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Language and the Pursuit of Happiness Chp 1 2 5 7

Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
Chapter 1: You Can’t Change What You Don’t See, lays the groundwork for the book. The starting
point for any meaningful change is our capacity to observe and specifically, to observe ourselves. Then and
only then do we get to be at choice about making any changes in our lives. Throughout the whole book, my
emphasis will be to improve your ability to observe yourself and what you’re up to in language.
The orientation here will be toward helping you begin to see yourself, what you’re doing, and how
you’re being... in a new way. This focus, in turn, is based on the following key observation: Many of
us – if not most of us – are very poor observers of ourselves!
Many of us are somehow much better about noticing things about others, particularly those close to
us, than we are about noticing those same sorts of things about ourselves.
This increased ability to see and notice ourselves brings with it one key advantage: we then get to
choose, we get to be more at choice, we get to have a broader playing field containing more options,
as we go about doing the things we do and producing the results we produce in our lives.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Why do I see things like I see them?” Maybe instead the key
question should be “Is the way that I see things working for me
One way to do this is to allow your observations, questions, or suggestions to be first about yourself.
These may take the form of internal questions, such as: “What am I noticing about myself? What do I
notice about some of the ways I seem to automatically react, some of the actions I seem to be ‘thrown
to’ in these situations? What types of internal conversations do I seem to create and dwell in, in these
situations? What do I observe about my way of interacting with others – my ‘relationship dance’ or
‘conversational dance?’ What tends to be easy for me to see? What tends to be harder for me to see?
First basic claim: You cannot change another human being.
I’m not saying we have no way of influencing others. I believe we certainly can and do. I am saying
that at a fundamental level, you can’t change me.
Second basic claim: We are always and already connected to other human beings. This is a given.
We can either be connected to others in such a way that it produces productivity and peace, or be
connected in such a way that it does not,
o My success, my results in a wide variety of areas, are also connected to how I “dance,” how I
interact, how I coordinate action with others.
Third basic claim: If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got. If you
want to produce a result – at home or at work or anywhere – that you have not historically produced,
you’ve got to take actions you have not historically taken.
Fourth basic claim: We are always at choice.
o Have you noticed that every time in your life that things were screwed up... you were there?
We are each the common denominator in our own stories;
o We aren’t born winners or losers – we’re born choosers.
o For example, when I see myself as having no choices I often go to resentment, frustration,
victimhood, or even resignation.
And finally, our fifth basic claim: We live in language; we do what we do in language. We’re linguistic
o that set of internal conversations, narratives and stories is there for all of us. And many of us
are not very powerful observers of this – that is, we don’t see the extent to which that voice is
already greatly influencing how we interact, how we feel, and how we do a great many of the
things that we do in our lives. And even if we do happen to see this, we may still find ourselves
not seeing any good choices to take in order to really change things.
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
Chapter 1 Summary Main Points and New Interpretations
o Many of us are very poor observers of ourselves. In many ways, we do what we do without
being aware of our actions and how they contribute to our experiences and results.
o In particular, many of us are poor observers of what we’re each doing in language, what we’re
up to in language.
o The only person you can really change is... you. But before you can do this, you must notice.
Observing yourself is the necessary starting point for any real change. We call this the Big Eye,
and we will continually point to it as a key for any of us desiring to bring about real changes in
our lives.
o We always have choices available to us. We’re choosing at every moment, and many of these
choices manifest themselves as language choices, language “moves” we make in the world.
• How-To: Possibilities for Taking New Action
o 1. Big Eye: Begin to pay more attention to your little voice, the internal conversations you have
that seemingly run on auto-pilot much of the time. Do this without judging yourself or blaming
yourself or congratulating yourself; rather, just notice the types of conversations you tend to
have with yourself. Do you
o 2. What are you telling yourself right now, about this chapter and what this book seems to be
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
Chapter 2: Language – The Tool We Cannot Put Down, introduces a new way of understanding the
phenomenon of language. This non-traditional interpretation of language is the new foundation upon which
everything else in the book rests. This interpretation, for me, changed everything.
Here it is Language is not primarily passive and descriptive. Language is primarily generative and
creative. We claim that language is not simply a passive tool for describing how things are. Instead,
we say that language does much, much more. Yes, we describe with our language. Yes, we
communicate with our language. But with language we also create, we generate, we do things, we
take action, we put in motion events and situations that would not have been put in motion had we
not spoken.
What the Declaration of Independence did was create and shift the prevailing context, and create a
new set of possibilities. Suddenly, something (the birth of an independent country) became possible,
or perhaps even likely. And something else (continued long-term colonial life) became immediately
less likely. What’s also important to notice is that this new context – that was declared into being –
had the impact of changing how future events would be interpreted.
Generating a new interpretation is taking a new action. And different actions, of course, lead us to
different results.
This is one of the key actions available to us through language – to influence how future actions get
interpreted, and to do so purposefully. This has to do with creating context, of course
For groups, context is brought forth or shifted by mission statements, statements of purpose, goals,
or declared priorities. These create a context, a background, in which certain future actions get
interpreted as “appropriate, good, right” while other future actions get interpreted as
“inappropriate, bad, unacceptable.” This is directly connected to leadership, of course, and is a
powerful phenomenon to notice.
We create out of what we speak.
We say that because we notice that we produced something, we created something, out of what we
said. We didn’t just describe. We did something. We created some result, and it was not the result
we wanted.
Do you want to change your relationship with someone? Then change your conversations with that
The nature of the relationship has to do with the nature of the conversations, whether these be face
to face, email, over the telephone, via written letters, or whatever.
Show me someone you have no conversations with, and I’ll show you someone you have no
relationship with. Inventing new conversations with someone equals inventing a new relationship with
that person.
If you’re in business and, for example, you want to build a team culture of trust and ambition, do you
need bricks and mortar to do that building? No, of course not. To “build” here is a metaphor. What
would a camera see you doing as you’re doing that building? It would see you talking and listening,
engaging with people in interactions and conversations.
We get so caught up in the metaphors that we sometimes lose sight of the actual actions involved.
And in a great many cases, the actual actions are talking and listening. Our language, our
conversations are what we’re using to generate, create, build, and do.
Our results are absolutely connected to our conversations.
How much time do we spend in 1) conversations for the purpose of “cleaning up” previous
conversations that didn’t produce the result we wanted? And 2) conversely, are there any
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
conversations that we simply are not having – what we can call “missing conversations” – but that if
we were having, we would produce better results?
Four New Claims About Language
 Human beings are linguistic beings. We “live in language.” All of us, all the time.
 Language is generative and creative (vs. passive and descriptive).
 Language is action. To speak is to act.
 With language, we make visible that which was previously invisible.
Mark Twain... he said “I’m always in conversation... and sometimes, other people are involved!”
Let me share with you this story – let’s pretend I’m a lion, on the savannah, getting ready to hunt for
a zebra. Behind me on my left are other young males, wishing it was their turn to hunt... Behind me
on my right are the female lionesses, checking me out. I see the zebra I want, it’s a slow one in the
back, I’ve got him picked out. I take a running start, get ready to leap and boogety boom, I hit a
hidden log and down I go in a cloud of dust. I get up and brush the dust and dirt off of myself and I’m
thinking “I knew I shouldn’t have had that antelope last night... I knew it was too filling and today was
my day to hunt... look at them all laughing at me... I’ll never be king, not with this on my resume...
and look at her, I can forget our date for Saturday night... this is about the worst day in my life...I’m
humiliated... in fact, I may have to join a new pride!”
o Key question: does a lion do that? As far as we know, does a lion do that? I say no, a lion doesn’t
do that. But we do that – human beings do that.
Here it is – we human beings are confronted with events and circumstances at home, at work, socially,
when we’re with our families, when we’re alone... everywhere. So let’s follow this – an event happens,
and as human beings, we very quickly:
o Make up a story about it
o Hold our story to be The Truth
o And forget that we made it up!
The story is an interpretation, a narrative, an explanation. And this story, this interpretation, this
narrative, this explanation... lives in language. This is a very widespread phenomenon – we are all
doing it.
Now, creating this explanation is not a problem, in and of itself. This is what we do, because after
all... we live in language! The big problem is that we don’t see that we’re doing this... back to the Big
Eye. The problem with not seeing this is that we begin living as if our story, our interpretation, our
explanation, is the event!
o the key question does not have to do with whether or not my story is “right” or “wrong”;
instead, the more powerful question is “Is my story – my interpretation, my explanation – is it working
for me? Given the results I say I want... Is this explanation serving me? Is it moving me toward those
results?” Because if it’s not, I can learn – with time and practice – to begin authoring new stories,
more powerful interpretations, ones that serve me better than my old ones.
o The explanation – not the event – is what’s important because it – not the event – orients us
and moves us into certain actions and not others, which produce certain results and now others
o In this way of thinking, whether or not we articulate and declare our desired results is
absolutely connected to whether or not we ever reach them.
o A related observation: The minute I begin living as if my explanation of the event is the event...
I stop listening.
So we live in language, we’re immersed in language, all of us, all the time. The basic questions are:
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
o Do you even see yourself as making up a story in the first place?
o Are you even aware that you are interpreting, creating explanations and building internal
narratives for yourself – and that you’ve been doing so your whole life?
• Am I telling my story, or is my story telling me?
• Our second new language claim – Language creates and generates. Language is creative and
generative (vs. passive and descriptive). In these four areas, we say this generative and creative
impact is critical to observe:
• Relationships
• Moods (for individuals and for groups)
• Public Identity
• Context – and especially important is context related to our own learning (or non-learning,
as the case may be)
• It’s not just that the prevailing mood seems to allow those conversations to happen; which it does...
it’s also the case that by having those conversations, we’re producing or perpetuating or sustaining a
certain mood. And in this case, it would be a mood of resentment or a mood of cynicism or a mood of
• Causality is not just one way. The mood is the environment out of which certain conversations come
easily, and the conversations absolutely also impact and shape and sustain certain moods. With our
language we are doing far more than describing. We are creating.
• Our personal, internal conversations are clearly and directly connected to our individual moods and
• To get over something... actions: I must stop having certain internal and external conversations and
start having others. Our conversations serve to influence, design and shift our mood, every bit as
much as our mood serves to influence our conversations.
• The key observation to make here is that each of us generates our public identity largely out of our
• As social beings we already have a public identity – how we “show up” for the community of listeners
around us.
• Key questions here are:
Do you know how you are “showing up” for others? and
Are you showing up – being perceived – in the ways that you desire?
this feedback – about how you and / or your actions are showing up – can be incorporated
into what you’re already thinking, feeling and perceiving... and can allow you to more fully
understand... and begin to be more conscious about designing who you are in the world.
Public identity can also be examined and better understood through the use of what’s called
the Jo-Hari Window,
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
Public Identity
Language creates context. Context in this sense is not physical, but it’s real.
Context has everything to do with meaning, and meaning is central to our lives. We human beings
apparently are creatures that must make sense of things, in an ongoing way and in virtually every
aspect of our lives.
From one context, a given event means X. From another context, the same event means Y. And from
meaning X we take one action and produce one result, while from meaning Y we take another action
and produce another result.
Context is directly connected with results
Within organizations, clear and consistent context enables clarity and consistency in decision-making
and results.
Declarations of mission, vision, desired goals or results can be said to “set the stage” for actually
achieving the goals; what we sometimes fail to notice is that the declarations come before the result
Leaders create context through declarations of vision, of purpose, and of priority. On the
organizational side, this is directly connected to what we call “corporate culture.”
Context is directly connected with learning, for individuals and for organizations. We are speaking
here about our capacity, over the course of a lifetime, to continue learning, adapting, and changing.
Language conveys not only information, but commitment. And commitments, promises, agreements
– these are the fundamental ways that we achieve non-hermithood. These are the fundamental ways
that we achieve coordination with others, that we accomplish anything collectively.
language has to do with Coordination of Action.
Humans can coordinate the coordination of action. And this is the action of language. This is
The recursive nature of our language allows us to also engage in reflective action. We can turn our
language on itself. By this we mean that with our language, we can talk about our talking. We can
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
think about our thinking. And the results of this reflective action often lead to new public
conversations, new private conversations, new commitments, new coordination of action, new results.
“The ultimate impact of the leader depends most significantly on the particular story that he or she
relates or embodies, and the receptions to that story on the part of audiences... the most basic story
has to do with issues of identity.” ...My analysis of leadership comes to focus, therefore, on the stories
conveyed by representative leaders.”
“Every organized human activity – from the making of pots to the placing of man on the moon – gives
rise to two fundamental and opposing requirements:
o the division of labor into various tasks to be performed,
o the coordination of these tasks to accomplish the activity. The structure of an
organization can be defined simply as the sum total of the ways in which it divides its
labor into distinct tasks and then achieves coordination among them.”
Chapter 2 Summary Main Points and New Interpretations
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
How-To: Possibilities for Taking New Action
1. Big Eye: What are you telling yourself about this new way of looking at language, this new
interpretation and the possibilities it claims to open?
2. Identify a relationship or situation that you say you’d like to improve (personal or workplace).
Write it down. This is your SAMPLE SITUATION, and from this point forward it will serve as your “real
life” test case for applying what you choose to apply from the book.
3. What is the particular new Result that you say you want in your SAMPLE SITUATION? Write this
down. For example, are you looking for:
Better cooperation and less blaming •
Fewer arguments that end badly •
More productivity •
More peace of mind for you •
Fewer misunderstandings and screw-ups that need to be fixed later •
A more enjoyable, mutually respectful relationship •
Or something else?
4. Big Eye: Identify one way in which your external conversations and internal conversations have
contributed to things being like they are in your SAMPLE SITUATION. Be as specific as you can be. In
other words, What have you said out loud, and how have you said it? What result did this lead to?
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
What have you said to yourself, and how have you said it? How did this influence your thoughts and
future actions?
5. Identify any recurring “negative” conversations you have with yourself. That is, internal
conversations that you seem to have on a regular basis, that you say are not helpful in moving you
toward where you want to go. Let’s call these NEGATIVE INTERNAL CONVERSATIONS. We’ll also
refer to these in future summaries.
6. What kind of public identity would you like to have? Write this down, especially if you think it’s
different than the public identity you currently have. What might you need to learn in order to take
new actions that produce this new public identity?
7. What kind of public identity have you actually created for yourself? In other words, how are you
now “showing up” for others around you (at home, at work, socially, etc.)? Do you know? If not,
identify one possible way for you to find out.
Language and the Pursuit of Happiness: A New Foundation for Designing Your Life, Your Relationships and Your
Results /Chalmers Brothers
Chapter 5: My Favorite Model: Observer ¾ Action ¾ Results. This chapter introduces a
simple yet powerful model of how we human beings actually produce the results we produce. Originally
developed and expanded by Robert Putnam, Chris Argyris and Rafael Echeverria (among others), this
model builds on the claim that each of us is a unique observer of the world. From the way we observe things
to be, we act. And from these actions, we produce results – in a tremendously wide variety of areas.
Chapter 7: We Speak Ourselves Into The World. If new action is required for new results, what
exactly are the new actions we will take? What exactly are the language “moves” that we will make? The
four sections within this chapter introduce the specific language acts that we use in our internal and external
conversations. Here, the focus is not on grammar or sentence structure or nouns and verbs; rather, it’s on
the commitments and actions accomplished with each language act:
Section 1: Assessments and Assertions
Section 2: Declarations
Section 3: Requests and Offers
Section 4: Promises, Commitments, Agreements