Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Be Wordy

I've been reading a book by Anthony Robbins that was written around the year 1990. It talks about how to be successful and maximize your results and approach to life---and its a little funny to read his 1990 perspective on pop culture and current events examples (he talked about going to the movies with his wife to watch Ghost).

A lot of what he says really applies to how to improve your lifestyle and behaviors.

He says that most of our lives are conducted on autopilot---and to change, we not only have to come off autopilot consciously, but we also have to re-train all the neural pathways that lead us to the choices we make day after day. We guide our choices by the concepts of pleasure (trying to gain it) or pain (trying to reduce it). This is similar to the concepts of punishment and reward, but he really emphasizes that we need to not just try and will our way through change, but use strategies that will help lessen the strength of the neural pathways over time. We also need to work on breaking and interrupting our autopilot patterns.

One of the concepts he talks about that really interested me had to do with choosing our words. He gave the example of himself and two colleagues being in a situation where they were being screwed in a business deal. He was feeling very angry and upset, colleague #1 described himself as furious and enraged (and had the red face and bulging forehead veins to match), and colleague #2 was annoyed and peeved (sitting and observing calmly). As he assessed the situation, he realized that the way in which each person described their feelings was related to the intensity of how they felt. The way they felt was determined by their perception of how they could possibly avoid pain and gain pleasure (one thought he would better control the situation if he was seriously mad and the other thought he would make better choices if he remained in control of his emotions).

This seems like common sense, but what Anthony did next was try an experiment with himself (you know that's right up my alley!). He wanted to choose words that would affect his emotions and mental state rather than letting it occur the other way around. He thought the word "peeved" was sort of funny and ridiculous, so he began using that as a descriptor whenever he was becoming irritated. He found that instead of becoming enraged, just saying the word peeved lessened his intensity of feelings. It changed the entire tone of situations he was in.

So in relation to wellness----how do you describe yourself? What words do you choose as you talk about your attempts at lifestyle change? Are you frustrated about having trouble losing weight? Can you change the words you use to describe it that will alter the way you feel?

The bottom line is that whether you feel positively or not, the outside world is still going to keep being the same outside world---but if you can stop getting mad at traffic or the person in the 7 items or less lane who has 22 items, you just feel better. The world doesn't necessarily change, but you feel better. The long-term result is that the better you feel, the better decisions you have the capability to make.

Identify a negative descriptor you use frequently (i.e. hate, furious, depressed, etc.), and think of a more mild or silly substitute. Make an effort to replace the word and see what happens. I have a friend who really despises her admin job--and she can easily fall into the habit of saying she hates her job and she's miserable in it. Instead, I get emails from her talking about how she has a goal of working in a job where there is more tomfoolery and shenanigans....which language pattern of hers do you think makes her feel better (given that right now the admin job itself is not changing)?

Our language has somewhere between 500,000 and 750,000 words in it (more than any other), but the average person uses between 2000 and 10,000. If you look in a thesaurus, you'll find significantly more negative words than positive. It seems worth the effort to make our words more positive--even if it just helps a little, it's a pretty easy thing to do!

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