How Thought Crimes Kill Personal Brands

urlAfter leading a weekend boot camp in Personal Branding on the UCLA campus, I am worn out and so are our “campers.” Sixteen hours of anything is hard, and personal branding is no exception. It’s not like we were lifting boulders or building walls, except that we were: mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The first stage of personal branding is the work of human development. That is: finding out about your authentic self, revealing your true aspirations and then pinning together a pattern of achievements that may have started from your early childhood.

The real, valid work of personal branding involves digging into your past. We do this because the first leg of your personal brand triad is something we call your “Forever” word – the word that describes a quality that you’ve always had, something that has been the foundation of who you are, from your earliest memories.

I wish it were a matter of looking back and fondly recalling all the wonderful things you’ve done. I wish it weren’t so often such a minefield to walk back into, a journey down a dark canyon echoing with old criticisms, denigrations and disrespect that you’ve suffered.

But the truth is, this part of the development process involves some heavy emotional lifting, since only a tiny fraction of people can look back and fondly recall the days of the decades behind them. And, as you move closer to the reality of today, most people have distilled a litany of regrettable actions and lost chances, and even dimmed the lights of some hard-won triumphs.

That is the human condition.

But what never ceases to surprise me is where the sad truths reside. They are most often running endlessly on an audio track inside your head! If you are like most people, you are trash talking yourself all day long.

You have memorialized all the criticisms, accusations, losses and “coulda beens.” You’ve practically canonized them, and use these castigations as fodder for your daylong incantations.

These are thought crimes you are committing against yourself. Of the 60,000 thoughts you have each day, you are likely hearing 45,000 negative thoughts.

So guess what happens when you take time to reflect on what your “Forever” word is? You have been “baking” in your fears, self-doubt, worry, anger, cynicism, hostility and the litany of what we call Level Two and Level Three words – a negative spiral downward. You have forever been hearing and repeating the worst stuff about you, to you! And using that to predict your future.

Give yourself a break, won’t you? Really, take a break from the “oh, what a loser you are” talk track.

Write down 60,000 wonderful things about yourself. No, you don’t have to do it all at once. Just get into the habit of catching yourself doing things right – and documenting it into a journal, or a packet of sticky notes, or however you think you could compile such a wonderful summary of who you really are.

Here’s how the television anchor and motivational speaker Deborah Norville recommends you raise children – and thus gives us adults a clue into how we should speak to ourselves from today forward.

“For every corrective instruction you give, you should hand out at least four positives.” That’s something we as parents don’t get told or don’t focus on enough.

We’re really good at ‘You didn’t clean your room,’ and ‘You didn’t make your bed.’ What we don’t do is acknowledge the positives enough with, ‘I see you tried really hard,’ ‘I noticed you made your bed’ and ‘Thank you.’

Also, it’s really important to establish values and traditions from the get-go. When you’ve done that, you’ve created a rock. You’ve given your children an anchor to which they can always return.”

Now personal brands: let’s get it together on your Forever word. Start talking about yourself to yourself is positive terms. Then, reflect back on what you did well, from as way back as you can recall. That is how to move forward.

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