From words to wishes

Jim Kwik is extraordinary.

As a 5 year old kid, a severe brain injury left Jim with a learning disability. This incident put him on a downward spiral that caused his grades to fall at school and affected his self-confidence. He describes himself as quiet, introverted and painfully shy kid in this difficult period that continued into his college days.

In college, a couple of experiences changed his perspective. He chose to focus on his strengths rather than his limitations, which he built upon every day. He went from not reading a single book cover to cover, to reading several books each week. He studied how our brain works and transformed himself into a world-class memory coach. Today, he coaches Bill Gates and Richard Branson. He can walk into a class of 50 students, instantly memorize their names and recite them forwards, backwards or in any order.

Moreover, Jim would not approve of how I started this post. He would rather have me say “Jim Kwik does extraordinary things.”

This is because our language plays such an important role in defining our capabilities. The words we use are not random, but a reflection of our deeply held beliefs. They are merely the tip of the iceberg that sits beneath our conscious mind. When we say Jim is extraordinary, we put him in a league that other people cannot aspire to reach. However, everybody does extraordinary things in some measure or the other. And when we say Jim does extraordinary things, it implies that we can learn those things as well.

Words are all the more important when it comes to negative self-talk. As Jim explains, our brain listens in to whatever we say out loud.  Even statements that we make in passing such as:

“I am terrible at remembering names.”

“I am bad with directions.”

“I am a forgetful person.”

Our brain starts believing these words and makes them true, which cause us to repeat them more often. The important lesson here is one that Jim often repeats – If you fight for your limitations, you get to keep them.

Pattern interruption is vital to change our ingrained habits. The first step is to catch ourselves the next time we indulge in negative self-talk and reword it. Rather than saying I am bad with directions (which I do quite often), I could say that I am learning to find my way around a certain part of the city.

Just to reword that saying – If you fight for your strengths, you become worthy of them. Because along with the words you choose, you also pick your battles.

Source: Jim Kwik’s interview with Cal Fussman. I’ve written about Cal’s great questions here.

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