If language has the power to create reality, what are you using it for? To create a story of the future you want to live into? Or holding on to the story that keeps you from doing so?
Sometimes not knowing any better is best.
At the September 26th Sip Session, Mel Toomey, a pioneer in the organizational and personal transformation field, shared an experience he and his wife Dana had while fostering 10 children. Two of those children were teenage brothers—one of whom was terribly overweight and out of shape and only able to respond to questions via short phrases and simple words. Neither arrived with any records from their schools or otherwise.
Dana and Mel focused on readying the disadvantaged brother for school by working on his fitness and academics. As a result, he went from being barely able to walk around the block to an active player on the school basketball team, and from having little ability to communicate to academic performance on par with his peers. All in less than a year. Eventually his health and school records arrived, in which three highly-credentialed “experts” diagnosed him as severely retarded, and uneducable. (An obviously outdated term, but reflective of the times)
Imagine if Mel and Dana knew that diagnosis before the brothers arrived? Would they have assumed it to be true, and calibrated their parenting accordingly? The point of the story was that as we go about our lives, how and what we communicate shapes our reality.
How are you using language to shape your own reality?
As the session continued, many in the group shared stories of how they were using language to either create new realities or keep things as they are. For instance, I hear a lot of people, especially technical people, talk about how they are not creative – “can’t draw a stick figure.” That is a perfect case of using language to create a reality where the person doesn’t have to be creative. Other examples would be: I’m not good at math, or I don’t have anything valuable to contribute. These are all ways in which we use language to create an existence.
But what happens when your current existence is no longer tolerable?
What if you want to create a new reality for yourself or those you care about? If language can create reality, then what is a framework you can use to develop language that will call into existence the reality you want? This is where things get interesting, primarily because of the successful, yet not satisfied mindset of the population who comes to Sip Sessions. Mel instructed the group to pair up and explore three key things about themselves:
- A fundamental belief you hold as true and need no evidence to support believing it
- A value that you hold in high regard
- A commitment you are prepared to spend your life on, and the life of others on
(Go ahead, write down your own answers to these questions)
Mel had us connect the ideas by stating out loud (substitute the words you wrote above, for My Belief, My Value, My Commitment):
My Belief allows for My Value
My Value invites My Commitment
My Commitment establishes…. (then state the first word or phrase that comes to mind)
It was awkward at first, but after a little while, the group started to form language that did two things:
- Gave each person language to better understand what they are up to and out for in the world
- Provided each person with a way to engage others in the reality they seek to create
Breakthrough and validation
The most powerful part of the whole evening was that even in just this one very brief exercise, a couple of people openly realized, all at once, that they had been using language to frame their lives in a way that was keeping them from the existence they wanted. And others were able to affirm that how they had been framing their lives still lived up to their commitments. But best of all, it enabled all of us to rigorously examine something we don’t get a chance to explore very often – Is how we are presenting ourselves in the world up to the commitments we have to make it better?
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