The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.

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Thinking About Thinking

I was reading recently that there are two basic ways people think, in words and NOT in words.

People who think in words tend to “hear” sentences in their heads, as if they are carrying on an internal dialog with someone. That makes up about 80% of the population.

The other 20% are non-verbal thinkers. Some of them think in images. It’s harder for them to explain how they think, because we are asking them to put words to a process that has no words.

Both sides have difficulty understanding the other side’s process. The idea of hearing words in your head can sound like schizophrenia to the non-verbal folks. Inability to express the pattern your thoughts follow can sound like having no internal process to the verbal people.

And then there is a very small subset that actually processes information by visualizing written words.

It’s a little like asking how does a blind person dream or how does a deaf person read. They do it, but it isn’t the same as someone who reads as if a voice was speaking the words they see.

What I am wondering is, is there a connection between personality traits and style of thinking? For example, are non-verbal thinkers more likely to become artists or dancers rather than writers or speakers? Because humans want to communicate with each other, so how does the method of thinking affect one’s choice of communication style?

I have a memory that it has taken me a long time to figure out. I am sitting looking at a stream flowing under a bridge in the fall. There is a sky blue tray in front of me. I can see a child’s hands protruding from a fur-lined sleeve. I have realized that it is a pre-verbal memory from my childhood of my mother wheeling me in a stroller to the doctor’s office. The stream ran across the end of our street. Now that I’ve put words around it, the memory is less visceral. I remember the words and the description more than the image itself. I have added a layer of distance. And I wonder if that’s what thinking is like for the non-verbal.

In this case, I invite commentary. How do you think? I’m asking you to pay attention for a few minutes to your brain doing what it does. Then drop me a note and let me know what you observe. I’m curious.

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Vision Board Presentation

I did my first vision board workshop today. It went very well.

So, vision boards. In simple terms, it’s a sort of affirmation meets arts and crafts proposition, but it actually works.

When you think a thought often, you strengthen that pathway through your brain. It becomes easier to think that thought again. So if you are thinking something negative, it becomes easier to keep thinking it. That’s why we get caught in thought loops about being, say, ugly or worthless or stupid.

But the reverse is true too: If we get into the habit of thinking positive thoughts, those also become easier to think. That’s why affirmations work. You spend more time thinking a positive thought, it becomes easier to think it, and eventually it becomes second nature. I am a good person replaces I’m worthless.

Now the left side of the brain contains the language centers. Working with words like affirmations activates the left side of the brain. But there is another side of the brain, one that does not think in words but in pictures. You are familiar with its way of thinking, you call it intuition. It’s the things you know that you don’t have the words to express, because you don’t know it in words. In order to make changes, you want to activate the whole brain. So how do we activate the non-verbal righthand side?

Turns out, art and imagery are a good way to engage the right side. So if we want to fully activate the entire brain, working with words and images together is one good way. So if we combine the words of an affirmation with pictures, we get vision boards.

There are several benefits to creating one yourself. First of all it causes you to think about the topic. In my presentation, the topic was “live your best life” so people had to think about what their best life would be like. Then they had to find words and images that spoke to those ideas. Now some magazines have content that fits exactly, but lots of time it’s just a case of symbolism. You might, for example, find the word “relaxation” or you might find a picture of a hammock. They speak to different parts of the brain.

People find that once they go through these exercises, the ideas really do stick. And because they stick, we act on them. Maybe not consciously, but we open ourselves to possibilities and take actions in line with the new way of thinking. Both halves of the brain work together to bring about a change.

So my little group of people, they are going to find themselves experiencing some changes in the future. They have developed an idea of what their best life looks like and feels like, and they have worked it into both sides of their brains. The non-verbal side will influence their behaviors even if the verbal side still provides negative messages.

People had fun with the activity. One of the ladies found an image that clearly depicted the kind of confidence she wanted to have. One of the men found wonderful words that spoke to his self-described zen self. Several people asked for another piece of paper to do another one at home.

The only complaint was that there weren’t enough male images. Now that’s no surprise. I get mostly women’s magazines, and for some reason I didn’t have any Wired or Fast Company in my stack. I did have some National Geographics. But it’s a valid concern, so I will have to hit up Half Price Books and see if I can find some Sports Illustrated or GQ. Maybe Men’s Health.

So I would say this was very successful, and I’m excited to be doing it another several times. After this, I start to monetize it. Because I need something I can do when I’m not working for the government.