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Everything we create comes from our thoughts. Our life experience, companies, jobs, marriages, and all the rest. What happens then when we carry around thoughts that aren’t lined up with what we truly want?
Creating by default is what most people do most of the time. They react to what is going on around them. They keep those thoughts on current conditions and end up creating more of the same. Perhaps slightly different versions of what they have had before. Incremental change, if any, is what we get by being trapped in old patterns.
Creating the future from the future is different. We see what we want to create first. We wrap our thoughts around and into that. And, our behaviors and outcomes begin to move that direction.
An illustration is perhaps the best way to explain what I am talking about. Let me take you through an actual example. I often use this “pyramid tool" with clients and others. It is incredibly powerful, and is something you could try out for yourself. You can use it for some big picture part of your life or business, or something more narrow and specific.
My illustration today is around my daughter, Camryn. Cam is an NCAA DIII basketball player. Last year, she was a 19-year-old sophomore, who was a starter on her team for the first time. A big deal. Cam has a good amount of ability, but also has gotten in her own way. She has not always taken care of her thoughts. The result has at times been a lack of confidence and more that haven't served her.
An important point fits here. We can’t always do much about the thoughts that flow into our heads. That’s OK. We aren’t responsible for what comes in. We are responsible for what we allow to hang out there.
The pyramid is shown to give you a visual of this tool and process.
The actual one I use is double-letter-size. It normally takes an hour or so to work through the process. Cam and I did it just after lunch the day of her season opener last fall. I had flown up to Minneapolis, and driven out to have lunch with her and then see the game.
She was really down. Becoming a more critical part of the team was a big step up and not without pressure and doubt. Better said, fertile ground for thoughts in her way to run wild and roost within her. In any event, the team had had a couple of scrimmage games earlier that week. In the last one, she had missed six out of six. Like I said, she was down and pretty much out of confidence altogether. I asked if we could try this pyramid process. Perhaps from pure desperation, she agreed. We parked ourselves in the local Caribou Coffee and went to work.
Cam’s creating by default was self-evident. With the exercise, we start on that creating by default side. The bottom layer of the pyramid is thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Emotions are the products of thoughts. We throw them altogether for this purpose. I began to ask Camryn about some of the patterns of thought she had trapped inside.
Don’t forget we could be talking about business matters, leadership, a broken relationship, or anything else. The process, and what it proves, work for big stuff, little stuff, broad and narrow.
Back to my story. It wasn't hard to help Cam begin teasing these out. The barriers were in there. Those thoughts and beliefs wanted to come out and go on that big piece of paper. I just had to help her discover and give it all a safe place to land. Things like “I am never going to be any good.” “My teammates won’t trust me.” On and on. There were about a half dozen of these negative, non-serving thoughts all powerfully hooked into her.
What we find is that some of those thoughts are lies. Those are usually the easiest to deal with. Some of them are, perhaps, completely true. That’s OK. It’s just that if it doesn’t support what she wants, then she needs to find a new thought or two that will. More on that in a bit.
Behaviors always come from our thoughts. They must. What sorts of behaviors might come from these sorts of thoughts Camryn was holding onto? Behaviors like being tentative. Hurrying shots. Not calling for the ball. Not moving aggressively to the basket. And more.
Outcomes were a few, but missing 100% of six shots makes the point. Others included being down on herself. And, having a shrinking, rather than growing, experience.
There is another outcome - from this exercise itself. You see, once all of that came out of Camryn and down on paper, it was 100% clear. Undeniable. Thoughts become behaviors, become outcomes. It is always that way and the person whose life we are examining can see it black and white, and take it to the bank.
Creating the future from the future now begins to move past some vague concept. If I am 100% sure of what has been happening - the past tense creating by default part of this exercise. Then, perhaps I can be about 90% sure that it will work the same way on the other side of the pyramid. That is, new thoughts can give rise to new behaviors and new outcomes. As in, creating the future from the future.
New beliefs were pretty easy. I asked and those fell out onto the page as well. “I have a really good shot.” “I am very strong and aggressive.” “I’m a fantastic defensive player”. “I’m a sophomore starter on a college basketball team!” All of those are true. That is important to understand. This is not about some positive hype or making stuff up. This is about Camryn, or you in your own case, finding thoughts and beliefs that move you to the future you want to create.
A belief, BTW, is simply a thought you keep thinking.
New behaviors are now coming onto the page. To be clear, we are creating the future first on paper. No, that misses the point. Camryn is finding those new beliefs and creating those new behaviors within herself. What sorts of behaviors did she expect from these powerful new, dialed in, thoughts and beliefs? Mostly, the opposite of the earlier limiting thoughts and behaviors. “I’ll slow down my shot and get in my best form”. “I’ll move to the basket.” “I’ll call for the ball.” Even things like posture, readiness, and energy are now very, very different.
Outcomes – Camryn made six of six that game! I love using this example because it’s pretty clear. It is defined and tangible. And, she did not plan to shoot exactly six shots in that game as she had in the prior scrimmage game. I mean, precisely the same number of shots and making six of six instead of missing six of six! Go figure.
Recommendation #1: Consider where you are creating by default.
Recommendation #2: Pick something important to you. Perhaps something tangible, that you can get your head around.
Recommendation #3: Try the pyramid for yourself. Get in a quiet place, and be quiet within. See what comes out. Then the real work starts. Letting going of those old thoughts and anchoring in those new forward moving ones. Observe what happens. Adjust and repeat as needed.
The highlight film below is seven minutes and entirely optional. It is from a later game than the season opener discussed above. But fun to watch and so clear to see how thoughts become things!
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