I would be selling more books, but…
I attended a personal development seminar this past weekend. One of the goals for many affiliated with the seminar organization is to eliminate three words from their vocabulary: can’t, try, and but. Those participating in one particular program are even fined every time they’re caught using these words during group coaching calls. I am not participating in this program; I learned about it from the gal who sponsored me to attend the weekend workshop.
The thinking makes sense. The reasons for eliminating can’t are pretty obvious. If you’re familiar with Yoda, you know why try is equally limiting. And the thought around eliminating but is that it is more often than not the prelude to an excuse.
What I found very interesting is that, to a person, everyone participating in this change-your-vocabulary/change-your-thinking program is wildly aware of their use of the word but. The thing is, they’ve all replaced it with the word however. They’d be speaking in a normal tone and would come to the place in a sentence where they typically would have used the word but. Instead, they’d catch themselves, and replace the but with a loud and extremely pronounced – exaggerated even – HOWEVER.
I went to the store – HOWEVER, I left my wallet at home, so I couldn’t pay for my groceries.
Every. Single. Time.
In my opinion, this language shift misses the mark. I tried to explore this with a staff member from the seminar company, with little to no success. Replacing one word with another word doesn’t do anything to shift the behavior behind using the word if the excuse still follows the replacement word. Instead of using however, they could use the word purple – or a nonsense word like sprugmulch – and the result would be exactly the same. Unless and until they actually work to rephrase their language and the thoughts behind it, all they are doing is calling attention to the replacement word preceding the excuse. And then they’re STILL making the excuse!
If, instead, they made an effort to actually shift the meaning of the sentence – not just replace the but – I could see the purpose of the exercise. It’s quite doable.
I went to the store – and then I realized I’d left my wallet at home, so I had to run home again before I could pay for my groceries.
I went to the store. Once I noticed I’d left my wallet at home, I decided to buy only the groceries I could get for the cash in my pocket.
What’s the point? Our language does matter. Eliminating excuse-making words is a very good idea. And it will only work if you follow through all the way.
Then yesterday, I heard an ad on the radio for an anti-litter campaign titled Don’t Trash Arizona. Having been trained for years (including during the seminar this past weekend) in the idea that our goal should be to focus on what we want – as opposed to what we don’t want – I was immediately taken aback by the name of this campaign.
The Law of Attraction teaches that what we focus on expands. Want more money? Focus with gratitude on the five dollar bill in your wallet. Don’t look at it and think to yourself, “I’m so broke. I’ve only got five bucks.”
Why isn’t the campaign called Keep Arizona Clean? I checked, and that domain name is available – so that wasn’t the reason. It was likely just an oversight. And yet I could only think how much more effective a name it would have been. Not to mention that donttrasharizona.com has two adjacent T’s – which is another problem, potentially affecting the site’s SEO.
Have you thought much about your language as it relates to your excuses and your goals? Are you focusing on what you want (finishing your book, finding the perfect cover designer, selling 4,000 copies) or on what you don’t want (I can’t get this last chapter written, My cover is terrible, or No one’s reading my book)? Are you using supportive language or limiting language? Are you even conscious of it?
Here’s to deliberation in our language!
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
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