What Does It Mean…?
Let’s talk about meaning, shall we?
We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words…” Even though I love writing, I also agree with that statement! Images can be incredibly powerful, and every good photographer knows this. They also understand what to include in a frame, or not, depending on which particular aspect of a situation or event they want to portray; and what to focus on, or not, depending on what specific meaning they wish to highlight. In NLP, we do the same thing, except that we work with other people’s words. What we call ‘Reframing’ in NLP is simply the art of manipulating the frame of reference around a statement, in order to change its meaning. I will always remember driving back from the airport with my parents one day, and my dad going so slowly that both my mother and I eventually asked him rather bluntly why he was being so careful. He just shrugged, pointed toward us, and said: “Precious cargo.” With that response, he deftly highlighted something we had overlooked. There was a loving meaning to his behaviour which we had failed to notice, simple as that. So, reframing is a powerful tool you can use in Coaching, and in everyday life, to help people notice something they might be missing in a situation; or to help them connect with a more positive, empowering meaning. Like perhaps you get annoyed with your child right now for being so stubborn, and arguing with you about silly things; but won’t you be glad when it means that they can stand up for themselves later on in life…
Anyway, let’s talk about meaning. In Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins talks about the concept of ‘learned helplessness’, which tends to occur when people get so many references of things not working out for them, that they develop a belief that life is pointless. But life is not pointless: it is simply meaningless. “What?!” I hear you say, “isn’t this supposed to be an empowering, positive-thinking, feel-good type blog I am reading?” That’s right; it is! Let’s reframe this then by asking a good question, which again, according to Tony Robbins, is one of the secrets of successful people: they ask better questions. And of course, they get better, more meaningful answers in return. So, how about: “If the world is indeed meaningless, then who creates the meaning in your experience?” If you knew you had the power to create positive, happy, fun, loving, and enriching experiences for yourself, would you do it? Who wouldn’t, right? It seems we have convinced ourselves that we are powerless though, and that things happen to us, not for us. Nowadays, when we run a marathon, swim Windermere, or cycle a gruelling event in the French Alps, we often say it is a victory of ‘Mind over Matter.’ As if the idea that the mind could be coming first were so extraordinary as to be the preserve of some elite, almost supernatural kind of human. But people did not always think this way.
In his book, The Secret History of the World, Jonathan Black points out that once upon a time, Mind really did come first. And people understood that, “the universe is made with humankind in mind. Nothing happens anywhere in the cosmos except in interaction with the human mind.” This also means that the odds are in our favour. You see; the likes of Jack Canfield and Tony Robbins don’t often explain the reason why they say things like, “Be realistic, expect miracles!”, and “Don’t worry about the How, focus on the Wow!” Or what Bob Proctor laughingly calls the Goethe’s Law (a dig at the awfully negative Murphy’s Law), after the great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who famously said: “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events ensues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed would come their way.”
I wonder if these people understand something we don’t. I wonder if they remember something we have lost. I wonder if maybe we could…
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognise that it is he who is asked.” – Viktor Frankl