The Meaning of Meaning

Whether we are aware of it or not, we constantly look for meaning in everything we do. Of course, linguistically this makes the word “because” very powerful. If a reason is provided for a request, however inconvenient or unpleasant, it makes the request more difficult to turn down. We want to do things that are familiar and the brain conveniently and seemingly independently “fires” neurons of certainty to keep us comfortable and happy. This constant activity can make changing any situation where we feel limited or unresourceful difficult to alter. We become stuck and feel powerless to adapt.

think-outside-the-boxWhat can be done to make change more accessible and transformation more possible? First of all we can reflect on the meaning we give to many things that we are subjected to. Strangely enough, it is amazing how simple it is to reframe any meaning we attach to something if we are prepared to make the effort. Once we understand that the brain is eager to keep us in a state of homeostasis it becomes easier to stop and reflect on alternative thinking. We have to challenge ourselves and let the unconscious know we want to think differently. This act uses innate creativity and is strengthened by using both hemispheres of the brain.

When we experience an event, we can develop a habit of stopping, reflecting and thinking: What is happening here? What else could this mean? Often we will never really know what the actual situation means, but thinking this way will allow us to broaden the way we habitually respond to a given situation. It is useful to consider that the information is just that…information, and data is open to interpretation and often ambiguous in nature. Let’s face it, data can mean just about anything!

However, interpretation of the data will determine the action that will be taken and often we simply respond habitually and fail to contemplate that there may be a better way to think about the situation. Once habitual reframing takes place it can lead to making more informed and creative decision making.

Now, what is wrong with certainty, you may ask. It’s worked well for me and why should I start to become something I’m not? Well, there is a trap in thinking along conventional, habitual lines. Does your thinking derive the benefits you ideally want? Do you make meaning in the most effective manner? Does your “certainty” get the outcomes you desire? This is where the “thinker and prover” is demonstrated, often to our cost. We busily make sure that everything that happens proves what we think it means. Confirmation is a lightning fast response to what we perceive to be true. But is it? Even when the evidence is sketchy it is amazing how we can adjust it to fit our model of the world.

Thinking differently, even fearlessly, can have a profound effect upon the quality of life. It can open up the possibilities and prevent you from overlooking potential opportunities. If you have been guilty of believing you cannot do something, how uplifting could it be to believe it may be possible? Challenging, but possible. Why saddle yourself with these self-imposed limitations?

Keep in mind that meaning is just interpreted data. Then think about the data in as many ways as you can. Consider the situation in VAK terms – what else could the sights sounds and feelings represent? Throw in smells and tastes if appropriate. Open up your internal dialogue and ask yourself: What else could this mean? There’s no need to restrict yourself; just as the question and wait for the fireworks from your creative juices to do its thing. You can create any meaning you wish and you can decide this is preferable to remaining stuck with no options. Get into this habit and don’t be surprised if opportunities begin to become more accessible.

Mike Lally – About the Author:

Mike is one of Australia’s finest Neuro-Linguistic Programming trainers. He is a sought-after executive coach, speaker and workshop presenter. He is a leading source of NLP, influence, hypnosis, body language and emotional intelligence skills. He has worked as an Information Technology Manager, an Investment Administration Manager and a National Client Services Manager.

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