I’ve been reading Tony Robbins’ book Unlimited Power, and there’s a concept that I really want to drill down into. It’s something that you could write a whole book on, something you could take a whole course on, and it would create abundant value for all who learned it. For Tony Robbins, it is tucked away as an early chapter in a 400-page book written in the mid-80s. Let’s explore modalities and sub modalities.
Before we introduce these concepts, I will provide some necessary context. When we go through life, we experience many different things. Our brain tells us that this experience is good or bad, amazing or devastating. But we can choose to have our brain tell us something different. This is the concept of internal representations. Some people have extremely hard lives, and yet end up incredibly successful. Others have extremely luxurious lives and end up broke and hopeless. Our current experiences do not dictate our future actions. Instead, it is our internal representations of those experiences. “There is no good or bad, but thinking makes it so”, said William Shakespeare. Our experiences can be interpreted in any way we want them to be interpreted. That is the beauty of being human – we get to make that choice. The challenge now is to find the ways in which take whatever experiences we have and turn them into something better, somewhere in the direction of our hopes and dreams.
To find the ways in which to take these experiences and form internal representations that will help us achieve our goals, we ought to understand how exactly we represent things in our minds. This brings us to modalities. When we have an experience, or are looking back at an experience, we store these things in three main forms: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. That is, we see things, we hear things, and we feel things. We can remember and visualise these experiences using these three modalities. In doing so, we can change how the experience looks, sounds and feels. In doing so, we can completely change how we interpret this experience moving forward. Instead of something feeling completely embarrassing, we can change its representation in our minds to something which was hilarious. Instead of something feeling like a failure, we can represent it as a necessary hurdle on a greater journey. It may feel as if we are lying to ourselves, or denying our experience, but really, what was stopping us from having that constructive representation of that experience in the first place? We are not changing the experience itself, but rather our internal representation of that experience. We are making something that we once thought was destructive and turning it into something constructive. I can’t think of anything more empowering.
Although I have read this book 3-4 times, this concept didn’t really strike me as much as it has on this reading. This is like a cheat code for your mind. You can use this strategy for past experiences, current experiences and to visualise where you would like to be in the future. Many of those who have succeeded in their respective fields have used visualisation to make their dreams a reality. Sportspeople use it consistently, visualising every possible moment in their head, virtually playing entire games inside their mind without stepping foot on the field. We can use the internal representations of those who are successful in our field to create those states in our own mind, allowing us to take advantage of the wiring that brought them such success. The applications of this are seemingly endless.
It also brings about some startling realisations about our lives more broadly. If we can consistently choose our internal representations and make these choices about how to react to different situations, then our personal limitations become questionable. Am I poor at maths, or have I not been using the right internal representations? What about creative fields that many of us are too shy to even approach? How might our relationships be different if we utilised the internal representations of those who have our ideal relationships? The questions continue to flow, and the answer appears to be that our abilities are endless, if only we would realise them.