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.