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A Tiny Change That Makes A Huge Difference

Life Coaches computerI was talking with a Life Coaching client the other who was apt to give herself a very hard time.

I pointed out as I do that being kind to yourself is not a sign of weakness and will almost certainly not mean you go off the rails.

She understood that at a conscious level, but followed up by saying, “But I just can’t stop thinking the same thoughts over and over again

In self development terms there are two major problems with that statement like that and both are likely to prevent you from making beneficial change.

It’s Not A Fact, So Don’t Make It One!

Firstly, it’s delivered as a statement of fact rather than a belief.

Of course there are things we know we cannot do for certain, but often that’s not the case and we’re merely articulating beliefs and/or opinions.

I know for a fact I can’t speak Chinese. This was superbly demonstrated when I recently received the Chinese version of How To Be Rich and Happy and couldn’t even tell where my own name was on the cover.

However, I don’t know for a fact that I will never be able to speak Chinese. I suspect I won’t because I’m not that interested in putting in the hundreds of hours work that would be required just to read my own book.

The reason it can be a problem turning a belief into a fact is down to your brains primitive desire to always prove you (itself) right.

Therefore, when you say something like “I cannot change my thoughts” your brain will sort for evidence (largely unconsciously), to support that belief and make you think it’s a fact.

It’s All About Cognitive Dissonance

It will do this to the extent that it will even ignore or skip past contradictory evidence because that creates cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is caused by tying to hold two or more contradictory beliefs at the same time and your brain hates that feeling more than I hate mosquitoes

So effectively what you and your brain are conspiring to do at this stage is create a negative self-fulfilling prophesy.

The second problem stems from the fact that there is a presupposition nestled in there that suggests nothing will change in the future.

The statement doesn’t say I can’t do this now, it says I can’t do this. Thus it rather naughtily implies that you’ll never be able to.

And again your brain doesn’t want to let you down or make a fool of you. Therefore it will happily delete and distort opportunities that may come your way to make sure you’re correct.

I’m not into denial and delusion and I don’t want anybody to claim to themselves and/or others they can do things they obviously can’t.

An Easy Change That Feels Good

However, there is a simple way of literally rewiring your brain so that you leave the option for change open, and as such make it far more likely.

For instance, me saying “I can’t speak Chinese” is accurate. But so is me saying, “I can’t speak Chinese yet

The latter statement though doesn’t rule out the possibility of things changing in the future if I want them to. In fact it presupposes they can change if I want them to.

This tiny shift makes a huge difference to your outlook and ability to spot opportunities.

I suggested to my client that rather than saying she can’t change her thoughts she start to say:

“Up until now I haven’t been able to change my thoughts”

That is a statement of fact about how things are now, not what is going to happen in the future.

Never under-estimate the power of the language you use because your language reflects your thoughts and your thoughts dictate the quality of your life.

Note: I just uploaded a 4 minute video to YouTube where I talk about  what I think are the 4 best pieces of self development advice.


23 comments to A Tiny Change That Makes A Huge Difference

  • Sounds exciting! But could you please clarify the Ancient Greek reference? (Although, even as it is, I am TOTALLY in. I love Ancient Greeks.) I’m so curious!

  • Hi Sarah,

    The reference is to a man who lived in ancient Greece around 600 BC, whose stories actually still survive today, over 25 centuries later.

    He’s actually quite well known (you’d probably recognize his name), but there’s one specific work that contains the key to finding a meaningful direction for your life based on your unique passions, skills and talents. (and it’s the opposite approach that most people take)

    I can’t say more, but you can learn more about it in the first video.

    • I think maybe I should sign up too because you have me intrigued now you tempter you!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the clarification! I was a little confused by “offering an Ancient Greek” — I kept feeling as if “Ancient Greek” was an adjective modifying some mystery noun! Thanks — I’ll take a look at that video.

  • Lefteris Kokkinhs

    So,it is true that words have power.Fascinating :D I think that ”yet” sounds very promising and it is like giving yourself a hope that you can fight for better to come.And that obviously,is a great thing :D

    I have subscribed in Yongho’s site and I am going to watch the series,it is always good to broaden one’s horizons especially when it is about Aesopos.Every Greek knows his stories since we are born and raised with the meaning of the stories,I think one of my first books a child was the story about the tortoise and the hare.Aesopos is part of the greek civilization and I believe that through this difficult times for the world and my country,it is of the essence to remind to ourselfs the very foundations of the Western culture and the great values taught by the Greeks(and ofcourse not only the Greeks)that make our lives special and our purposes meaningful!

    Have a great weekend Tim :D

    • Lefteris Kokkinhs

      And that reminds me the quote of Helen Keller ”If it is true that the violin is the most perfect of musical instruments, then Greek is the violin of human thought.”

    • Yeh those ancient Greeks knew a thing or to eh? ;-)

      And I will mate because I’m taking my niece to Universal Studios today and hitting the roller coasters. Should be fun if I don’t throw up.

  • Hi Tim, Have you every heard of Noah St. John. He wrote a book called The Great Little Book of Afformations. It speaks directly to this issue.

    “Therefore, when you say something like “I cannot change my thoughts” your brain will sort for evidence (largely unconsciously), to support that belief and make you think it’s a fact.”

    I like using afformations much more than affirmations. Affirmations make me feel like I am trying to hammer something that is untrue into my head – like rolling a big rock uphill – not fun.

    Anyway, I like this article tons and thought you might be interested in the afformations.

    On another note. I purchased Aligning With Your Core Values last week and I went through the first exercise last night to identify values. I love it. Seeing my values worked out objectively on a piece of paper made me really happy. I had a great feeling of “yes!” when I was done. Thank you so much for that!


    • Kirsten not only have I never heard of the guy., I’ve never heard of the expression either.

      I’m not a bog fan of affirmations either. Firstly. they have been scientifically proven ( I believe) to have no worthwhile effect, and secondly they can actually lower peoples self esteem.

      And thanks so much for buying the book and I’m delighted you’re loving it. Thanks for letting me know!

      PS I like your niche, a few other coaches could take a lead from the way you are positioning yourself.

  • Yeppo! On eof the first steps in REBT techniques is to analyse your distressing thoughts and sort the hard facts from the opinion/nonsense.

    My ultimate purpose was handed to me by God. He said I had to annoy Tim Brownson as much as possible.

    • And we don’t want to let the big fella down do we mate ;-)

      Got your other stiff thanks and I will respond, just up to my eyes in attraction visiting and family bonding over nice wine ;-)

  • This is such important advice. Your brain is not an independent organ. It only knows what you tell it! I like the way you rephrase those statements to make them true but still positive.

    And what a mind boggling thing that must have been the first time you saw your book printed in Chinese. Very cool.

    • It was indeed Mary, almost surreal to be honest. At least with the other versions I could work out the title etc, this one even started with the cover on the back as per Chinese writing.

  • Hi Tim,

    I’ve been reminding myself recently to add the word ‘yet’ at the end of sentences, which without this word, my brain might process as not achievable.

    It really is a quick and powerful way to shift your state, to a ‘possibility’ frame of mind.

  • very interesting article, i’ve always wanted to write my own blog, but i don’t have much time,
    regards from ST

  • Hmmm… I do like affirmations. Bringing up Psycho-cybernetics again (broken record, apologies), Maxwell Maltz used self-affirmations which worked amazingly well on me. They were life changing.

    I haven’t finished the afformations audio file but other than the mode changing to asking questions instead of stating ideas as facts, seems like it’d work in much the same way.

    For both, the overall idea is to get yourself to think in a positive direction.

    Did I say my affirmations and think, “I’m lying”… ? Sure I did. But I eventually believed whatever, and the doubts went away.

    But bottom line, I’m hoping afformations take hold faster than affirmations.

    • At the end of the day pretty much anything can work if the belief system supports it. Things like Reiki, Healing Touch etc have no basis in science or anything else other than somebody’s belief system. So in that respect if they work for you then they work PERIOD

      • “At the end of the day pretty much anything can work if the belief system supports it.”

        So true. I tried to finish the afformation audio files but the constant god talk (not in my belief system) turned me off.

        And just like with affirmations, when listening to some of the afformations my mind responded with ‘total bunk’. I noticed it happening when there was too long of a stretch – the mental (negative) response was quick and sometimes hilarious.

        But the main idea is to create tailor-made questions + I have enough of the concept to write my own so I’m still game to see if it works.

  • wynonaelliott 

    I link my self to explore and discover different factors to learn upon the mystery of “Ancient Greek” because it is the reason why I keep develop my essential things in language…