Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Questioning Yourself as a Higher form of Talking to Yourself?

So a personal sea-change moment? A shift in beliefs?

Search for ‘vision and goal-setting’ on this blog. Look at my ‘About’ page and you will see, ‘my long-term passion is to investigate the relationship between the conscious mind and other-than-consciousness in relation to vision and goal-setting.’ I was driven to start blogging through a belief that there was something very powerful in strong self-affirmations. Create the vision of success, get your other-than-conscious aligned and off you go. Job done. So what is making me question this?

Jonah Lehrer in the Frontal Cortex describes an anagram-solving experiment by Ibrahim Senay and Dolores Albarracin which compares “interrogative self-talk” with “declarative self-talk”: so the apparently weaker ‘will I solve these anagrams?’ compared to the stronger ‘I will solve these anagrams’. I’ve always thought of myself as an ‘I will’ kind of man. I’m clear on what I’d like from my future without being blind to the randomness of fate. I’ve always thought this to be the best way of operating.

In the experiment however, results confound this expectation as Lehrer explains, ‘At first glance, we might assume that the “I Will” group would solve more anagrams. After all, they are committing themselves to the task, silently asserting that they will solve the puzzles. The interrogative group, on the other hand, was just asking themselves a question; there was no commitment, just some inner uncertainty.But that’s not what happened. It turned out that the “Will I?” group solved nearly 25 percent more anagrams. When people asked themselves a question – Can I do this? – they became more motivated to actually do it, which allowed them to solve more puzzles.’

From pulling together the results of a number of different experiments, the explanation appears to lie in intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation: ‘the power of the “Will I?” condition resides in its ability to elicit intrinsic motivation. (We are intrinsically motivated when we are doing an activity for ourselves, because we enjoy it. In contrast, extrinsic motivation occurs when we’re doing something for a paycheck or any “extrinsic” reward.) By interrogating ourselves, we set up a well-defined challenge that we can master. And it is this desire for personal fulfillment – being able to tell ourselves that we solved the anagrams – that actually motivates us to keep on trying.’

So what else is happening? A reader, Cappy Anderson – who mailed in following an earlier post – made the philosophical comment that ‘somewhere in that three years [at law school] I came upon the notion that the answer to any question is contained in the question itself’. The application of this notion probably provides for sufficient pause in a normally conscious stream of thinking and problem solving to apply some right brain introspection. In a link from the Lehrer post, Daniel Pink quotes an entrepreneur Lisa Gansky warning against the leadership and entrepreneurial hazard of ‘breathing your own exhaust’,

‘”I’m a self-talker for sure,… and when I’m working on an idea, it starts out as a declarative.” But as she progresses, she moves toward the interrogative: “When you create something, you can fall in love with it and aren’t able to see or hear anything contrary. Whatever comes out of your mouth is all you’re inhaling,” she says. “But when you ask a question – Will I? – you’re creating an opening. You’re inviting a conversation – whether it’s self-conversation or a conversation with others”‘

So what now for my mission and long-term passion, my belief in ‘create the vision of success and off you go’? I think this very act of interrogative self-talk has made me even more motivated to examine our relationship with ourselves. But in a more questioning way. Maybe then I’ll solve more of life’s little anagrams?

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One thought on “Questioning Yourself as a Higher form of Talking to Yourself?

  1. Tyler Patterson on said:

    I love your entries on talking to yourself. I did it all the time as a kid growing up as an only child and stopped doing it when the teachers at school told us children to be quiet, and stop talking, and you’re being too loud.

    Recently though, I quit my job and don’t go to school, and having all this free time gives me the inspiration I need to do and say what I want. And last week, I took up talking to myself out loud. Right when I get out of bed I do it for one hour at the very least. Today alone, I must’ve done it for four hours while working out in the woods and walking the traintracks…

    I replaced writing with talking out loud and let me say that talking out loud works way better for me. I’m happier, I feel like I’m making better decisions, I’m opening up to others more easily. I’m very happy to have found your blog!

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