A New Tool For Creating a More Purposeful Life
This is a quote I have used for quite some time in my presentations because it speaks so clearly to the importance of being purposeful when it comes to how we think, feel, and act. Of course, this is easier said than done, because many of our reactions, whether emotional or behavioral, are unconscious, which, by their very nature, means that they aren’t purposeful. What is important for us to recognize, however, is that, regardless of whether our reactions are conscious or unconscious, they have a tremendous impact in our lives because they define who we are and who we are becoming.
For example, if we find ourselves reacting to certain difficult people or situations with anger, resentment, frustration or anxiety (which we all do from time to time), this isn’t just a momentary lapse in judgement, but a statement about who we are (I am someone who lets certain types of people or situations get under my skin and “make me” feel or react in certain ways). While, as mentioned, this is common, I’m guessing that it is not deliberate or “on purpose,” and therefore, if we want to change, then becoming more purposeful is the way to go.
Of course, those who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy know that whether our thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors are conscious, or unconscious will be determined by whether we are coming from the conscious, or purposeful brain (the neocortex, what I call the “Top of the Mind”) or unconscious lower brain (the limbic system and brainstem).
Therefore, if we want to be as influential as possible with respect to how we define ourselves, or the statement we make about who we are, and who we are becoming, we will want to be coming from the clear, confident, creative and compassionate part of who we are.
In my books and seminars, I teach several methods for accessing this “purposeful brain” and one of the most powerful has to do with the questions we ask ourselves. For example, questions such as, “What is wrong with these people?” or “What is wrong with me, why do I let them get to me?” tend to engage the lower brain because they are about the problem and the pain of the problem, versus the solution.
To counter this, I suggest that we ask ourselves what I call “Top of the Mind” questions, or questions that can only be asked and answered from the upper 80% of the brain. One of these could be, “Is this thought, emotion, or action making the statement that I want to make about who I am?” or “Do I really want to define myself as someone who lets difficult people or situations make me angry, anxious, or stressed?” Notice that this isn’t, “Do I have the right to be this way?” because we always have the “right” to feel however we are feeling, but instead, “Is this the statement I want to make about who I am?”
Another question that participants and clients tell me is very powerful in helping them gain clarity with respect to how they are feeling and thinking is, “Would I teach or recommend this reaction to someone that I love?” Frankly, I have yet to meet anyone who would teach or recommend that someone they love be angry, anxious, stressed, or frustrated. In addition, most people would also acknowledge that these types of reactions are rarely effective, and, as we have mentioned, are rarely purposeful.
Therefore, if we apply this new criteria to how we think, feel, and act:
• We want to make a conscious statement about who we are,
• We want this way of being to be congruent with what we would teach or recommend to someone we love,
• We want to be effective and
• We want to be purposeful, (Which spells STEP: Statement, Teach, Effective, & Purposeful)…
We have taken the first step to defining who we are from the “Top of the Mind,” and, as such, are becoming more influential in creating the experience of life that we want. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” This means, we don’t have to have it all figured out, just be willing to choose ways of being that define who we are in this moment in ways we would teach to those we love, and effectiveness and purposefulness will follow.
If you would like to become skilled at this way of life, I suggest that you contact me, because, until we empower the “Top of the Mind” to determine who and how we are, we will be leaving this important decision up to our old unconscious brain… again, not something we would recommend to someone we love, don’t you think?
~ All the best, Dr. Bill