"When we know it is our conversations that constitute our world, it shifts our relationship to what’s possible. It puts us in the driver’s seat. The shift doesn’t necessarily get rid of the lens or filters or mindsets per se, but fixed notions, old assumptions, old realities stop defining what’s possible and what’s not. We most commonly use and think of language in an experiential, descriptive, or representational way—as a response to the world, a process of fitting or matching our words to the world as we know it. Let’s call it a word-to-world fit. This use of language allows for certain outcomes, but not others. In a future-based model, language is used in a generative or contextual way, and is more than a response to the world. It yields completely different outcomes and is actually what brings the world into being—a world-to-word fit. In this model, language is both what gives rise to the world and what gives access to what is in that world.
"With that premise, we say that reality, conditions, and circumstances of the future do not exist as facts, but rather as a product of our conversations. Assuming that’s the case gives us a certain dominion, a direct and powerful access to shaping performance, to shaping outcomes. This generative, future-based model dynamically and actively pulls for the fulfillment of whatever future we are out to create.
"Take Akio Morita, former chairman and cofounder of Sony, who said he would change what 'Made in Japan' means. He wasn’t just interested in his company’s performance or a particular product line, but a shift in thought globally as well as in his own country. 'Made in Japan' at that time was associated with cheap, poor-quality items. He redefined the phrase to embody leading-edge technology, quality, and the highest levels of customer satisfaction on a worldwide scale. He also created new futures for Sony’s products; he spoke of listening to songs while walking about at a time when nobody believed in the marketability of a tape player that couldn't record—the Walkman was the result. History is strewn with examples. Louis Pasteur set out to demonstrate that microscopic organisms caused disease and propelled medicine into a new era; the writers of the Magna Carta (by establishing the principle of limited government) altered the world stage for human rights; Kennedy’s declaration made manned space exploration a reality.
"There’s something very important in these examples — each represents a future not existing at the time. There’s a certain declarative or generative language that was used in each case and the game unfolded in a new direction based on what a person or group of people said. A declaration made by an individual or group isn’t him or her or them speaking 'about' something, but is the thing itself—it’s language that actually creates something, brings something forth—the declaring into existence an intention, a stand, something with an impact, a space of possibility.
"Possibility is not real at its origin—it’s something we create as real, and then stand for as a reality. And when possibilities such as those mentioned above are created and articulated as a future, the terrain of the present occurs differently for people. Future-based language, in other words, contains the direction and momentum in which and for which things move. It folds the future back into the present, and when that happens people’s actions become correlated to that future and their performance alters in the present."
Visit www.threelawsofperformance.com to find out more about the creative power of language (and specifically, about Declaration and the power of your Word) and "The Three Laws of Performance" by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan.