

    Thanks Heidi… it just struck me this way… no pun intended. I got tired of stepping in with my weaknesses first. Took getting knocked around to wake up a bit. Yet still, only a beginning.

  3. scotty says:

    I had a relapse after my first two weeks of sobriety while on vacation, so this post resonated with me a great deal. I needed it. Thanks.

  4. Chaz says:

    No problem Scotty… many of us have been there. And often leading with our unrecovered addict or alcoholic thinking is the exact thing that gets us in trouble. Thats why 12 step programs offer so many suggestions on simple thoughts to adopt…. such as the AA slogans. We desperately need more poductive ways to think so we can step into the ring of life and lead with something more powerful than our chin. Let me know if you ever need anyone to talk to. Just post somewhere on my blog and we can connect via email.



  5. thank you Chaz, your posts are always edifying

  6. Pingback: What to do when being positive feels fake? « Tough-Minded Optimism

  7. kurt says:

    Thank you for a clearer description of what “leading with the chin” actually means. I was told that I do this 13 years ago and am just really starting to live differently.

    • Chaz says:

      Glad to hear it Kurt…. change takes work and time, so if you are making changes, know that you are doing something that few actually do… hats off to you.


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