Saturday, February 8, 2014

Language of Choice

The recent brouhaha over the Coca-Cola ad at the Superbowl, in which America the Beautiful was sung in many languages, suggests that at the most basic level language matters. The truth is that language matters deeply, at every level.

In her ground-breaking book Change Your Questions Change Your Life, author Marilee Adams introduced the Choice Map, which pictures two paths representing two very different mindsets: Judger and Learner. The questions we ask ourselves can lead us into the Judger Pit (What's wrong with me? Why are they so stupid?), or they can lead us down a path of thoughtful choices  (What's possible? What can I learn?). Simply by being aware of a handful of useful questions it is possible to shift from a negative to a positive outlook. Your language matters.

A Human Resources manager I know sometimes prefaces her remarks by stating "The story I'm telling myself about this situation is..." This alerts everyone that she is aware she might not have the full story. That, in fact, her story might have nothing to do with reality, but this is how she was experiencing the situation. Her approach invites  feedback and dialog. She claims responsibility for her thoughts and feelings, and lets people know the story might change over time, with more information. Such a simple sentence to convey so much... language matters.

While most of our communication takes place via words, the language of our subconscious is imagery.  By developing personalized mental images we can control our autonomic processes and immune system. In addition to healing applications, we can also direct and affect the outcome of our actions. More than twenty-five years ago I conducted my first experiment in this arena. Ready to look for a new job, I realized that I was not so interested in the specifics of what I would do; rather, I wanted a job in which I would feel connected with people and in which I would enjoy collaborative relationships that buoyed and supported me. I developed a particular image that embodied the desired feelings, and focused my energy and attention on that image in meditation and throughout the day. In short order I had a job that has more than fulfilled and embodied the feeling state that I was seeking. Although my role has changed over the years, the essence is still there. Language matters, whether it speaks in words or appears as images in your mind's eye.

Living your life with intent focuses the mind on your choices.  Notice your language... are you on the Judger or the Learner path? What stories do you tell yourself? What is your inner language, your personal imagery, saying to you? Intention, responsibility, action... the language you choose matters.

For more information on the power of questions, go to the Inquiry Institute for many great resources. Their training programs are recommended.

"Your language matters" is the second recognition in David Robinson's book The Seer.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Playing with the Patterns

You do not have a problem. You have a pattern. This intriguing assertion is the First Recognition in David Robinson's new book The Seer. Emerging from a year fraught with problems of my own making I was startled into the recognition that, in fact, the problems I experienced were the result of deeply ingrained patterns. It took me only a few minutes to identify about a dozen specific behaviors that led me down the garden path into a pit of misery. The cascade of emotions when I get triggered became very obvious. My control issues were glaring. I realized I'm still not living fully in the present; rather, I try to make the future known by rehearsing my part in it. (It doesn't take much imagination to know how effective that strategy is.) I anticipate things that don't happen.

Upon sharing these insights with a friend I was asked "what about all the good things you do?" and she promptly rattled off many positive aspects. I engage deeply and personally. There is an ebb and flow to my life... yes, I get bogged down... and I always come out of it. Nature sustains and nurtures me. I take risks and look for fresh challenges. Noting that I never considered these more positive traits in my list of patterns I realized that I, like many women and girls, am still subject to the belief that I am not good enough. On the face of it that is patently ridiculous. By all standards I live a good life and am successful. And still, it is all too easy to get mired in these false belief systems. And so I recognize that some of my patterns arise from personal experiences while others reflect the impact of cultural norms.

The Seer is about changing the stories we tell, changing our patterns. It's about allowing ourselves to be curious, to be present and to be ok with not knowing. To be willing to act without knowing what will happen. What story do I want to tell? Are my behavior patterns supporting or undermining my efforts? How can I change my mindset? Finally deciding that I needed an infusion of something other than"gray blah" I turned to Sebastian, one of my inner guides. Sebastian is fashioned after Reepicheep in the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis. He is a debonair and gallant mouse, always the first to confront any foe and face any challenge, and he does so with a decided spirit of grace and adventure. His goal is to go the the end of the world. And to the end of the world and beyond he goes, eagerly striding into the unknown, looking forward to the next adventure. This is the story I want to tell. Spending a moment with Sebastian shifts my outlook and my lightens my mood. I act. It is just that easy.

David Robinson is an artist and author. When he's not painting, writing or performing, he guides people to the field of possibilities. Get the book here: The Seer