If you’re lucky enough to grow up in an area where you can get a basic education, what are the things you would expect to learn? Reading, writing, arithmetic. It’s all good stuff. But at what point are we taught how to effectively communicate with other human beings, up to and including ourselves, let alone the ones that we love?
I think we just take for granted that we’re good at that.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s suppose that somebody you love was going away on a business trip or a vacation. Would you say to them something like, “Oh you’re going away, cool. Don’t get in an airplane crash! Don’t catch some strange disease. Don’t wind up in a foreign prison.”
Is that what you’d say? I certainly hope not.
More likely, in a situation like that we’d say something along the lines of, “Oh you’re going away? Have a nice time. Have a nice flight. I hope you have a safe trip.”
In a case like that, it seems as if we communicate a little bit more about what we do want rather than what we don’t.
Reinforcing what we don’t want …
But what about how we communicate to ourselves and some of the people around us? What kind of thoughts are going on inside your own mind?
I don’t know about you, but I often catch myself thinking things like, “Don’t worry. Don’t screw up. Don’t be so dramatic.”
Often, I’ll notice what I say to my kids: “Don’t drop the dishes. Don’t forget to do your homework. Don’t stay out late. Don’t get in trouble.”
Don’t think about a pink elephant …
You’ve probably heard some version of the story or the exercise of the pink elephant: “Don’t think of a pink elephant. What pops to mind? A pink elephant!
See, our subconscious mind doesn’t hear the word “don’t.” It only hears the command, the part that comes after that.
In other words, in the examples I just used, I’m basically telling myself to worry, screw up and be dramatic. I’m also more-or-less telling my kids to drop the dishes, forget their homework, stay out late and get in trouble.
But if a friend is going away on a trip, I tell her, “Have a nice time, nice flight and safe trip.”
Do you see the difference?
My suggestion is, pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself, what you’re saying to others and what you’re hearing from others around you and notice how it makes you feel.
My guess is that when you realize that you’re not feeling very good, what you’re going to find are …
Too many pink elephants.
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