By Michael Keeler, Business Wizzard, Life & Business Coach
“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” ― George Orwell, 1984
George was a smart dude! He suggests that our internal thoughts ooze out of our brains and affect the words we choose — AND — the words we choose are capable of seeping back into our brains to affect our thoughts.
In essence, words f*cking matter. I could not agree more!
We all know that our words are a representation of our thoughts. Our positive thoughts, our negative thoughts, our emotions, our frustrations, our passions; they are all represented in the words we choose. Every single word is a reflection of how we perceive the world around us. At our best, our words are a direct mirror of our hearts and minds.
I’ll even take it a step further and say that the words we choose not only reflect our internal thoughts and beliefs, but THEY STRENGTHEN them too. A quick example: When I say out loud, “I am a f*cking stud” (and I am), it helps to reinforce that truth for me in a way that thinking it just doesn’t. Giving our energy and our WORDS to that belief somehow makes it more real, more tangible.
The impact of our words gets even stronger when we share them with others. If I tell one person, “I’m a f*ucking stud,” maybe I believe it 10% more. If I tell everyone I know, “I’m a f*cking stud,” it becomes part of my identity — who I am. People come to expect that confidence (maybe borderline narcissism, but I’m okay with that) and it gives power to that part of my character.
If words can have that much positive influence on our thoughts and beliefs, it must also be true that they can have an equally negative influence, right?
So here are three words that you can delete from your vocabulary and some suggestions for their replacement. I promise you, changing these words will change your world. Words REALLY matter!
Delete this word: Problem
Substitute this word: Opportunity
“I have so many problems.”
“My day was full of problems at work.”
“OMG! What is the problem now?”
How does that feel? Kinda crappy, right?
The word “problem” is just so darn heavy. It always comes with a side order of stress and disappointment. It forces us to focus on the negative side of any situation. We all know people who can literally find a problem with anything!
The truth is that every “problem” is really an “opportunity” in disguise; an opportunity to try something new, to see things from a new perspective, to reinvent ourselves. Think about it — that problem at work might be an opportunity to reconsider your workflow, or create new policies and procedures. That problem you have with your friend is actually an opportunity to talk about your relationship, or hash out old disagreements — it’s a chance for deeper engagement.
“I have so many opportunities.”
“My day was full of opportunities at work.”
“OMG! What is the opportunity now?”
How does that feel? Kinda awesome, right? Give it a try!
Delete this word: Mistake
Substitute this word: Choice
A mistake is just a choice we wish we could do over. So let’s call it that. In the moment of making a choice we take the best course of action with all available information (this is true every day). In that moment, even if we regret it later, it’s not a mistake. Only in hindsight, once the consequences of that choice are revealed to be less than ideal, do we retroactively go back to call that choice a mistake. Why?
People even say, “I knew right in that very moment I was making a mistake.” Then because of that label (“mistake”) we give ourselves permission to punish ourselves indefinitely for one, single choice. “Dude, that mistake still haunts me, I really screwed up. Geez, now I’m afraid that I’ll just keep making mistakes.” Yikes! Why so harsh on ourselves?
Of course our choices have consequences, and we have to live with those. But we also deserve to let ourselves off the hook when our choices don’t create the reality we intended. Give yourself a break. Next time things don’t turn out as planned, try changing your words and see how it feels.
Delete this word: No
Substitute this word: Yes
Yes, this is a tough one. The word “no” is so engrained in our vocabulary that it will take some extra effort to erase.
Tip #1: Slow down and speak more slowly. Seriously. You will have more time to anticipate when a “no” is inching its way toward your mouth and have time to consider an alternative.
Studies have shown repeatedly that just saying the word “no” increases our stress and releases stress hormones that interrupt the normal functioning of our brain. “No” is a game-changer. It halts conversations. It is a dead end.
For any of you theater improv buffs out there, you know that most improv games ban the use of the word “no” because it stops the scene. It’s hard to recover from a “no.”
Why do we say it so much? It’s easy. If things aren’t going our way, if we don’t agree with someone, just saying “no” forces them to stop and try another direction. “No” always tells the other party that they are wrong. Yikes, that’s harsh!
I’m not saying that you have to say YES to EVERYTHING. I’m a big fan of having people in our lives who disagree with us. That’s how we learn. That’s how we challenge our habits and beliefs. So, here’s the challenge…
Replace no with “Yes…and…”
For example: “Michael, isn’t running the best way to lose weight?” (All Ninjas know that the easy answer would be “No, running is typically a shitty choice for fat loss.”) Instead I reply, “Yes, for many people running seems like a great choice for fat loss, and there are some experts who think that there could be a better choice.”
I train myself to skip the “no” part and start with “yes.” I express the part of the statement I agree with, then continue with the counter perspective.
Why bother? Isn’t saying “no” just faster and more honest?
Saying “Yes…and…” tells the other party that you are listening and agree with at least part of what they’re saying. It builds trust and rapport. It says “I have a different opinion” instead of “You’re a stupid shithead.” It’s the difference between making connections and making enemies.
Try deleting one or all of these words from your vocabulary — then find new ones! Use the comments below to share what words you want to delete from your vocabulary. There are so many words to choose from… I wanna hear from you!
I promise. Words matter. Change your words, change your world.
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