Do you know what the biggest self-sabotaging things we do is – usually without realising it?
I’ll give you a clue. Does this sound familiar:
“I’m hopeless with names”
“It’s so difficult to ………” (fill in the blank)
“I’m going to have to bite the bullet”
How often do we say these things to ourselves and others, without thinking twice (or even once!)?
The thing is, regardless of whether we consciously give importance or meaning to the things we say, words have connotations and used – and heard – repeatedly, become part of who we are.
Who we are is the sum of our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. And beliefs are simply repeated thoughts. When we express these thoughts as words, especially out loud, they reinforce those beliefs.
Words are condensed thoughts.
Thoughts are condensed energy.
When others use words that upset us, we can feel that energy moving through us. The effect is called emotion – energy in motion.
But even if we don’t consciously notice it or imbue the words we use with feeling, they still have an energy.
Let me tell you a story.
We once did an experiment, a bit like Dr Masuro Emoto’s water crystal experiments, where we put rice in two glass jars, half filled them with water and closed them with lids. We then put two labels, “thank you” and “stupid”.
(You could use “I love you” and “I hate you”, but hate is not a word we use at home for precisely the reasons I am talking about in this post, we could not bring ourselves to use such negative language.)
Anyway, we left them for a year on a shelf in the kitchen/larder. After this time, we compared the two pots to see the effects of the labels.
What I am about to share will, I hope, show you the power of words, regardless of the conscious energy we consciously imbue them with.
Just as we could not use or express “hate”, even with rice (it is, after all food!), we could not, either, actively denigrate or express strong feelings when using the word “stupid”, which would infuse the label with those feelings.
Yet there was still a clear difference in the state of the rice in the two pots.
The pot which said “thank you” was almost perfectly preserved, even though we had not hermetically sealed the pots, there was no vacuum, so air and bacteria could have got in. One would certainly expect to see some signs of decomposition! Yet the water was clear and the grains seemingly intact.
The other pot did show clear signs of decomposition – though not nearly what we were expecting, or had seen from other experiments, which showed blackened, rotting rice.
The fact that there was a difference, regardless of how we intended or were able to use the words to me shows the intrinsic energy in words as handed down the generations.
Often the energy and meaning has been lost along the way, but it still has a signature
So however we use words, we inevitably infuse our minds and bodies – our experience – with their energy. Just as we don’t have to believe in gravity to fall down, if we use words carelessly, this still happens.
We reinforce our belief that we cannot remember names – that becomes our identity (I know it did mine, for years!)
We reinforce our belief that things are difficult – so our mind looks for difficulties, instead of solutions.
Here are a couple of things you can do to break the cycle:
You cannot change anything you are not aware of. So practise becoming aware of the words you use.
I go through phases of obsessive observation. I’ve found it easier to focus on one or two words or expressions, much as I do when helping English students correct ingrained mistakes, but I’ve also been able to programme my mind to pick up on negativity/negative reactions generally. It requires more attention, but the rewards are greater. And the brain is a remarkably powerful organ!
I also help people, either in my classes or in my coaching sessions, to pick up on the language they use with themselves.
Awareness is the first step. Often it’s all that’s required to be able to flip to new words and language.
As a polyglot and Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner fascinated by the workings of the brain, I have long been curious as to how we acquire language, the effect it has and how we can achieve more with less effort (who wouldn’t want that?!)
But here’s my favourite “hack” (it’s an overused word, but it’s kind of appropriate here as it’s a quick way in (to our minds) that actually bypasses a lot of hard work!)
2. CHANGE “DIFFICULT” to “DIFFERENT”
Why are things difficult anyway? Because we haven’t learnt to do them – yet! Ok, so we all have natural abilities and talents which may make certain things easier. But let me give you two observations:
- watching a toddler makes learning to walk look difficult, but disability notwithstanding, of course, we all managed it
- why focus on the difficulty instead of recognising our unfamiliarity with it and looking for ways to achieve it?
After all, usually we use the word when talking about something we want to achieve and by training ourselves to change the way we view the challenge, we instantly make it more achievable.
Why wouldn’t you want to improve your chances? Or at least let go of the “life is hard” mindset and open up to the possibility that things can be easier, that we are more capable than we can possibly imagine??!
And if it really is that “difficult”, is it really worth our time, effort and most of all, anxiety, trying to do it or worrying we can’t or never will? If things do not flow, we either need to change how we approach the problem (starting off by taking a solutions focus rather than “it’s a problem” focus!) or reevaluate its importance. Flow is our natural state, in fact, so anything that doesn’t flow is, for me, out of alignment with who we are anyway.
What I love about this small change is that it gives the mind margin to pick up on the word. Often we don’t realise we are using a word until it comes out of our mouth, by which time it’s too late. But this way we can catch it AS IT COMES OUT! And change the ending.
By changing the ending we change its impact. We get the prompt and we consciously choose the meaning and energy we want to flow into our lives.
We can change the course not only of the word, the sentence but also our lives – small changes build up and are usually how big turnarounds are achieved, rather than one big change.
We can – literally – change our lives.
Ok, so I had to make a linguistic reference to end…one word we so often use inaccurately is “literally”. One cannot, for example, “literally drive the economy into the sand” as that famous comment of a Republican towards the Democrats went.
In fact, even if we do use it in the way it was intended, even most “literal” uses are still metaphors – given it is from the Latin for “letter” and therefore “literally” means “of letters” (or words).
In my “hack”, though, I can rest easy knowing it is, indeed, LITERALLY helping people change their lives.
If you want some more personalised help on self-talk and the language you use with yourself and others, or would like to improve understanding and morale among your team, find out more about my coaching and get in touch here.