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Making Distinctions For Empowering Transformation

Written by: Vince Morales, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As a coach and consultant, one of the things I always keep the focus on is making distinctions that will open opportunities for my clients to find that place in their lives where personal transformation and self-actualization can ignite. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is categorized as the highest level of psychological development (Pichère & Cadiat, 2015). As we progress on our journey together, clients may discover lost power because their perception, perspective, or mental model was overdue for a coach's tune-up.

I love coaching my clients to make precise distinctions for their lives, personal and professional. Making proper distinctions profoundly changes my client's perspective, evoking clarity while empowering new choices and transforming personal (and professional). Distinctions are intellectually stimulating, and they contribute to my own expanding self-awareness. As I consult in leadership development with emerging leaders, they develop the ability to make distinctions. They experience leadership transformation that is exciting and inspiring to see. Naturally, the most common thread that runs through most successful businesspeople is their ability to make distinctions. I see it in all my friends and colleagues who are successful coaches, consultants, and entrepreneurs.

Let me ask this rhetorical question: Why do most of us get stuck in a pattern from time to time? Before you answer that question, consider Tony Robbins' point, "Intelligence is the measure of the number and quality of distinctions you have in a given situation."

The answer is straightforward — people get into stuck patterns because of a lack of distinctions. Do you know the ability to make distinctions also marks our level of emotional, spiritual, conversation, adaptability, and relationship intelligence?

Dr. Derek Cabrera (2016) says,

"Distinctions are not things but negotiated boundaries between ideas and things. A boundary between the identity and another area occurs in the fractal, which means across scale but in the same pattern. The critical skill in distinction-making is ensuring that you and others are not calling the same thing by different terms or exact words. When we make an identity, we automatically create a boundary that marginalizes the other. Sometimes this marginalization is trivial, but sometimes it is egregious." Cabrera, 2016

"What we choose to see is also what we choose not to see." – Derek Cabrera

Distinction-making is not as much about the terminology or the semantics we often use. We are going to find that it is more about the concepts and about meaning. It is about seeing the broader details while not missing the noise details on the outside (Cabrera, 2016). Cabrera (2016) says

"If we use different words to mean the same thing but are aware of it, that is not as much of a problem as using the exact terms and meaning other things, using different words, and meaning the same thing but not knowing about it." Cabrera, 2016

To be effective at making distinctions requires slowing down and being intentional about seeing the boundary differences and the noise space in between (Cabrera, 2016). Coach Leza Danly describes distinctions as intellectually stimulating. I could not agree more. In Powerful Distinctions, Danly (2016) gives examples of areas in that distinction-making can play a vital role:

  • Acceptance vs. Forgiveness

  • Self-Discipline vs. Self-Control

  • Power vs. Strength

  • Dream vs. Vision

  • Expectation vs. Demand

  • Innocence vs. Immaturity

  • Skill vs. Talent

  • Self-Worth vs. Self-Esteem

I addition to Daly's list, I would add distinctions between Kindness & Love vs. People Pleasing, Fact vs. Truth, and Teaching Students How to Think vs. Teaching Students What to Think.

The distinction-making rule can be complex, but the big takeaway is that we tend to miss something else when we see something. Derek Cabrera says it best,

"What we choose to see is also what we choose not to see" Cabrera, 2016

Here are three questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you making distinctions today?

  • What distinctions are you making?

  • What areas of your life do you think you need to make more significant distinctions?

  • As you look around your life and your metron of influence and you choose to see something, what are you choosing not to see?

I hope this helped you to begin understanding distinctions on a fundamental level.

For more info, follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and visit my website!


Vince Morales, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Vince Morales is a mindset, self-image, and resilience coach. In addition, he is skilled in leadership consultation and development. From April 2016 to June 2017, Vince was a homeless veteran in San Diego, CA. While homeless he made a powerful decision to change his thinking and mindset launching into life coaching. He developed a niche for resilience and mindset coaching. The growth of his business ultimately led to the end of his homelessness. Vince is Founder of Validus Coaching & Consulting, formerly Zoe Transformation. His story has been featured in online articles and online news outlets all over the U.S. He is a certified John Maxwell Team Coach, Trainer, & Speaker as well as a motivational speaker. In 2021, Vince earned his Master's degree in Psychology of Leadership from Penn State University and is currently a doctoral student pursuing a Ph.D. in Performance Psychology. He is a 2020 inductee in The National Society of Leadership and Success.



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