During the Vietnam War Gerald Coffee was held as a POW for seven long years. Kept in isolation and tortured to his captors’ delight, he made a decision that would forever alter his future. During his time imprisoned in a foreign land he chose to grow from his experience.
He worked on his health by exercising his body. He worked on his mind by finding gratitude moment to moment and mentally reliving the happiest days of his life. He worked on his spirit by regularly communicating with God while trapped in a cell. Upon his release he said he wouldn’t have changed his experience for anything.
Unfortunately for two other soldiers that survived the ordeal, the outcome was not the same. Upon coming home with Coffee, one was admitted to a psychiatric ward for two decades, and the other ended his own life. Where Coffee found hope, they found despair. The difference was the meaning each person gave to the event. You can learn more about the Vietnam War at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve.
Truly what we decide something means is crucial. Mastering inner dialogue is one of the most important life skills a person can develop. But let me add a very important distinction to this discussion, one Anthony Robbins has demonstrated over and over again.
An infamous study concluded that body language makes up the majority of communication, some 55%, while tone of voice accounts for another 38%; leaving words as only 7% of how we communicate. However, most people focus only on language itself, including when they talk to themselves.
Thus, some will use phrases to try and pump themselves up but find little result. Some look in the mirror and repeat an affirmation but don’t feel any differently. The reason is that the words are not the key; it is the body language that your brain is paying attention to more than the words themselves.
Watch a sports team in the locker room and you quickly realize the words play a minor part in motivating the team. If the team simply said, “We are champions” there would be little change. But they don’t, they scream and chant and give high fives and grunt and slap one another and the energy level goes through the roof.
The same goes for you. At any moment you can say, “I am a champion.” For your brain to really believe that and make it real, your tone and body language have to be congruent with that belief. The opposite is true as well, if someone says, “It is hopeless” and takes on a defeated physiology along with that comment they will feel intensely hopeless. If they said, “It is hopeless” while smiling and shouting with joy and punching the air with their fist, their brain would interpret this phrase much differently and in the end would not let the person feel despair. Body language trumps words every time.
Remember that as you take control of your inner dialogue. Don’t just focus on the words; take on the physiology of the person you want to become, of the emotion you want to feel. The key to success is rehearsal. Today is the day to begin rehearsing the person you dream to become.