Inner Conversations

Now how many of you have raised kids? This is kind of a crazy question but how many of you have ever argued with your kids that they were smart, competent, or beautiful while they argued back that they were dumb, incompetent or ugly?

What is going on here? If you could hear inside the child's mind you would hear a story they tell themselves about themselves that takes them down a few notches and disempowers them. How is it that a conversation they have in their own mind makes them feel incompetent?

When people tell themselves they are stupid, clumsy, or ugly, they limit what they can and can't do in the world. It even limits what they are willing to try. The scary thing is that it doesn't matter if these interior conversations are true or totally off the wall. Kids live inside of hundreds of these conversations. Some of the conversations are from the media, the Internet, friends, siblings, teachers and parents as to what is good, smart or beautiful. They measure themselves against these standards.

Think about it. If a girl thinks she is ugly or terrible at math, if a boy thinks he is bad at sports or reading, those thoughts will regulate how they act as well as how they feel about themselves. She could be beautiful; he might be fast and powerful in reality but that reality makes no difference to those kids. Their thoughts rule the way they see themselves. Those thoughts can become a prison.

Of course, kids are smart. They intuitively know that if they change the conversation about themselves they will likely change themselves. Did you ever notice how eager some kids are about going to a new school or summer camp? There where they are not known, they can create new conversations with new people they meet. People will take them at face value and treat them as a person with this or that attribute. To a great extent they can be anyone they want to be. All they have to do is create new conversations to live in and become.

Other kids are scared to go to a new school. They may be scared because the person they know themselves to be might come unanchored. That is a pretty scary prospect if you have something to lose. It's not so scary if you want to lose the (ugly or clumsy) self you knew yourself as.

What does all this have to do with managing maintenance? Good question. Is it possible that the limits to our greatness have to do with conversations about maintenance that we and others in our business community hear and repeat to ourselves? What if the reason we are the way we are is because there are disempowering conversations traveling around the organization?

To be continued...