The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office. – Robert Frost

The brain is the most perfect machine. it will do anything you tell it to. In the last few decades, this principle has become a key tenet of motivational psychology, particularly in sport. Muhammad Ali would visualise every moment of his fight months before a bout. He would programme himself – and in some cases, his opponents – to win (or lose in their case) in a particular minute of a particular round. Basketball players who practice mentally (with rigour) do almost as well as those who undertake actual practice – and many times better than those who do no practice.

What’s the point? What we tell our brain, up to and including the sporting extremes of “I will win”, has a very powerful impact on what happens. Or, I should say, on what we do. The problem is that we do not always know what we want. There is (as we sadly often discover as we get older) a conflict between what we think we want and what we actually want. We might , for example, tell ourselves that we really want to have lots of money, fame, a skinny body. And then strive to achieve these. But we might actually want something very different (no shit, Sherlock) – to be the world expert in Hitchcock’s cameo performances, or Grand Theft Auto world champion. Or in four cheese pizza, fags and gin. And then we – and the people we might have made promises to – get disappointed when we’re not achieving what we say we want…

This is all a simple preamble; not to say that I have taken you here under false pretences of course; I just hope that you are enjoying the ride. The Imp’s professional (so-called) expertise is in communications: what we (as individuals in organisations, usually) tell people who use our services or influence our world (customers, patients, residents, neighbours, suppliers, political masters….). And the Imp likes helping organisations to communicate the best they can: openly, honestly, clearly, maturely.

It makes me often stop and think. You end up questioning yourself; your own experiences and as in the rest of life, you’re always learning. Communications links to all kinds of things – socio-linguistics, organisational and individual psychology, media, PR, story-telling, teaching – and leads you to all kinds of observations, one of which I’m (finally) going to share.

You know that moment, well after the event, when you say, “Why on earth did I do that?!” You go back, you trace your steps…ker-ching! Got it! And then next time, you might watch your forward steps more carefully, try not to do the same thing again, right? And this time, you might be questioning your own motivations, pick, pick, pick: Are you being honest to yourself? Are you self-deluding?

It can be annoying behaviour, but on the whole, it’s pretty healthy and self-aware, as long as it’s balanced. But as a practice, it’s not all that common, apparently, especially at work. Think about the last time you said yes or no a bit too quickly. Was it because you had another agenda that only part of your brain would acknowledge? Was there a niggle? That you chose to ignore, because paying attention to it would tell you what you already knew – that the decision was really about…..

  • if I ask him, he’ll just pick at it, so I’ll go ahead anyway
  • I can’t be bothered to spend another half hour checking this
  • I need to beat her to the bar after work
  • my pride / hard-on- sorry, I mean ego, no, I mean…/ bonus will be at risk if I hesitate…

You get the idea.

Spend some time before the week is out checking your secret voice before saying yes or no (to others or to yourself) & see if you learn something about yourself. I never get feedback on these things, but I’ll do it too, and if anyone feeds back, so will I.

Happy watching your Yeses and Nos (it’s not really about that, but you won’t work it out ’til you give it a go, so I can’t say anything more that is meaningful).