November 21st, 2012

A “State” or a “Trait”?

By Ron Nakamoto

Recently, I listened to an interview with Tony Robbins, the well-known public speaker and event leader.  Tony was very emphatic about NOT being a motivational speaker; he wanted the interviewer to know that he sees himself as someone who changes lives in a positive way.  He then went on to describe how his signature Unlimited Power Weekend events have become “life changing experiences” for many people, including famous celebrities, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, and politicians.

This got me thinking about the long-term impact of these weekend experiences.  Tony described how he inspires people – who ordinarily can’t sit still for 3 hours to watch a movie that costs $300 million to produce – to sit and participate in a 50 hour experience over a weekend and at the end report that it was the “greatest experience of their lives”.  I don’t doubt for a moment that that’s true.  What I wonder about is the “stickiness” of these states of mind.

Tony Robbins remains the leading, most visible practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP); a technique popularized in the 1970’s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.  This technique is based on the concept of “states”, connecting language with physiology and emotional states of mind to shift people from negative or neutral to positive states of mind and being.  In theory, “modeling” successful people is how NLP works.  That’s what I surmise happens at the Unlimited Power Weekend and that’s why people come away with positive experiences:  they experience positive “states”.

Elaine Fox in her recent book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, talks about the strength of connections in the brain.  The number and frequency of positive thoughts and experiences can, according to Fox, rewire the brain to establish a more optimistic outlook versus a pessimistic outlook.  Fox makes it clear that both the Rainy Brain, that part of the brain that focuses on dangers, and the pleasure-seeking, happier Sunny Brain, are necessary for survival and optimal living, pointing out that without the Rainy Brain, we would regularly, unconsciously take dangerous risks in life.  She describes optimism as a trait, as opposed to a state of mind, because it is more enduring and long-term.

I believe that with Empowered Wealth, we’re really seeking to develop “traits”.  We, of course, encourage positive “states”, in particular Gratitude.  But a “trait” of Gratitude is ultimately our bigger vision.  If you look at the four levels of gratitude that frame our thinking – ingratitude, reactive gratitude, passive or appreciative gratitude, active or proactive gratitude – there’s a parallel with states vs. traits.  That is, there’s a continuum from a trait of ingratitude to states of reactive and passive gratitude to a trait of active gratitude.  States of Gratitude are desirable and necessary for growth, for laying down the neural connections that lead to stronger “states” and ultimately “traits”.  Successful entrepreneurs and family leaders expressing an ingrained “trait” of Gratitude would hopefully create the sort of movement, a living legacy on a broad scale, that would make the world a better place.

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