“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” -George Orwell
Words Matter. Words are the primary way we communicate, not only with others but perhaps more importantly with ourselves. I have always been aware of the importance of the words we choose and use. In the human potential fields, there is a ton of talk about positive affirmations, using positive language to move towards achieving a goal, a state of being or a belief. Recently, language has been a theme in my coaching sessions as well as in my day-to-day interactions; enough so that I thought the topic was calling me to share these concepts with you.
The words we use with ourselves in our minds are more important than the words we speak aloud to others, but they are typically the same. We are with ourselves, in our minds, thinking and talking all day long, non-stop. Starting to notice the words, phrases, orders and demands that we say to ourselves is a great place to start in noticing if your words are helpful or harmful.
Often, when I am working with clients on productivity and systems, the issue of “to-do” lists comes up. By using the term “to-do,” we are subconsciously telling ourselves over and over again that these things need to get done, or worse that we need to do them. Talk about pressure. I always use the word “tasks” instead. There is no urgency in the word, there is no pressure and it doesn’t imply that I am the person who needs to do them. This is one example, but there are many I could use to illustrate this.
Another example of this is when a friend, in passing, said to me “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” Being that she was telling herself this all day because of a looming deadline for a very serious goal, she was constantly telling herself that something was wrong with her and she didn’t know what it was. She was unknowingly holding herself in a helpless state. Talk about unnecessary and harmful.
Another common one that I even catch myself saying is “I have too much to do, I’m so overwhelmed!” This constantly perpetuates a state of stress. I now choose to see it as a blessing that I have so much to do, and that I love what I do. We can change the words we use and the effect they have on our moods, results, and motivation. The words we use often work against us in a very real way.
Here is a list of repeat and common offenders:
I don’t have time.
I’m too busy.
I am such a slow reader.
I am a bad writer.
Fake it till you make it.
I have a headache…
I’m trying to quit that nasty habit.
I’m so sick…
This is going to be hard.
I never learn.
Why am I always making the same mistakes?
I’m always late (or that phrases’ evil twin), I can never be on time.
How do any of those phrases and statements have a positive impact on what you are doing in this world? Do they help support your purpose? Do they help you reach any of your goals? I bet the answer is no. They don’t and they never will.
In observing my husband’s line of work, I have seen the use of language and its effect on children and those around them. There is a distinct difference in referring to an individual as being a person with a disability rather than as a disabled person. A condition does not need to be a definition. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about empowerment, empowering the individual rather than the condition.
The great news is that we can change and choose the words we use. We can examine what we are saying or how specific words make us feel and change them.
To-Do Lists become tasks. The negative can be positive, uplifting and empowering. A victim can become a survivor. Words can hurt or heal. What titles do you give yourself? Are you telling yourself that you are bad or that you are capable? My whole life I was told (and continued to tell myself) that I was a bad writer and a slow reader. Did those statements make me any better? No, quite the opposite. My words were in effect reinforcing negative and destructive behaviors and thoughts and making my self-confidence crumble and cave. Because I told myself I was not a good writer, I believed it. It wasn’t until recently when I chose to start writing for business, that I started to hear the exact opposite. Old beliefs die hard, but it is progress, not perfection that matters.
Please, for the sake of your health, sanity, big bold goals and audacious future, watch your language, even in your own subconscious mind.