How you describe yourself is who you live into. What habits and actions you practice day in and day out, shape your behaviors. The sum of those two determine your beliefs about yourself, your beliefs about others nd the world at large.
You describe the world as hostile and unsafe and you become fearful, you believe people are not to be trusted and that resources are scarce, competition is tough and you become anxious.
You describe your world as kind, friendly, welcoming and beautiful, and you'll notice people and places in that light. You will be more open and expect to experience kindness and generosity, and see beauty around you.
You activate an awareness in you that determines how you describe your world. This is one of the lesser know principles of Appreciative Inquiry: the Principle of Awareness.
Become Curious About Your Words
What are you noticing about your use of words and how you describe things? It's very helpful to become aware and notice the words you use and the metaphors you use to describe people, places and institutions. What percentage of the time do you describe your family members as loving or indifferent? Is your work place culture collaborative or toxic? Do you describe yourself overall as a high achiever or a failure? Do you hang out with champions or losers?
Become curious about your language and the stories you tell yourself. As you become more skilled and practiced, and notice the words of others, you’ll also notice what kind of responses their words provoke in you. This awareness is a first step to increasing your conscious awareness about your use of language and how it makes you feel and how you interpret it.
Four Practices to Develop the Principle of Awareness
Here are three practices to help you develop the Principle of Awareness
1. Pay attention to how words impact you
Notice if the words you use elevate your power of positivity or diminish it? Is it moving you in the direction you want or holding you back? In a previous post, my story about my best friend, Jenny illustrated how Jenny was not aware of the impact of her self-talk. Her language kept her small and closed to possibilities. She hung out in the negative zone and influenced most people to hang out there with her.
2. Notice the sensations in your body
Second thing to pay attention to are the sensations in your body that certain words arose in you. Words have power and can have a visceral effect. They can upset you really badly and make you angry, and they can bring you to tears; they can even make you feel so deeply understood by another, if you do not have a healthy self awareness and self identity.
Physical responses you might look out for: when you have a tight jaw or a relaxed face; your fists are clenched or loose; your shoulders are hunched over or expanded; your breathing is fast and shallow or slow and deep. If you’re experiencing tightness much of the time, chances are you activating your reptilian brain, alerting you to be ready for fight or flight. At the same time you are creating negative emotions, releasing the stress hormone cortisol, and you are strengthening your negativity bias.
When your brain, your emotions and your body are on constant alert for danger that takes a lot of energy and can drain you. Overtime, these responses build up and become our default. In fact, for most of us this kind of response is our default and we reinforce the negative when we don’t have to.
3. Distinguish between negative and positive emotions
Both positivity and negativity have a contagion effect. No prize for guessing which one is better for you and will get you moving in the direction of greatest possibility! Be mindful of your emotions. Positive emotions open us up and make us more playful. Negative emotions narrow our though- action repertoire and we are therefore less resourceful.
4. Recall past successes
In closing on this topic, increasing self-awareness, I invite you to increase your attention in the present moment. I advocate you don’t dwell too much on the past failures – as helpful as they can be for learning, and you can reframe past mistakes so they become valuable learning opportunities, but it’s more resourceful when reliving the past, you go to where you’ve had some modicum of success, because that’s your leverage point. When you’ve had a taste success, it motivates you to do more of the same.