“If I am not me, then who the hell am I?” -Douglas Quaid, Total Recall

Session 9 Of The Dale Carnegie Course Is About Developing Mental Flexibility While Having Fun

About two months ago, I saw a blog post from someone who had taken the Dale Carnegie Course. At the time of the post, he had just completed Session 9. The post was relatively short and referenced building self confidence. However, it talked about making people perform foolish activities so that they could learn not to take themselves seriously.

Being an instructor for the program, I know that this session typically draws a lot of interest, comments, and quite a few giggles in the classroom.

But very few people really understand the amazing impact this session has on participants with the right mindset.

If you’ve taken the course, you’ll remember Session 9 as requiring you to step outside of your comfort zone. If you haven’t taken the course, you’re likely to hear about it from your co-workers as the fun session.

Session 9, however, is one of the stronger sessions in the program. It develops a person’s mental flexibility in dealing with real world situations.

What A Master Trainer Revealed About Mental Flexibility In Session 9

When I first took the Dale Carnegie Course, I found participating in Session 9 a real stretch. I had always thought of myself as an introvert person. And in this session, the instructor was asking me to do some things that no “sane” person would do.  That’s how limited my thinking was at that time.

Then I started my journey as an assistant.  Each time I assisted in a program, I gained a different perspective on this session. Not only did I see how the session affected the participants, but I also became aware of my own restrictive perspective. However, the real revelations came after I went through my NLP certification and then completed my Dale Carnegie instructor training.

During my instructor certification, I was fortunate enough to have two top-shelf Master Trainers. These individuals had in-depth, systemic knowledge of the program. They knew how each of the different sessions operated as a whole. And they knew the impact it had on the participants in their real world activities. If you asked any of the other trainers about these two individuals, you would come away thinking that these two master trainers were the equivalent of Master Yoda and Mace Windu of the Jedi Knights.

Anyway, they gave me a holistic perspective of the program. Their insights revealed to me why we do what we do in Session 9. After completing the instructor certification process, Session 9 wasn’t the magical session that held a special place in my heart. Instead, it became the cornerstone for developing a special ability in people. That ability is the mental flexibility to put “you” on hold and assume a different role. If you have the ability to assume a different role, you can gain a different perspective on a situation.  That perspective can provide you with critical information, something every strategic thinker, sales rep and manager desires.

Learning Mental Flexibility From Arnold Schwarzenegger In The Movie, Total Recall

To understand this concept, go back to the 1990 movie, Total Recall starring the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In this film Arnold played a lowly construction worker named Doug Quaid. Bored with his life, Doug buys a mental vacation to Mars from the company Rekall. However, after he gets his dream “vacation”, he discovered that he’s actually an undercover agent for the Martian government. His memories had been replaced so that he could infiltrate and destroy the Martian resistance.

Here’s the catch.  Doug initially requested to take his mental “vacation” as a secret agent. So throughout the movie, we are never quite sure what’s real. Was Doug living out his dream vacation totally encapsulated within his lobotomized mind? Or was Doug actually a “dream persona” about to be assimilated by his more sinister alter ego as it resurfaced into the real world?

However, there is one interaction in the film that really brings home this concept of mental flexibility. This is the flexibility we explore in Session 9 of the Dale Carnegie Course.

When Doug goes into Rekall, he is met by a sales rep whose name is Bob McClean.

Bob sells Doug on a trip to Mars. Actually, he facilitates the sale. Doug sold himself before he walked through the door.

While Doug is starting his paperwork, Bob says, “While you look over the paperwork, I’m going to familiarize you with some of our options.”

Doug, resistant to trying something different, says, “No options.”

Bob says, “OK. You’re the boss. Can I ask you a question? What is it that is exactly the same about every single vacation that you’ve ever taken?”

Doug responds in an exasperated voice, “I give up.”

And Bob says, “You! You’re the same. No matter where you go, there you are. It’s always the same old you. Let me suggest that you take a vacation from yourself. I know it sounds wild. It’s the latest thing in travel. We call it the Ego Trip.”

And from there, it’s an all-out downhill ride with no brakes.

This is the concept we explore in Session 9: taking a vacation from “you”.

The Myth Of “This Is Just How I Am” And The Power To Be Free

When I asked participants to do something different in my programs, I’ve always found at least one person who said, “Well, this is just the way I am.”

In fact, when I look back on the first time I took the program, I see that I was one of those people. I was a shy, introverted person and there was nothing in the world that was going to change that. That was just how I was.

While only a few participants would actually say, “this is just how I am”, I found that the majority of participants would silently hold on to their self-perceptions like a life preserver. When we asked them to try something differently, or when we asked them to get up and speak, they would passionately hold onto what they perceive as their “old selves” while hesitantly stepping out to try something new.

Because they would hold on to that definition of themselves, they measured their progress by how far they strayed from their point of origin and how much anxiety that small journey into unfamiliar territory caused them. Consequently, they only made incremental gains.

A few participants, however, released their self-perceptions and reached for something new. They effectively peeled off their persona and stepped into another role to become someone or something else.  The paradigm shift, however, did not occur when they assumed another role. It happened when they realized that they could let go of the original role they lived in for most of their lives. They realized they had the freedom to be whatever they wanted.

They became flexible enough to “take a vacation from themselves” and in the process, they attained the freedom to choose what they wanted to be.

Session 9 Mental Flexibility Exercises: Practice Being Someone Or Something Else

I remember facilitating one particular class where I had a participant who was paralyzed at the thought of participating in the Session 9 “festivities”. She just couldn’t do it.

So I took her through an NLP intervention using a disassociation process similar to the process used in the NLP Fast Phobia cure.

After having her separate from her “old self”, I assured her it was completely protected in a chair on the sideline. It was ready to be picked up again after the exercise. Additionally, I told her that her “old self” had given her permission to be anything that she wanted. She was now totally free to be or do anything for the next two minutes. And for the next two minutes, she was going to be the giant in the Jack and the Beanstalk story.

This girl, normally a shy and reserved person, got a devilish look on her face and she went absolutely bananas! She was wild! No one in the room could believe that it was the same person.

When she was finished everyone applauded wildly. No one could believe it.

When the applause died down, I told her that her “old self” was still safe where she left it. I told her she was now free to “go back to it”. She looked at the chair where she left her “old self”. Then looked over at the center of the room where she had just been. She then pointed at the chair, looked at me and asked, “Do I really have to go back to ‘that’?”

This is the real power of Session 9. In this session, we help participants develop their mental flexibility, abilities, and behaviors to excel at their tasks.

We give them an environment where they can experiment. And we provide the coaching they need to take a vacation from “themselves” and realize their full potential.

So the next time you happen to be watching Total Recall, remember that Rekall isn’t the only place that can give you a vacation from yourself.

Try Session 9 in the Dale Carnegie Course.

See you at the party!

2017-02-23 Update: The Dale Carnegie Course is now 8 weeks in length. The course designers compacted the program to better serve the business community. But rest assured, we still use the “session 9 exercises” to help business people from all industries break through their imposed mental restraints and enjoy their freedom of self expression.