THE POWER OF WORDS
Archana Law says you can transform your life by using the right words
“We live in an ocean of words but like a fish in water, we are often not aware of it,” declared the American economist and social theorist Stuart Chase back in 1953. How much has really changed since then?
It’s true that today there are more people, higher literacy, many new methods of communication and thousands of new words added to our vocabulary. But the sad fact is that we remain as ignorant as we were in the past – perhaps more so!
Words are the basic building blocks of language; they’re used to build sentences, paragraphs and ideas, and engage in conversation – powerful tools we’ve used since we started talking. Moreover, our choice of words reveals not only our attitude but they also have an impact on the people around us.
Professor Bernard Roth, who teaches design and engineering at Stanford University, says making simple changes to the words and phrases we use can empower us to achieve our goals. In his book titled ‘The Achievement Habit,’ he recommends swapping our usual words and phrases with those that can reprogramme the way we perceive obstacles that stand in the way of personal success.
To overcome the mental hurdles our everyday vocabulary choices put in our way, swap the following words.
‘But’ with ‘And’ Probably the most limiting word in our vocabulary, we often use ‘but’ in place of ‘and.’ Though this sounds correct, it often has the unfortunate effect of changing a neutral statement into a negative one.
For example, someone who is apprehensive about flying and has secured a wonderful internship might say: ‘I want this internship but I’m afraid of flying.’ By connecting the two truths with a ‘but,’ the person tricks himself into believing that this amazing opportunity is in fact a negative situation and the resulting conflict blocks him from moving forward.
‘Have to’ with ‘Want to’ Having to do something makes us believe that a situation has been forced upon us instead of being willingly chosen by us. This is almost always a fallacy. Needing to complete work is one of the most common situations in which we say we ‘have to’ do something.
For instance, professionals who ‘have to’ follow up set the situation up as a mental burden! By simply switching to ‘want to,’ the mind more readily looks forward to something that brings completion one step closer.
‘Can’t’ with ‘Won’t’ When we say we can’t do something, that’s not always the case – e.g. ‘I can’t swim’ phrases my ability (or lack thereof) to swim with an enforcement that it’s not possible. ‘Can’t’ implies helplessness; ‘won’t’ signifies volition and choice. Every human being can learn to swim. By simply swapping ‘can’t’ with ‘won’t,’ the person realises that her inability to swim is a choice and not a physical impossibility.
‘I’m afraid to’ with ‘I’d like to’ This is another self-limiting phrase, which acknowledges a person’s fear instead of his desire. By saying to yourself that ‘I’m afraid to ask for a promotion,’ you set your mind to consider what could go wrong if you do. Will the boss think you are greedy or deny it? Will it mean you’re not a good employee? By simply phrasing your need as ‘I’d like to ask for a promotion,’ you acknowledge your desire associated with positive and pleasant thoughts – and the possibility of pleasant outcomes that usually compel us to take action.
‘Help’ with ‘Assist’ The word ‘help’ is often associated with helplessness in our minds. Helplessness implies that someone is incapable of achieving something without someone else stepping in to do it for her. However, when we swap ‘help’ with ‘assist,’ we set ourselves up to see that we’re an important and capable part of the solution.
Ideas are built within our minds. We collect many thoughts that may initially be random. But as these connect, they become the kernel of a new idea – a “new pattern of thoughts,” says Rowan Gibson, in his book ‘The Four Lenses of Innovation: A Power Tool for Creative Thinking.’
I coach students to improve their confidence and self-esteem. When I ask them to state five of their best qualities, they display embarrassment followed by the most common response: ‘I don’t know!’ Conversely, we’re all a lot better at listing our faults, and can undertake that task without any difficulty. It’s as if most of us haven’t dared ask ourselves: ‘What’s good about me?’
That voice inside your head has a huge impact on who you are and how you live your life, and with practice you can change your self-talk. Positive self-talk uplifts you; it increases your confidence, and enables you to adopt a healthier lifestyle and reduce stress.
Your self-talk creates your reality. Is it time you rewired your brain, and created new thoughts and habits to ring out the negatives… and ring in the positives.
Until we connect again, speak kindly to yourself.