One of the models that guides my work and often resonates with clients is this:
Your thoughts are just a lousy compression of reality.
Here’s how it works:
Every day we experience a fantastic amount of stimulus.
But our brains are far too small to possibly remember everything that we see, touch, smell, hear or feel.
Our vision alone would fill a multi-gigabyte HD stream.
So instead of remembering everything, we process our experience into a few thoughts that we can use as an operating framework going forward.
Gigabytes of experience becomes bytes of thoughts.
These thoughts tend to be short, clear, and often apply a judgement to reality.
Thoughts will take a form like:
- “Yesterday was …”
- “I am …”
- “The world is …”
- “John (or some other person) is …”
- “I did … that was wrong (or right!)”
- “I want to …”
I can almost guarantee that you have thoughts like these because if you are able to read this then you use language to communicate.
And if you use language to communicate then you almost certainly use language to communicate with yourself.
This self-communication reveals itself when you talk. Listen carefully and you can hear it when anyone talks.
While thought like “I am …” is necessary to make our lives work it can also be dangerous if we are not aware of it.
The “I am …” filters the actions we take. Identity is strong, so we will only take actions that fit with the “I am …”.
But we also tend to interpret reality in light of the “I am …” — constantly finding evidence to reinforce it. Over time confirmation bias can turn the “I am …” into a foundational piece of our identity. We tend forget that it's even a thought and we let it permanently filter our experience.
Do you want permanent filters on your experience? If you do, wouldn't you rather choose them instead of accepting them by default?
One of my most productive exercises with clients is to intentionally design thoughts that they can embody every day to consciously create their reality.
Zach specifically discusses the impact of thoughts like "I am the CEO of a successful $10M company." and "I take care of my family by creating the future."
Thoughts like this must be intentionally created, but once they are created they can change everything.
How can you create your thoughts?
Intentionally choosing thoughts requires first becoming aware of them.
One way I spot my own thoughts is by working with my coach. Another is by writing in my journal and later re-reading it to see what I assume to be true.
When I find a powerful thought I often go through this set of questions inspired by Byron Katie’s excellent book Loving What Is.
These questions are:
- Can I be absolutely certain that this thought is true?
- Who am I when I believe this thought is true?
- If the opposite thought was true, who would I be?
Going through this process enough times will radically change your life. Byron Katie’s book lays this out clearly.
And of course if you want help going through the process or anything else I've written about, get in touch and we can see if we are a fit.
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