The other day I was driving down the highway with my daughter and we passed a nice car with personalized plates. I don’t know what it is about personalized plates, but I always love to guess what they say. Some of the license plates are really creative!
As we were coming up on this car I could tell it was a personalized plate (all of ours are a combination of letters and numbers and this was all letters)
Once we were close enough I could see it read SNKRSWM.
“Oh, sink or swim” I exclaimed.
My daughter looked at me like I was a crazy woman. “What are you talking about mom?” I pointed out the license plate as we drove by.
“Sink or swim! I like that one!”
Feeling pretty pleased with myself for figuring it out so quickly I sat back with a smile.
And then she took the wind right out of my sails.
“Oh…it looks like Snickers Woman to me.”
Really?! Snickers woman? What is a Snickers woman? How do you even come up with that?
When I asked her about she explained, calm as can be, “Yeah, Snickers Woman. She really likes Snickers.”
I totally thought she was kidding, picking on my for the amount of enjoyment I get out of figuring out license plates. (I really do get giddy when I figure one out)
So, I went about my day and was later telling my other daughter about my brilliant, and quick, decipher of the license plate.
She thought it meant Snickers Woman as well.
You may wonder why I’m telling you about this exchange, and it’s because it demonstrates, and reminded me of, an important piece of NLP.
The Map is Not the Territory
If you’re not familiar with this presupposition, it essentially says that people represent the world internally, creating our own personal and subjective realities. We respond to our internal experience (map of reality), rather than to the external reality itself.
I was raised by an entrepreneur. I am an entrepreneur. One of the beliefs I hold is that there comes a point, in life and in business, when we either sink or we swim.
(That being said, there is another important point to be made about this…everyone’s definition of Sink or Swim may be different…again, defined by their map)
My daughters, being a generation younger than me, are more likely to think about snacks, candy, and indulgence. It’s a wonderful time of life, one that I certainly enjoyed as well.
And it does give us a different perspective. A different map.
You see, many of our misunderstandings, times we get sideways with each other, are a result of our maps. We react to what someone says or does based on our map, and we forget they are operating off a completely different map.
Left unattended, our maps can get fairly small. We can become narrower and narrower in our thinking, not even realizing that we are doing it.
And as our map gets smaller, our experience gets more limited.
Imagine for a moment looking at a map of your neighborhood. Now, zoom in on that map. Zoom in so that all you can see is your street and the intersections on either side of you. This is the image that fills your entire “screen.”
When asked how to leave your house, if your answer relies on that map, you will have very limited options. You won’t be able to give choices and, if one of your options is blocked, you could be stuck.
Now, imagine that same map. This time zoom out a bit. Keep zooming until you can see a broad area around your neighborhood.
Notice how you can now see several exit routes from your neighborhood. You might notice 2 or 3, maybe even more.
What’s important to notice is that you have a much broader view of your neighborhood, allowing you to consider alternatives where before there were none.
You can do the same thing with your map of reality. You can choose to expand your map. And having choices about how you view reality changes your experience of it. It gives you more freedom, more flexibility and more enjoyment.
As you change your individual experiences, you begin to change your reality.
As you change your reality, you change your future.
By making these deliberate decisions, you take your future and your life, into your hands. You are no longer a product of your reactions. You are creating them.
So next time you are in a situation I invite you to ask yourself how else you can look at it…and how else…and how else? By asking yourself this question, and allowing your mind to answer it, you will begin to expand your map of reality.