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Thinking in Other Words

You hear the expression "in other words" all the time, and probably use it yourself. But how often do you actually think about the words you are using, and the effect they may have? Do you sometimes change the words you use in order to change your perspective? If not, maybe it is time to start.

The words we choose affect how we see things and even our physiology. This isn't a new idea, and it is easy to demonstrate it. To prove it to yourself, have a friend try to relax while you tell him, "make that tension jump right out of those muscles." Then try it again with, "let the tension drain from your muscles." Either instruction communicates the same basic idea, but you'll find that the second is more effective at getting the desired result.

In other words, we use words to accomplish something, so why not use the words that are best for the purpose? This makes sense in communicating with others, but it is perhaps especially important in communicating with oneself. The words you use in your own "self talk" can dramatically affect whether you get the results you want in life.

For example, suppose you repeatedly say something like, "I can't handle this," when in a tough situation. What you are doing, of course, is programming your subconscious mind to believe that you are not capable of certain things. With time, this will become more true the more you say it. That probably isn't the result you want.

As a matter of fact, you are probably just frustrated or tired. You are "handling" the situation in some way, but you would like to do so in a better way. Why not say that? Every time you are tempted to say "this is too much for me," or "I can't handle this," say, "I will find a better way to deal with this." This kind of instruction to your subconscious mind is bound to be more productive.

Some Better Words

Here are a few words or phrases that may not be getting you the results you want, and some possibly more productive alternatives. They are just to get you thinking. Use them if they make sense for you, but experiment with your own alternatives as well, always thinking in terms of the goal, and which words are most likely to help achieve it.

"I can't..." Possible replacements: "I can..." or "I choose not to right now.."

"It's always the same..." Possible replacement: "Sometimes this happens..."

"I always do that... Possible replacement: "Sometimes I make this mistake..."

"It's so overwhelming..." Possible replacement: "I am busy with many goals..."

"I have to..." Possible replacement: "I choose to..."

That last one reminds you to accept responsibility for your actions, and so you either reaffirm them, or you change them. Either way it can prevent you from thinking that others or the "situation" forces you to do things - a very negative and unproductive belief. Find areas like this where your beliefs or repeated statements are getting in the way of your success, and start finding better words.

You'll notice that "never," and "always" commonly show up in phrases that are counter-productive. These can be powerful demotivators. "I always screw up," or "This never works for me," are not likely to help you get results that you want. Avoid this kind of over-generalizing, unless it is more like, "I always find a way to achieve my goals." In other words, start using other words.


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