By Amy Kessel
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
One of my coaching clients joked last week that she needed a retraining device, something like that electric collar that zaps dogs when they bark. She was noticing how challenging it is for her to stop using language that disempowers her; she’s become so comfortable with it that she hardly notices what she’s doing.
She finds herself using words that put her in the role of victim, making self-deprecating remarks and verbally closing the door on herself. And she wonders why she’s having such a hard time keeping her momentum in terms of the changes she wants to implement in her life.
This is true of so many of us. Our language has incredible power to transform our lives, and yet many of us use it to keep ourselves small and stagnant, meek and resigned. When we do this, we stay in the role of victim; a comfort zone from the past that doesn’t support growth and development.
Gandhi’s words are simple reminders of the way that we change ourselves from the inside out. Our brain believes what we say: it has to, as our words originate in the brain. We have the power to re-choose how we want to be today and how we will be tomorrow. So when we caretake our thoughts and feelings and then we work outwards from there, we create what we want. Sounds easy, right? It takes practice, but revising common language patterns goes a long way toward shaping the life you want. Here are some reminders, in case you find yourself slipping into old habits:
1. Reclaim the pronoun you own
The most basic way to use empowering language is to literally speak for yourself. Rather than using “you”, as in “You learn alot about yourself when travelling”, use “I”: “I learn alot about myself when travelling”. Take responsibility for your own experience, and share from that place of knowledge. Others will be much more engaged, and you honor yourself.
2. Drop the “should”
What a useless word! A friend of mine loves to say “Don’t should all over yourself”; it’s crude but pretty close to how I feel about it too. Shoulds are ideas that come from someplace other than ourselves and help us to engage in that unhelpful pattern of comparing ourselves to others. Rather than “I should”, spend a moment in your heart and ponder why you might want to do whatever it is you assume you should do. Replace “should” with “choose to”, “want to” or “it’s important to me to”. You go immediately from the victim (I have no choice) to empowered (I choose to do this)!
3. Exercise the power of choice
Language can be a great tool for pointing out the difference an attitude makes. At the root of my coaching training is the simple notion that We Are Always At Choice — we can choose to feel good or feel bad, to stay stuck or move on. Similarly, shifting words can radically alter your mindset and free you up to go big:
* I need to, I have to, I can’t, I must: shift instead to –> I choose to, I want to, I’m not willing to, I am responsible for, I want to learn, It’s an opportunity for me
* Also, changing thoughts and language from “You make me…” to “I feel frustrated/angry/sad when…” takes you right out of the victim mentality and back in charge of your life. That’s where you belong!
4. No more diminishing, please
There are a few small words that have incredible power and you’ll want to use wisely if at all. For example, if you use “but” after describing something wonderful, you essentially negate all that you evoked before the word “but”. Try “and” instead. If you use “just”, like “I’m just a student”, you diminish the statement’s worth. Leave out the “just”! And including “I’d like to say”, or “Maybe” before stating your opinion diminishes ownership and credibility. Make clear statements of fact or belief with confidence and enthusiasm, and watch what happens both within you and within the conversation.
Which of these language habits do you recognize in your own inner and outer dialogue, Pinkies? What does it feel like to replace the disempowering words and thoughts with those that strengthen and support you? Will you retrain your brain, and use your powerful words to help you create the change you want?
Reprinted with permission from OwningPink.com | © Copyright Owning Pink 2011