I have often said that the mind works in pictures, and that is true. So how can words radically alter our feelings if our mind files everything in pictures?
It’s true that we can picture something in our minds without having words to describe it. But once you have a picture in your mind that you want to communicate to someone, what’s the first thing you do? The first thing you do is try to find words to describe that picture, right?
Now it becomes a word picture
Even though our mental file cabinets are filled with pictures that represent experiences, we use words to access those files. The word labels that we use for those experiences tell our nervous system where they are filed and how we feel about them. So the word labels in effect come to represent the whole experience, not just a description of the experience.
Before you can articulate a feeling or experience, you need words to describe it. If the words you use are not accurate you will misrepresent that experience to others. Now here’s the fascinating thing about that, you will also misrepresent that experience to yourself. Why not use this fact to your advantage?
Increased motivation and resourcefulness
One of our personal goals should be to try and remain in the most resourceful mental state possible, under any circumstances. When we are in a negative head space it tends to rob us of our resources and motivation. Alternately, a positive mindset increases our resourcefulness. The more resourceful we feel, the more motivated we are to take action. When we lack resourcefulness, we also lack motivation.
How do we use our emotional vocabulary to create greater motivation for ourselves so we will take action? We can choose word labels that frame our experiences in a way that empowers us with greater resourcefulness and motivation.
Adjusting your emotional vocabulary toward motivation
How resourceful do you feel when you’re infuriated? Think about that for a minute, imagine yourself totally infuriated, and note how you feel. Now notice what happens to those feelings if you change the label from infuriated to mildly annoyed. Not only will you feel less angry, but you also feel more resourceful. Let’s take it one step farther. What if you represent that same experience by saying to yourself, “I was mildly annoyed but it passed quickly.” How does that affect your degree of resourcefulness and motivation?
Can you see the practical application of this information? Feeling resourceful equates to greater motivation, and greater motivation leads to taking action. The more ways we find to stay in a resourceful mental state, the more likely we will be to keep taking positive action in the direction of our goals and aspirations. That’s how motivation works.
From depressed to empowered
It’s a clinical fact that more and more people are suffering from depression these days. Depression is a debilitating state of mind that leaves people feeling helpless and hopeless. This is the polar opposite of motivation.
In his book ‘Awaken the Giant Within,’ author Anthony Robbins describes one man’s battle against depression. After explaining to the man the effect that his words were having on his emotional state, the man agreed to the following. For the next 10 days he promised not to use the word ‘depressed,’ not even once. If he felt tempted you use that word he would replace it by saying, “I’m feeling a little bit down, I’m getting better, or I’m turning things around.”
Simply shifting the word label used to describe his feelings completely changed his pattern of thinking. The level of pain that he experienced decreased which helped him stay in a more resourceful mental state. Two years later that man said that he had not felt depressed, not even once, since he agreed to stop using the word ‘depressed’ to describe his feelings. By not using that word label, he completely changed his experience.
Use your emotional vocabulary skillfully!
Now imagine the effect on your life if you consistently and purposely diminished the emotional impact of your negative experiences and simultaneously intensify your positive experience. Skilled use of your emotional vocabulary allows you to do exactly that.
Life is full of challenges, maintaining your motivation in the face of such challenges has a dramatic effect on the quality of your life. Will we learn from our challenges, or be devastated by them? Much will depend on our resourcefulness at the time. Learning to represent our experiences in ways that empower us is a huge step in the pursuit of personal excellence.
This is the 2nd of two articles about Your Emotional Vocabulary. If you missed part 1 here’s the link: Harness the Power of Your Emotional Vocabulary.
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