Word Alchemy: Change These Words to Change Your Mindset
Words are powerful – which means that, sometimes, they can work against you. I’ve put together a list of words and phrases that you should watch out for in your own speech and journaling. They might be affecting you more than you know!
Replace these words and watch as your language magically changes your mindset.
You might be guilty of using this word as a way to avoid doing what you have to do. ‘Procrastination’ sounds kinder than ‘being lazy’. But it also helps us to avoid the issue of why we are not doing something. It might be more accurate to say something like ‘fear’, or ‘perfectionism’. Or ‘uncertainty’, or ‘lack of guidance’.
You might not know where the word ‘procrastination’ comes from. It actually builds on the Latin word ‘cras’, which means ‘tomorrow’. It means putting things off until tomorrow! We all know that’s neither productive nor healthy.
Procrastination doesn’t only stop you from getting things done. It taints how you think about tomorrow – it becomes the day that’s full of all the things you don’t want to do! That’s a sad contrast to a tomorrow that you’re excited about.
Try to stop using the word procrastination. Try to work out what’s the root cause of your reluctance to do something. If you are too busy or too tired today, don’t let that stop you! Spend five minutes working on the task that you want to put off. Gradual progress is better than none at all. It means that you are beginning rather than procrastinating.
I Don't Know
From personal experience, saying ‘I don’t know’ is often the result of a mental block. Perhaps you do know and are afraid to say. Or in some cases your brain is blocking you from thinking about this at all, out of fear and panic. I’ve experienced both.
If you need more time to think (which is fine!), try saying something a little more thoughtful than ‘I don’t know.’ Start to think through your opinion out loud, considering the options. Even rephrasing the question a little will get your brain moving in the right direction. Working through this kind of mental block takes time, but it is worth it!
This is a sneaky word. It seems so helpful and necessary, but it can cause problems. If you keep saying ‘maybe’, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to make a firm decision. Choose one option or the other! What do you want? Don’t be afraid to express yourself clearly.
Using ‘maybe’ too often can also dampen your intuition. You are telling yourself that your thoughts are not trustworthy. Intuition is a skill, and over-using words like ‘maybe’ is a backwards step.
In some ways, this is a grammatical issue. But it does affect your thought patterns instead. It’s better to use positives rather than negatives. It makes your sentences cleaner and more elegant. Think about the difference between ‘I am happy’ and ‘I am not upset’. They aren’t quite the same, but often a positive creates a better sentence than a negative. Avoid over-complicated language!
Using positives also helps you to clarify your language. You will find it easier to avoid muddied language and unclear thoughts. Using positives means committing yourself to what you are saying. In the example above, ‘I am happy’ expresses your feelings much more strongly. ‘I am not upset’ could mean all kinds of things.
Speaking, writing, and thinking in positives is also good for your state of mind. In the sentence ‘I am not unhappy’, you are actually using the word ‘unhappy’. This can encourage you to focus on this negative side. In the sentence ‘I am happy’, there are only positives for your brain to focus on.
This is another word that minimizes your sense of commitment. Why say you are ‘trying’ to learn when you could say you are learning? Commit yourself to your decision and take action. ‘Trying’ weakens your decision and gives you an excuse to fail. Mentally, it puts a block between you and your goal. It also suggests that you doubt your ability to reach your goals.
Apart from anything else, ‘trying’ is an unnecessary word in most sentences. Cut it out and clean up your writing!
This is a very harsh word. Try replacing it with ‘learning experience’ or ‘first step’. This might sound like a ridiculous way to dodge responsibility. I am not saying that you ought to avoid acknowledging your mistakes. Neither am I saying that things always go well. But it is powerful to understand and explore what we can learn from supposed ‘failures’.
The word ‘failure’ also implies a dead end. That’s why I like to use alternatives – I’m not going to give up on what I want because something went wrong! Neither should you.
This is an excellent tweak to make if you are responsible for giving feedback to other people. Harsh words like ‘failure’ tend to dominate impressions of feedback. They are easy to fixate on, even if only used once alongside hundreds of positive words. Bear this in mind and try to rephrase them to increase the sense of encouragement.
Avoid absolutes of any kind in your writing and speaking. Whatever good advice you’re giving or following, remember that it’s ok to take days off. Saying ‘always’ or ‘never’ sets limits on you and narrows both your activities and your thoughts. You do not know everything, so why limit yourself?
Doing something different is exploration and self-care, not failure. Doing something you swore you would ‘never’ do often shows an open mind, not a weak will. Promising you will ‘always’ love someone sounds beautiful. But it might encourage you to give up during difficult times.
This might seem like the opposite of what I’ve suggested in earlier sections. Why commit yourself to something but then avoid ‘always’ and ‘never’ at the last moment? Commitment can still be flexible. You can adapt to changing circumstances and shifting goals. Choose what you want, but be open-minded about how you will achieve it.
Using absolute words also puts unfair pressure on the people around you. This is especially true if you use them in advice or feedback. They brush over individual circumstances and lived reality. Using ‘always’ and ‘never’ too often can make you seem insensitive and inflexible.
Are there any words that you avoid using in everyday life? What do you think about these suggestions?