The interviewer was Jeff Bogaczyk, who was finishing up his PhD in communication at Duquesne University, and does a podcast series called Mind for Life. As he explains it:
Who Am I?Jeff has been doing very impressive work, and we originally connected via his interest in media ecology and participation in communication conferences. Given the nature of his series, it was only natural that the discussion emphasized general semantics, and it seemed only fitting to get into Wendell Johnson's general semantics concept of the IFD disease.
My name is Jeff Bogaczyk and I write about and produce a podcast on personal development. I am very interested in the intersection between our thoughts and actions and explore this in my writing and podcast. I hope you enjoy!
What is Mind For Life?
Mind for Life is a podcast/blog designed with your best life in mind based on the idea that how you think greatly affects the way you live. This seems obvious at first glance but a deeper probe into the question reveals how important this fact is, and also how often it is forgotten in our daily activity. The majority of our life experience is done on “autopilot.” What this means is that our actual lived experience is comprised of thousands of things each day that affect what we choose to do, how we respond to people, the choices we make, and the actions we take. There are so many factors involved that we cannot consciously be aware of all of them and so our brains “choose” for us based upon past experiences and decisions. Our brains act for us and make “autopilot” decisions beneath our conscious awareness.
Of course some of these decisions are minor and don’t have major affects on our lives–we are tired of sitting so we stand, we stretch our arms, we fidget in our chair because we are uncomfortable. Usually, we aren’t aware that we are doing these things because it happens subconsciously. However, there are other decisions our brains make for us that have greater consequences in our lives. How we respond in a conflict situation with someone we love, for example. See, our brains have been “programmed” to respond in these instances based upon the past experiences in our lives. In other words, our environment has taught us how to respond simply by experiencing things and events. To use the conflict example–we usually respond to conflict the way we have been “taught”–not intentionally, necessarily–but by the examples of the people that we have been around and grown up with. Our parents, our household environment, our friendships, and other relationships all influence how we learn about managing conflict. So, if we have grown up and lived in an environment that has been characterized by shouting, slamming doors, demeaning others, etc. in conflict situations, we learn that unconsciously and that becomes the “default” for how our brains operate in similar situations.
We Can Change
The good news is that we can change our default thinking patterns by establishing intentional, productive thinking processes in our life. Recent research into our cognitive development has shown that our brains have a quality called neuroplasticity. This basically means that our brains, our thinking patterns, our thought processes are still mold-able and can be adjusted and improved. This is good news because we all understand, if we are honest with ourselves, that we have areas in our lives where we can improve. Self-awareness is the ability to see those areas of weakness in our own lives. The challenge is finding ways to correct them. This is where communication can make a difference.
Really, if you think about it, thinking is simply a process of communicating with ourselves in a particular direction. When we think, we enter an internal dialogue with ourselves where we ask questions, provide answers, state premises’ and hopefully solve problems and come up with solutions and answers. This podcast/blog is basically about helping to turn our attention to this entire process as it is taking place in our lives and helping to establish proactive thinking patterns that will, in time, provide better outcomes and a better life. If our default thinking patterns in particular aspects of our life are dysfunctional due to bad experiences in our past, then the default thought process will result in a habitual action that results in a destructive outcome. Think of it like this. Though the “computer” model of brain function has many problems, in this area we might be able to say if the programming is bad, the output will be bad. Garbage in, garbage out as they say.
The solution? Though we can’t always fix what goes in, we can take steps to address these inputs in constructive and productive ways. Changing our thinking involves self-awareness–a realization in all facets of what has happened to us and where our areas of difficulty lie. Secondly it involves education–learning about what is really happening, how these processes are taking place and how we can respond positively and productively. This is what Mind For Life is all about. Join with us on the journey!
Jeff incorporates the connection in his blog post related to the podcast: 3 Powerful Leadership Lessons From General Semantics And Media Ecology. You can read what he wrote over on his blog, I'll just note here that the three lessons he mentions are: 1. Develop operational definitions; 2. Watch out for idealization; and 3. Avoid abstract jargon and leadership clichés. His explanation of these three ideas and the overall discussion leading up to it are worth reading, so I recommend checking it out.
As for the podcast itself, can listen to it via this link: MFL 22–Dr. Lance Strate: Success and IFD Disease. I do think it turned out rather well, don't you agree? And here's the custom pic he included:
You can download the podcast via that link, and there's a bio and list of my books on the same page, and some links, which I don't need to include here. But I think the following items Jeff also includes are worth a little cut and paste. The first is a list of Podcast Time Stamps:
Podcast Time Stamps
[5:51] – Dr. Strate tells what Media Ecology is all about and explains General Semantics.
[7:48] – Lance describes how General Semantics can help us in thinking about words and how we use them in our lives.
[10:03] – Dr. Strate describes how General Sematics can help us when thinking about success.
[11:00] – Lance talks about IFD disease: Idealization, frustration and demoralization. A process that occurs when we use our words as high level abstractions instead of more specifically.
[17:13] – How operational definitions can help to prevent IDF disease. Operational definitions prevent us from idealizing any given term or goal in our lives.
[18:42] – How General Semantics is an attempt to take scientific method and generalize it to human relations.
[21:26] – Lance talks about his own personal “operational definition” of success. Specifically about looking at accomplishments and completing tasks as realistic expectations instead of idealized abstractions.
[24:00] – How pride and status are related to success and accomplishment. For Lance, it’s more about “going with the flow” and following the path that rose up before him.
[25:30] – There is also a component about being realistic about what you are able to achieve.
[26:22] – How Lance finds the motivation to write as extensively as he does – it’s about committing to things and leveraging his sense of obligation to deliver on what he promises someone.
And the second is Jeff's list of Top Learning Moments:
Top learning moments
Much of success is related to your definition of success. From a General Semantics perspective this has to do with creating an “operational definition” that allows you to pursue something that isn’t a generalization or abstraction.
IFD disease – the idea of having “idealistic” expectations that will never come to pass turns into frustration and demoralization. If you find yourself frustrated or demoralized, ask yourself if you aren’t pursuing some idealistic end and then think about how you can make that more realistic and practical.
Committing to doing something leverages the psychological power of obligation. When we commit to something, we have a stronger tendency to accomplish it because other people expect it of us. So, to accomplish more, it may be helpful to say “yes” rather than “no” when someone asks us to do something outside of our comfort zone.