What are some of your life defining moments and experiences?
When you reflect on your life what memories stand out as dramatic shifts in your life where you came to a new understanding, embarked on a new journey, changed direction or careers? Fell in love? Found your purpose? Experienced a transformation?
Do these experiences and moments define you or did you define them as life defining moments and experiences?
Don’t spend too much time on that. It will tie your brain in a knot.
Ultimately you’re creating these experiences. I know they seem like they just happened without explanation and that’s part of what makes them seem so magical, but the truth is the structure and the mechanics of it are there. It’s just mostly unconscious.
Yes, I’m that guy who reveals how the magic trick works. If you don’t want to know how it works, you should to stop reading now.
What we call experiences and moments are based on arbitrary beginning points and endpoints that you create. In other words there is no such thing as an experience or a moment. You’ve been living one continuous, unending experience (or moment if you will) of life.
You have no real experience of the beginning of your life. You don’t remember it and you have no sense of witnessing your transition from non-living to living. Suddenly you were alive and aware. That’s all you know.
You have no real experience of death obviously because you’re reading this now.
Since you have not experienced the beginning of your life and you have not experienced the end of your life, your experience of your life is so far eternal. This should be your first clue.
But you have a story and a concept about your life. You’ve even given it a beginning, middle, and an end, though it’s been one continuous and uninterrupted experience; no beginning and no end, therefore no middle either.
Throughout your life you’ve marked out certain points and called it an experience. You give it a beginning, middle, and an end. You also give it a structure usually based on some sort of progress; how the beginning point led to the end point.
Once you have a beginning, middle, and an end and you now have an experience, you give it a meaning.
“So what?” You may be asking. What is the significance of understanding this?
Because your experiences and the meanings you give them shape who you are and they shape your life, which means you’re shaping your identity and your life by how you create experiences. And you probably don’t realize it. Most people don’t.
The less you understand this the more you feel like a victim of life’s circumstances rather than having the freedom to take control of your destiny.
By the way, these understandings are inspired by Steve Andreas’ self-concept model and his thesis on Scope and Category if you want to study this further.
An experience is a generalization. The meaning you give it categorizes the experience. If you have enough experiences that share common elements you will create a category for those experiences and it becomes a significant part of your sense of self.
Think of an area of your life you’re unhappy with. Perhaps you’re unhappy with life in general. What generalizations or experiences led you to create this meaning?
Here’s the big mistake most people make. They try to change the meaning they make of the experience in order to change their experience of self and life. That’s going at it backwards and though it can work sometimes, it most often fails.
It’s like pushing a boulder up a hill. You might succeed but it will take a lot of effort and you might slip and let the boulder roll back down the hill several times before you get it to the top.
An example of this is the “Fake it till you make it” concept. This is also why affirmations usually don’t work.
This is completely unnecessary and there’s a much easier way to live the meanings you want to create.
Change the structure of the experience.
Yep, it’s that simple. That’s what NLP does. In NLP we code the structure of the experience and change it until the meaning changes to the meaning we desire without changing the facts of what actually happened.
In other words, is the glass half empty or half full? The fact of how much water is in the glass remains the same regardless of the meaning you make of it.
You can start with a belief or generalization you make about life or about yourself and look below the surface to discover what experiences have shaped these beliefs. Without trying to change what actually happened in these experiences you can restructure the sensory components of them in order to change the meaning.
When you do this you will reshape your identity and your life and give it the meaning you want.
Sound amazing? It is! And it’s much easier than most people think.