Home » The Energy of Thought: Penny Zenker at TEDxPSUBehrend (Transcript)

The Energy of Thought: Penny Zenker at TEDxPSUBehrend (Transcript)

Penny Zenker at TEDxPSUBehrend

Here is the full transcript of business coach Penny Zenker’s talk titled “The Energy of Thought” at TEDxPSUBehrend conference. Penny Zenker is a strategic business coach, trainer and best-selling author of “The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time”.

Penny Zenker – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT

What would you say if I told you that you have the power to manipulate time? Would you believe me? Good.

So this is a scene from the movie The Matrix. And this is where Neo, the main character, he slows down time and he dodges those bullets in a single moment.

Okay, critics, he’s not really slowing down time but he is thinking and acting wicked fast. And so it appears as though time is slowing down.

What I love about this scene is that he doesn’t even know or believe that he’s the one and that he has this power. And so you know right after the scene, Trinity, his partner in resistance, says to him, “You were just as fast as the agents.”

In disbelief he puts a finger through the hole where the bullet went through in his pants and he said “Not fast enough.”

So this is a great metaphor for you, because you have that power, too. You just don’t know how to use it yet.

Now as I said it’s not really about time; it’s about managing the energy of our thought. It’s about making the unconscious conscious.

Because when we create awareness, we open up options and opportunities, and in effect, dodge those bullets. Because you can’t change your circumstances in most cases. But you can change the way you interact with it. And that’s what Neo is doing in the moment.

Einstein said that everything is energy, and I believe when you turn that statement around it’s also true energy is everything. How energy flows through us and how we manage our energy directly dictates the quality of our life.

And we manage our energy through thoughts. Thoughts are energy. But really don’t take it from me, take it from the scientists who have done study after study after study that say that our thoughts, our judgments, and our perceptions, they directly impact our body and vice versa.

One of my favorite authors in this space is Kelly McGonigal, and she’s written this book called The Upside of Stress. She is a health psychologist and through the book she tells people that stress is bad for you only if you believe it is. I know that’s crazy, right? She used to tell people that stress was bad for you all the time and tell them it would create illness… until she did the research.

One particular study that stood out for her that really changed her mind was that they tracked 30,000 people over eight years. And they asked them about their levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone, in their body. They measured that. They asked them about the levels of stress that they had and also what they believed about stress.

And so what they came up with in their results were that people who had a high level of stress in the past year were 43% more likely to die prematurely… but only those who believed that stress was bad for you.

Those that didn’t believe that stress was bad for you actually had no greater risk of dying prematurely than those who had very little to no stress.

And then really what made this that much more impactful for me was I had my own experience. It became real.

This is my son Ethan; he’s 12. And last year in January he came down with an acute sense of anxiety. He couldn’t go to school; he couldn’t interact with his friends. He couldn’t function.

So we went to see a psychiatrist. And in this first session that we had, she was helping us to understand a little bit about how anxiety affects the body and the mind.

So she asked when we first got there to play a little game and go ahead and spin around a couple times right, so spun around and spun around and then you know he was like this and she said, “So do you do you feel your heart racing? Do you feel dizzy in your head and queasy in your stomach?”

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And he’s like yeah.

And she said, “Are these the same symptoms that you feel when you feel anxiety?”

And he thought about it and he said yeah.

She said, “Notice that when you feel it in this moment, it’s funny. But when you feel it when you’re going to school or you’re going to interact with your friends, it’s debilitating and it only grows when you feel it.”

And he’s like yeah.

And then it hit me. It matters what he believes about stress. And given that it matters what we think about anything and everything.

Another great example of how our thoughts impact our results is with the placebo effect. So some of you have heard about it; some of you may have experienced it. This little sugar pill that has the same biological impact, that the actual medication has, how’s that possible?

It’s possible because people believe that it will work. Positive thinking leads to positive results. So the opposite is also true, that negative thinking leads to negative results. And that has a name it’s called the nocebo effect. I know, right?

So that is why it is so critical — critical that you know how to manage the energy of your thought. So let’s think about and learn about thoughts. Our thoughts. The National Science Foundation tells us that we have 70,000 thoughts a day. 70,000! That’s like a thought every second.

But here’s the interesting part. Only 5% of those thoughts are new. Think about that. That means that we are constantly 95% of the time repeating our thoughts over and over and over again in our heads.

Are you aware of what percentage of those thoughts are negative and the impact that it has on your life?

And we all have these automatic negative thoughts that go on unconsciously. So things like you know, oh that’s good for them but not for me. I can’t do that. I’m not good enough. I’m not experienced enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m just not enough. So self-sabotage lives in the unconscious.

So what about right now? How are you judging me or what are you thinking about right now? Are you still back at the Matrix kind of going through a scene or you go 70,000 thoughts, let me google that and you’re on your phone? Or maybe you’re shaking your head in disbelief and say no way that that’s true about stress.

Or maybe you don’t like the sparkles on my shirt or the buckles on my shoes. Maybe that’s how you’re judging me and what I’m talking about.

The fact is, is that our thoughts — they create our judgments. And our judgments — they create our decisions. And all of that happens in a split second before you even realize it… in this moment and every moment.

So what about critical moments in your life? Are you aware of what you’re thinking? Have you ever had a life-or-death situation or a moment that would impact the rest of your life?

Well, I’d like to share with you — take you on a journey. So I was scuba diving in Australia at the Great Barrier Reef. And we were in a scuba diving advanced course. And I was really excited because you do a lot of different things in this advanced course than you normally do.

And so we were going to be going on a night dive. And you know the ocean is like Las Vegas… is that there is activity day and night. And it’s so vastly different during the day than it is at night.

So I was super excited about this night dive and I was walking down to the scuba deck that night. And I noticed it was so cloudy and dark. And it was really windy like you could feel the wind blowing and it was — the waves were crashing against the side of the boat and the boat was kind of rocking.

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And I thought if you asked me, not the best night for a night dive.

But you know I was eager but then I came down and I overheard the instructors talking about the safety of the dive and questioning whether it was safe for us to dive that night. And they proceeded to say OK, we were going to make that dive. But I couldn’t get it out of my head that there was a question about the safety.

And then everything seemed magnified. The clouds seemed to come in on me and the boat seemed to rock that much more. I was really uneasy about this dive.

And as luck would have it, I was one of the first to go into the water. And as I was standing there about to go into the water my heart was racing. And it was so loud it felt like it was in my ears. And then splash — I was in the water.

Now I had to wait for nine other people to get into the water and those waves were crashing against me. And it was bringing me further and further away from the area where they were jumping in.

And then the waves kept crashing against my face and it was making hard for me to breathe. I even had to put on my regulator which normally you don’t put on until you go underneath the water. So I was using up precious air from my tank that I was going to need for later.

And then my goggles got fogged and I had to take those off and organize that. And I was getting further and further away from the group. I was thrashing my arms and legs and nothing was working. So panic set in. Fight-or-flight.

So with that, my thoughts came crashing in like the waves. I didn’t train for this. This is dangerous. People die at sea. I could die. I could die!

Remember earlier how I said those 95% of our thoughts they keep repeating themselves? So as it was repeating itself in my head, that fear was getting greater.

And then I had this out-of-body experience. You know you ever experience yourself — experiencing yourself and I saw that this death trance was absolutely not helping me. And that realization is when the unconscious becomes conscious.

I was now truly aware that I had a choice. I could be the victim and give in to my fear and give up my power. Or I could be the victor and make this a great adventure.

And so another part of me woke up, smacked me in the face and said “This is pathetic. This is not who you are. Pull it together. Take a deep breath.”

So I did and I took a couple of deep breaths and with that I was able to calm down and I was able to see that the turbulence above the water was from the wind and the elements outside and that down below the water it was calm.

So with that I made the decision to complete the dive. And interesting enough as I made that decision, I got relatively quickly back to the group. How? It seemed like it was impossible before, it’s because I was paralyzed by fear. Fear is like our kryptonite. Kryptonite renders Superman powerless when he’s near it.

And when I panicked in the water that night, I gave up my power. I gave in to the fear. So by letting go of that fear, I let go of the resistance that kept me from getting back to the group.

So I’m not saying that letting go of fear, anger, sadness, or any other such emotion will make it easy for you to do what you have to do. But it will make it easier.

I believe that your experiences and your challenges — they don’t have to define you. But if you allow them, they will refine you.

You have a choice, and that choice always, always begins with awareness, making the unconscious conscious. And really then and only then do you truly have a choice of what this moment means and how you’re going to interact with it.

And what I’d like to share with you is four ways that I practice in order to create greater consciousness and greater control over the energy of my thoughts.

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So number one is SELF-TALK. You heard me I said I could die, I could die. Those words that I were using, right? That was really as soon as I heard that negativity in those words, that was a trigger for me to break that pattern of thought.

Our words matter. A great example of this is Tony Robbins did an interview with Nelson Mandela. And he said “Mr. Mandela, how did you survive 27 years in prison?”

Nelson Mandela got pretty intense and he said “Tony, I didn’t survive. I prepared.”

Wow, right? Listen to the powerful use of words and the energy of those words.

So what do you feel when you’re feeling survival? You feel aggressive, you feel angry, you might feel hurt, it would lead to a very different experience than if you’re preparing for something.

What do you feel when you’re preparing? You feel calmed, controlled, purposeful — very different result.

So your words — they reflect your thoughts. So you want to really choose your words wisely and listen carefully.

Number two is FOCUS. What was I focused on that night while I was scuba diving? I was focused on the distance that was being created between me and the others. And I was focused on the fear and the waves crashing against me.

What we focus on is what we think about. And if you focus on your fear over here and what you don’t want, you could get more of what you don’t want. But if you shift your focus, you shift your perspective, you change how you interact with it and you change your result.

Number three is PHYSIOLOGY. When my heart rate was beating above 150 beats per minute, that’s when our brain we go into fight or flight mode. That’s when we lose access to the executive function of our brain.

And so by just breathing I was able to slow down my heart rate and get back that access to my executive function. So you can do this too.

You don’t have to be in a life-or-death situation to just move your body, breathe or to use your body positioning to shift your mindset. You can do this every day. You can do it at work if you’re distracted or school if you don’t want to do your homework. You can do it in any context, maybe a conflict or you’re not getting the result that you want. Your body is with you all the time.

And lastly, when we combine that with a purpose that’s greater than ourselves, now we have all the aspects of what I call energy management. And that means that’s how we show up for the time that we have, and you have to practice it.

So there’s a great quote by the Navy SEALs and it goes that in a crisis you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink — no pun intended — sink to the level of your training. But I would say you sink to the level of your thinking.

So back to the Matrix. So in the movie, Neo, as he starts to believe that he’s the one and he’s practicing using his power, he’s gaining agility and speed. And so if you want to gain greater agility and speed in how you manage the energy of your thoughts, then you can manage your self-talk, direct your focus, use your body and your physiology, and connect to a purpose that’s greater than yourself.

And now you have the power to dodge those bullets, stop those bullets of unproductive thought that come from emotions, like fear, anger, sadness, hurt, guilt or shame.

The fact is you are Neo; you are the one. You have the power and you always have.

Thank you.


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Resources for Further Reading:

Break Away From Negative Thoughts & Experience Life: Kip Hollister (Transcript)

Caroline Leaf on Science of Thought at TEDxOaksChristianSchool (Transcript)

Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Lauren Weinstein (Full Transcript)

How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Transcript)