It Has No Meaning

I’m in the process of reading “The Achievement Habit” by Bernard Roth, a Stanford professor who founded the Stanford d.School that teaches design thinking concepts. In the first section of his book, he introduces the concept of “It Has No Meaning,” which is something that I have written about before and I thought it was definitely worth revisiting. The idea of this concept is that nothing has meaning until we give it meaning. Each event that occurs, each interaction that we have with others, even inanimate objects in our lives are all simply what they are until we decide what meaning we choose to give it.

Think about it – let me throw out a word and see how you react – my life’s work involves helping others achieve more in life, mainly by getting out of their own way. So, of course, I’d like to focus on the word “achievement.” What is your initial reaction to this word? Did you wrinkle your nose in disgust because you have assigned a negative meaning based on people or situations from your past? Did you say “hell ya – that’s what I’m all about!” because you’ve assigned it a positive meaning based on your life’s experiences? OR did you shrug your shoulders and say “meh” because the word doesn’t really have any meaning for you either way?

We assign meaning to absolutely everything in our lives. Here’s the thing though, sometimes we choose to assign meaning that is not in our best interest. This can lead to our “triggers.” So the next time you feel “triggered,” stop yourself and consider why you are having an emotional reaction? What meaning have you assigned to what was said or what occurred to lead to your reaction. The more mindful you can be in the moment, the better – because you will respond to the situation rather than just react. As I’ve said before – 80% of the conflict that occurs in our lives can be handled within our heads alone – and mostly by walking through an emotional reaction we are having and realizing that we are reacting to a situation that occurred in the past, not the one right in front of us.