Imagine That! Interview Part #2 of 3

Peter: Back to the beginning of this conversation, I think there’s something else that oftentimes, especially in business, the expression, “if that ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what you’re saying to me is, if ain’t broke, you may want to go back and take a look at it because there may be some improvements that you can make to it.

James: Absolutely. There’s a wonderful little exercise that I do with people and it’s so simple. I say if I could get you to say current view of the situation to a better view of the situation 100 times a day, twice a day I guarantee you it would start to become a trigger so whatever you thought you had, you would make it better. But who’s going to do that?

I’ve got this little trick, it’s called CVS to BVS and you say that 100 times twice a day, it takes about 2 minutes. And what it starts to instill is an automatic little trigger than whenever you have an idea about the future, or an idea about doing something, you stop and say, “okay, how can I make it better?” That’s the conscious use of the imagination because we’re going to move in the direction that we think. Our mental pictures and images control us. Period. And that’s when we go back to the elephant and you start to look at the subconscious. You understand that the elephant wants what it wants now. It doesn’t want to do a long term sacrifice. It wants to be satisfied. You look at people trying to lose weight, quitting smoking, or get rid of negative habits; they employ willpower and they go back to the way they were because they don’t understand how the mind works.

It’s default setting in survival and it doesn’t think in the traditional sense but it has some positive strengths. It’s the powerhouse of our energy. It’s the mover. It runs our body. It’s a storehouse of our memories and this is both the positive and negative traits. It cannot tell the difference between a real or imagined experience. Go back to the lemon. 

If we can’t tell the difference, wouldn’t it make sense that this 90% of us that controls us, we might be able to be influenced by giving it an emotionally charged picture or image. The rider has the capability because the rider is the visionary. That’s what we are. We can look in the future and see alternative paths of choice. And we can create the emotionally charged pictures and images but the downside of the rider is we worry a lot. We fuss a lot.

Peter: Right. Most riders are risk adverse and don’t like change.

James: The elephant doesn’t like change and is risk adverse. That’s translated to the rider but the beauty of our conscious mind is we have choice. That we can look at the reality of a situation because if that elephant, if our subconscious is designed for survival and its default setting is the status quo, then it’s going to translate up to the rider. If we can learn to use our creativity and our mental imaging which bleeds over to so many aspects from healing, not only to organizations, we then can craft an emotionally charged mental picture and image. It takes us out of the box and as leaders, it takes other people out of the box.

To me, the exception of learning about all this stuff is that we take a breath and we start to understand that a lot of the pictures and images and the thoughts that we have are fear based. I teach a specific system in this Imagine That seminar to put the brakes on that – to both recognize and put the brakes and then reframe what we’re thinking to a more powerful and more empowering future.

Peter: Alright, so the elephant being the subconscious and the fact of the matter is that people are resistant to change most of the time.

James: Exactly.

Peter: Even if they’re in a bad situation.

James: Absolutely.

Peter: Right? We see this all the time. Look at people who are in abusive relationships, why do they stay in those relationships? Because it’s known, there’s something there James about the unknown. Right? About taking that leap and going off into unchartered territory that I guess back to this whole thing about the primitive mind that we’re resistant to.

James: We’re resistant to it and also because that elephant, the subconscious is the storehouse of memories. I mean, this is a way other conversation. Let me give you an example because after 35 years of private work I’ve seen this so much.

If as young people we were in the attachment theories, but we were neglected or we were abused, that unfortunately becomes our comfort zone. As horrible and so as we grow up, we tend to seek out that which is comfortable. That’s why the transformational coach program I set up, that’s why transformation is such a wonderful word because it doesn’t say change. Change implies you’re bad, you have to change, you have to get better.

Well, I’m going to say something that will give people thought. Listen to this. Guess what; you don’t have to change. You stay the way you are. You transform which means growing bigger then adding on to. Once you start to study your own self, look inward which the elephant doesn’t want to do – the rider can – you start to learn about yourself, learn your triggers, learn your negative, learn your weaknesses but you also learn your strengths. Once you learn your strengths, you, like the lemon, you can focus on your strengths and you can start to step out of the comfort zone or out of the box.

Peter: What are some of the techniques that you use with your clients in helping them to recognize and breakthrough their limitations and their fears?

James: I’ll start with one that I’ll tell you is a metaphor, which I use with everyone now, not just athletics. Years ago I was hired – because I’ve worked with athletes for many years, powerlifting, track, tennis, and golf – a golfer wanted to fly me to Palm Desert to go around nine holes.

Peter: That sounds like a pretty good gig to me. 

James: Tell me about it. Here’s my fee, here’s my plane fare, here’s my hotel and he said, “I’ll do it if you can help me with my game.” Now I’ve helped people with their games in many areas with just visualization but I started to think about something a little different. I’ll tell you what I did.

I went to a store and I bought a tape recorder and a microphone. I didn’t tell him about this. And before we were in the clubhouse, he was getting ready and before he went on, I said “here’s what you have to do if you want me to help you.” I put the tape recorder on him. I put the mic on him. I said, “you have to say everything out loud that you would normally say to yourself while you play golf. He said, “oh my God!” I said, “you must do this. You must commit.” Now, we only recorded for the first three holes but can you imagine what he would say. I can’t repeat on the air what he would say to himself. I can kind of make it up like, “you stupid idiot! Look at you! What the hell…” and on and on and on.

Peter: All of this negative stuff.

James: All of this negative stuff, the self criticism is going to the tape recorder. Afterwards, we go to the clubhouse and I said, “I want you to listen to 5 minutes of this and 5 minutes will be enough. So he listened to 5 minutes and he was totally dejected. I said, “do you have children?” He said, “yes, I do.” I said, “what do you think would happen to their performance, their enthusiasm and their self esteem if you talk to your children as you just talked to you?” Well I think that’s a rhetorical question. They would be devastated. I said, “you don’t understand how the mind works, do you? Because if you understood how the mind works you are talking to the elephant. You are destroying yourself. So I said, “I’m going to teach you three words.” If I could do what’s called a Vulcan mind meld – back to the Star Trek movies – where I could connect with you and become you and every time you had a negative thought, I kind of smack you in the head and said, “Stop it!” Well, that would be pretty cool because that would give you the chance to rethink your thought but I can’t do that.

I teach people an exercise with three words – Isn’t that interesting? And it’s a programming exercise and it has never failed with any private client, any athlete. There’s a system that I teach to instill this so that during the day whenever you have a negative thought you go stop, look at the thought and you go, isn’t that interesting? Look at what I just thought. I just called him a jerk, or myself a jerk, or said I can’t do it.

What do you think happens to the thought, Peter, if you were able to identify it and say those words?

Peter: Well it seems to me this is going into an NLP reframing, right?

James: It is. What it does, for those who weren’t listening, it stops… it neutralizes the thought long enough for the rider to rethink or recreate the thought with affirmation or pictures and it doesn’t fail. Once you do that, it neutralizes. What’s interesting sometimes people will go “isn’t that interesting?” And they go “this is a stupid exercise.” And they go, “isn’t that interesting?” Look I just said this was a stupid exercise.” Eventually they get it.

That’s a very powerful technique. That’s one technique.

Peter: That is really interesting. You’re absolutely right because most people go through the day with that little voice running in your head with a lot of negative baggage going on.

James: You bet. Which is all picked up from years ago, other people’s voices.

Peter: Gosh, I’m a real idiot. But if I go, gosh, I’m a real idiot, a real idiot and then I go stop and say, isn’t that interesting?

James: … what I just said about myself. This all goes back to imagination.

Peter: I’m not an idiot.

James: The imagination doesn’t care, right? People have to understand the imagination is a wonderful force that’s here and we have the power to use it and direct it to everything from performance to motivation to healing and on and on it goes. Basically, that’s what we do all the time with ourselves is we’re programming the elephant. We’re programming ourselves by our thoughts in what we say. When you remind yourself to do this at the beginning of the day, you start to play with it during the day. You might not do it at every moment but if you do it twice, you start to become, you form a habit and it’s really fun. And then you start to do it with other people.

Twenty-seven years ago when I met my wife she pulled me into her office she said, “I want you to know who I am.” Up on her wall she said, “I will not be around people that vex the spirit.” That’s written on her wall. We hold to that. To this day, we don’t hang around people that create negative thoughts in us, very long. And so what this does is you start to notice other people with negativity and instead of saying, “they’re jerks” or “I’m going to make them better” or “I’m going to criticize them”, you just sit back and say, “listen to what they just said, isn’t that interesting?” You become less judgmental of yourself, you become less judgmental of others. And when you do that, you start to sway your thinking, you start to shift your thinking.