In a recent roundtable discussion I was asked to share my most powerful tool for personal growth through self-awareness. It’s impossible to say that any one tool is the most powerful, because it depends on the person. So maybe I need to develop a tool for choosing the “most” anything for a group of people I don’t know. Until then, this is the tool that never fails to teach me something about how I am building my own walls and sabotaging my dearest dreams is this two-part question.
“What do you hear yourself saying over and over and what does it mean to you when you say it?”
This a precision power tool. It cuts through the daily lies you tell yourself and the beliefs you’ve adopted from others so many years ago you may never dig down to the source.
Usually, what you hear yourself saying over and over sounds harmless, until you get honest about what it means. Then you find that it’s about as harmless as the trickle of water that slides ever so stealthily under the eaves in your attic every time it rains. No one rain storm does much damage, but after one rainy season the wood is beginning to rot. After a few years the hole that allowed the trickle is big enough to invite a stream.
For most of us, it’s a way of making light of our weaknesses, or our strengths. It’s the way we say, “I’m such a klutz,” every time we spill our coffee or drop a pen. It’s the way we say, “That was nothing,” when someone raves about a project we’ve completed. It’s the excuses we make for our mistakes and the humble pie we hit ourselves with to avoid accepting praise.
But you cannot say anything to someone else without hearing it yourself. So while the other person may hear you say it once, or maybe a few times, you hear it every single time you say it -- especially if you say it silently, to yourself. Those brain-reflex responses to certain situations become our conditioned belief about ourselves. That's not harmless at all.
Usually, what you hear yourself saying over and over sounds obvious.
I have a client whose conditioned response to anything he wanted to do used to be, “I don’t know how to do that.” We played with some obvious reframes such as, “I will need to learn how to do that,” and “I know I will be able to learn how to do that.”
No dice. That bit of wall wasn’t budging. A little further into the session he talked to me about other coaches and advisors who had taught him how to do the things he said he didn’t know how to do. He did know how to do them, but had not felt good about the way he was told to go about it and had invested a large amount of money, with no real return to show for it.
So the meaning behind his “I don’t know how to do that” statement was really that he didn’t know a way to do it that felt right and worked for him. Now when his brain jerks out the “I don’t know how” response he changes that statement to, “I am looking forward to learning how to do that in a way that feels good and works for me.”
Sometimes, the thing you hear yourself saying over and over is true, but you’re using it to create a lie.
I recently had an initial session with a client who brought any discussion about the value she offers back to, “Yeah, but who cares?”
When we discussed the expertise and information she has to share, she had no hesitation agreeing it is highly valuable, especially in creating the ideal balance of “high-tech/high-touch” that so many businesses are striving to create.
So, I asked, how could she say that “Who cares” is a valid response? It came down to her belief that no one cared whether she offered that information or not. Absolutely right, I told her. No one cares one bit about her. Yet. They don’t know her. But once she gives them information that has value they will begin to care about her because they’ll want more.
Her clever subconscious was using a true statement, that as of right now no one cares whether or not she shares her information, to create the false premise that no one would care if she started putting out articles and videos teaching people what she knows. Once people see what she has to offer, they’ll care because it has value for them.
It takes practice to change the recording, but when you change what you say over and over, you change what you do over and over as well.