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February 01, 2022 8 Comments
Usually, I'm all about horses! Today, however, I'm going to talk about us. You and me!
Psychologists study people's patterns, their emotions, their behaviors, etc. So that makes me a psychologist too, just not a professional or licensed one. I'm more of a practical psychologist. I'm constantly observing patterns. First of all, my own patterns, and second, all the people around me. I notice when people react and I try to understand why they react. Then I look back at myself and notice when I react, and try to understand why I react. You will often hear me draw parallels between horses and people in that regard. It seems obvious to me that horses respond and react too, and we, as horse owners, have to find ways to help them change or adapt their instinctive behaviors if they prove unhelpful in anyway.
Because I'm so passionate about the subject of growth, I've made decade long deep dives into all the literature available regarding, leadership, behavioral change, psychological adaptation, emotional and chemical reactions and expression, and more. I could write books about the things I've learned and maybe someday I will. For today, I'm just going to focus on one thing I've noticed about you and me.
How important are the words we use?
Did you know that there are over 170,000 words in the English language? Did you know that among those words are about 3,000 words that describe emotion? More importantly, did you know that among those 3,000 words, most people use only a handful of words to describe their experience in any given situation? In other words, I might use the phrase, "I'm angry," to describe my experience because it's easy to remember, even though my experience might be more like, "I'm a little put out." The first phrase is easier to access, I don't have to think, and my brain will jump to it like a shortcut. Meaning... I might express full blown anger because that's what I decided I was feeling, when clearly, a mild irritation wouldn't warrant that. Anthony Robbins (world renown performance coach) says that one of our top human needs, is to act congruent with what we think our current identity is. The phrase, "I'm angry," is an identity statement. It's, "who I am right now." Meaning, if I say that's who I am right now, then that's how I'll act right now. So, back to the first question... how important are the words we use?
Answer: Extremely important. We often use words to explain our situation, believing the situation came first, but the words we choose make a framework for future situations, and it's not even on purpose. Words can also define our identity, locking us into cages we call life patterns. I'm hoping to bring home a few important, useful strategies for making wordplay work for you and me so we don't have to live in negative cycles and we can be free to see more of our potential.
Try to remember the acronym: "AIR." I love acronyms because they help me remember simple steps to success. We all need AIR to breathe and ironically, we can use the acronym for understanding and conveniently making wordplay a winning strategy in our day to day lives.
A - Awareness of patterns.
I - Interrupt patterns.
R - Replace patterns.
That's the cycle. The first step in wordplay is to identify the words you use that support you and the one's that don't. For instance, I learned years ago, I was constantly, "out of time." I didn't have time for anything I wanted. My natural curiosity for psychology led me to observe my word patterns. Sure enough, I was saying things that seemed real to me at the time, like "I don't have any time." And I was saying it often! One person, close to me, even commented on how often I say "I don't have time." So there you have it. Step one. Awareness. Now I'm aware of the pattern.
Step two, interrupt the pattern. How do you interrupt a word pattern? Luckily, it's not that hard. Sometimes just being aware interrupts it. If not, you can for starters, just say to yourself. "Whoa, there it is again. I said it again. Okay, no more, new pattern coming up right now!" You might have to be firm with yourself, screaming, "STOP! WAIT! I don't want to be limited this way anymore." There are many other ways to stop patterns, including, reserving value of the pattern, making it seem smaller, moving your body, letting it play out, etc. etc. The important thing is to see the pattern, not beat yourself up about it, and stop it in it's tracks. Isn't that how you break most cycles?
Step three. Replace the pattern. Can you just say the opposite, "I do have time."? As it turns, out, yes you can. You can go deeper if you want as well, but in the beginning it's fun and simple to just play the opposite. Later, if you're bold, you can dive into words, meanings, affirmations, how they do and don't work at different times and for different reasons, etc. But for starters, I find it's always best to be simple. Step one, become aware, then interrupt the pattern. Say to yourself. "Okay, I'm going to say this differently." Then step three. Replace the word pattern with the opposite. "I do have time."
Repeat the AIR cycle over and over until it starts to work. You breath air in and out all day long. Keep using air. Don't do it once, do it often.
Important side note: I use the word "wordplay" to give us permission to play with words, not make rules.
Other important side note: It's easy to believe it won't work. I've written whole essay's on why positive affirmations don't always work. But the truth is, saying I believe it won't work is an affirmation of sorts too, just another negative one.
So what are some negative words patterns you might have? Write them down.
Do you know, some people have a hard time putting it into words? It's often just a feeling, like not feeling safe, for example. So... put your feeling into words. Write the words down. Begin to be aware of your translated feelings. Begin to be aware of your word patterns.
Do you say you don't have time? How about, being fearful. Do you say you are afraid? I'm not saying you should be fearless. I'm just saying, you might want to be aware of it. That's the "A" in AIR. You can decide how much you want to change. Do you say you don't have friends that like hanging out with you? Do you say you don't have friends you can trust? Do you say "life is hard," "a pain in my neck, a pain in my butt."? Do you say, "I'll never be good enough, people don't love me, people don't care."? Do you say, "I don't have what it takes."? Do you say, "people are wrong, and I'm right," or "I have to do everything myself."? Do you say, you've got it all together but find yourself beating up on yourself or the world later? Do you notice the patterns? Will you notice them?
Words have the ability to lift you up or hold you down. First become aware. Journal about your patterns. Discover some truths. But don't quit there. Some people discover how negative they've become and that makes them spiral down, beating themselves up even more, failing to register they're still doing it. But you know about step two. Interrupt the cycle! Stop those words in their tracks. Quite literally, stop them. The other day, I was on the phone with a close, very clever friend. She said to me, "I was riding my horse and found out I was doing it wrong." Then, all by herself, she said, "Wait!, Let me rephrase that. I found an opportunity for growth." I was elated when I heard her catch herself. She saw the pattern and stopped, and even went to step three, and replaced the pattern with a new one.
So now it comes down to you. Here's your homework. Research your patterns to become fully aware, make plans to interrupt your patterns, even rehearse interrupting them in a play like fashion. We call this role playing. I'll say to myself, even when I don't really mean it, "I don't have time." Then I'll slam the book down and say, "STOP!". Then I'll rehearse that last piece, one I've also planned for, "I do have time. I can do anything!" As a life pattern, which one is more likely to help me succeed, the former, or the latter? It's obvious right? So now it's your turn.
Comment below and tell me if you're up for the challenge. I don't need to hear your negative old stuff, you can share if you want to, but what I really want to hear, is that you're willing to do the homework. To uncover a few patterns, not beat yourself up about it, and train new ones. After all, our brains are a lot like horses in training. And if you believe you can make changes, you can! If you believe you can't, I'm hear to interrupt you and tell you that you absolutely can! I believe in you!
One last note: When a horse fails at a task, all good horse trainers know to give him or her some grace. Do the same for yourself. Grace, plus practice equals a new life. Grace without practice won't get you any further, and practice without grace will only make you a difficult person to be around. Allow failure and mistakes and out of the box problems to exist, and keep practicing to make the future the way you want it.
I look forward to hearing from you!
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