Communication takes you in a direction. It directs your thinking and actions.
Right now, you're making decisions in your life based on some form of communication. It could be a story in your head about who you are, or why you are that person.
It could be based on a feeling you had, such as a traumatic experience years ago, which created a story in your mind.
Your job as an intelligent human being is to be mindful and intentional about the communication you use, both to yourself and others.
You can manipulate and change the story, and its inherent meaning, of who you are and why you're that person.
You can also change the story about who you're going to be. Psychologists have already found that it's wise for decision-making to consider your current and future self as two different people.
Changing how you communicate to yourself internally and to others externally is fundamental to changing your life. It's fundamental to getting the results you want in life.
I recently read the book Average Sucks, by communication expert Michael Bernoff, who is the founder and president of the Human Communications Institute. I got a lot of helpful ideas about my own communication from that book.
In this brief article, I will share just a few of the insights I got from Average Sucks:
1. When Creating a Desired Mental Visualization, Put Yourself in First Person
Think about something you really want. It could be having a million dollars, a successful company, a happy family, a bestselling book.
Imagine yourself in that future.
Do you see yourself there?
According to Bernoff, when most people are imagining a desired future, they often don't actually see themselves in that visualization. They may see family and friends. But they don't see themselves.
If they do see themselves, they often see themselves from the third person, as though they are looking at a different person from the outside.
Instead of seeing yourself from the outside, you want to put yourself in the first person, walking through the experience.
"I'm going to do this."
You need to genuinely see and feel yourself having the experience.
This is you.
This is your reality.
2. Avoid First Person Thinking and Communicating About Stuff You Want to Put in the Past
According to Bernoff, when people have attached themselves to a particular identity, they continue to speak as though something is still happening, even when it's not.
Think about someone who hasn't had a sip of alcohol for a decade but continues to call himself an alcoholic.
When detaching yourself from a negative behavior or former identity, you do the opposite of what you do when creating an identity. Rather than being in the first person in your communication and visualization, you put yourself in the third person, and make the language past-focused and externalized.
For example, rather than saying, "I'm an alcoholic," you'd say, "I was an alcoholic because [fill in the blank]..."
"I'm not an alcoholic anymore because of [fill in the blank]"
You're not THAT person anymore. Again, psychology research shows that, as a person, you're going to change, and actually have changed a lot in the past 10 years.
The problem is that your communication hasn't changed. You've changed, but you keep telling yourself the same story in your head, thus locking yourself into unnecessary and limiting behavior and emotion patterns.
3. Get Yourself Into a Peak State and Change Your Language
The opposite of the peak experience--sudden depression, fatigue, even the "panic fear" that swept William James to the edge of insanity--is the outcome of passivity. This cannot be overemphasized. Depression--or neurosis--need not have a positive cause (childhood traumas, etc.). It is the natural outcome of negative passivity. The peak experience is the outcome of an intentional attitude. 'Feedback' from my activities depends upon the degree of deliberately calculated purpose I put into them. ―Colin Wilson
You get yourself into a peak state by feeling positive emotion. While feeling great and expecting good things, you intentionally communicate with yourself.
- "I'm going to do this."
- "I'm going to succeed."
- "I was born for this."
- "I'm not that person anymore."
Creating a new language pattern only takes a second, but it changes everything about your identity and behavior.
I realized while reading Average Sucks that my language around a specific and highly important goal of mine was negative. It wasn't exactly negative, but it wasn't as emotionally positive and clear as it could be.
Moreover, I had lots of baggage around my story of that goal that got in the way of my effectively communicating my goal to other people.
Bernoff helped me realize that I needed to focus on the bigger picture "why" of my goals than to focus on the specifics.
Why do I really want this?
Explain the"why," don't necessarily justify or explain your "how."
That was super helpful for me because when explaining my goals, I was focused on particular outcomes that enabled my deeper why. But in explaining the outcomes I wanted, whether making more money or selling more books, I felt the need to justify why that was my goal.
This created negative emotional patterns and unclear communication. My story felt off, and as a result, my behavior was off.
Instead, when I stopped telling people what I was doing and instead explained my deeper "why," in my case, that I loved helping and supporting young men at a pivotal age in their lives, because I had supportive mentors who helped me when my life was a mess as teenager, then no one questions you. Instead, they support you.
I also realized that when visualizing my big goals, I always saw myself in the third person or not in the picture. I'm now in the driver seat.
I'm not afraid to tell my story anymore.
I'm focused on my "why."
"I'm going to do this."
I feel incredible about it.
How you communicate with yourself and others shapes your worldview, attitudes, and behaviors.
You can intentionally change behavior patterns by first changing communication patterns.
What is your story?
What would happen if you changed that story?
What would happen if you put the past in the past?
What would happen if you put the future in the present?
What would happen if you were intentional about how you saw yourself, spoke to yourself, and spoke to others?