Guest Post by Dr. Larry Senn – The Movie In Our Minds
Today’s post is authored by Dr. Larry Senn, a well-known consultant and whose latest book The Mood Elevator takes a personal application towards leadership. In it, Dr. Senn defines the various moods we encounter and how those moods interact within ourselves as we interact with others.
Senn shares with us today how our minds play that key role in shaping our moods, our interactions, and our influence.
Whether we realize it or not, all day every day, we have a movie/dialogue going on inside of our heads. No, we’re not crazy, we just have a narrator inside of our heads helping us make sense of the world as we encounter it.
In his book, Untethered Soul, author Michael Singer describes a typical example of a conversation we might have in our head before going to sleep.
“What am I doing? I can’t go to sleep yet. I forgot to call Fred. I remembered in the car but I didn’t call. If I don’t call now…oh wait it’s too late. I shouldn’t call him now. I don’t even know why I thought about it. I need to fall asleep. Oh shoot, now I can’t fall asleep. I’m not tired anymore. But I have a big day tomorrow, and I have to get up early.”
Sound familiar? This voice is constant and constantly fills our heads with stories, stories that many times are far from the reality of the situation. This movie we create in our head is how we can plummet from the top of the Mood Elevator to the bottom, when absolutely nothing in our outside world has changed.
Look at the story of Deborah from the book, The Mood Elevator. Awhile back Senn-Delaney hired a new consultant named Deborah. Shortly after Deb was hired, I invited her on a sales call with me at a major utility company close to where she lived. I thought it would be good to give her a chance to hear how we presented ourselves to a prospective client, and it might yield some work with her in her hometown. I didn’t think much of it, but a few months later, Deb told me how this very innocent invitation sent her into a horror movie in her head.
A sales call with the chairman of my new company?! But I’m so new. I’m just getting to know Senn Delaney. What if I perform badly? I’m not a salesperson; I’m a consultant. What if I say something stupid? I could get fired! That would look awful on my résumé. I took a risk leaving my long-time employer, and I can’t go back now. What if I can’t get another job? My oldest child won’t be able to start college. I could lose my house.
Nothing about Deb’s life had changed, yet she was already envisioning herself losing her house. It’s important to note that the feelings resulting from the horror movies in our heads are as strong as if the reality were true. Deb felt as frightened from the movie in her head as if she actually did lose her job. These movies have a very powerful effect on our moods and where we are on the Mood Elevator. In reality, the meeting went quite differently than Deb’s movie predicted. The three of us hit it off very well, we got the client and Deb had some work in her hometown to launch her career with us.
Deb’s story is far from unique, we all do this on a very regular basis. We get mad at someone in our minds, picture how we’re going to confront that person, and then find out they didn’t even do it. Or we picture in our minds how we’re going to fail at a project and then it goes extremely well. Regardless of the movie we’re playing in our mind – the important thing is to have an awareness that what is going on inside our head isn’t necessarily reality. Even more importantly, when the movie in our head is a scary one, our thinking is typically faulty and unreliable so by all means we must mistrust our thinking and not act until the movie is over, until we have our bearings back.
Think about when you’re watching a real movie. You sit in the darkened theater, caught up in the drama and the suspense; the music is playing, and the special effects are making your adrenaline flow. But consciously you know it’s just a movie. You know that if it gets too scary, you can go buy popcorn. When you learn to treat your mental movies like real movies, your thinking will have less power over you and as a result you can spend more time up the Mood Elevator.
About Dr. Larry Senn
Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.