“A word after a word after a word is power.” – Margaret Atwood
I have really come to believe that what you say to yourself about yourself is vitally important. I’m not sure I can prove it scientifically, but it just seems to me if you are not careful with the words you use when thinking about your skills and abilities and knowledge base you will undo years of education, years of building yourself up and years of acceptance of the praise of others who see a spark of brightness in you.
With the new year upon us, I will have the opportunity to be on my local TV station with “Deb’s New Year’s Resolutions,” but this year (unlike every other year I’ve been doing this) will not be what most people think about when they think about their New Year’s resolutions, because I know–and you do too–that NO ONE KEEPS them after January 15th. And it’s not that we don’t want to keep them, it’s just that it seems so hard to do, because, if it’s true that to learn a habit takes 90 days to become a habit, most of us are done with our new big ideas by day 15. That’s seventy-five days short of the needed responsibility to, as they say, git ‘er done, so I have been thinking about how I can help others maintain their big idea with a more reasonable and long lasting approach.
I like to link words to ideas. What I mean is this, if you say you want to lose weight–and, by the way, that has been one of the top resolutions since time began–you choose one word to describe that, which in your mind will anchor the idea.
This year, from the online polls about New Year’s resolutions, the top six are: Enjoy life to the fullest. Live a healthier lifestyle. Lose weight. Spend time with friends and family. Save more, spend less and pay down debt.
Let’s take a few of these in order.
If you say to me that you want to enjoy life to the fullest, think about a word that would be your anchor to remind you of your commitment. The word I would choose to say is freedom. That word expresses my desire to enjoy life to the fullest, so, when I am thinking about what I’ll do this weekend to enjoy life, my anchor word is freedom. I’ll do something that I like to do: Pull on a pair of boots and find a freshly plowed field, then get my metal detector out and start walking. The freedom of not being tied to my desk, or not having to reply to emails or not having to do whatever it is that would hold me back from enjoying the moment of hearing my detector go ping would be freedom for me. Now, my word may not be your word, so think about what word would transport you to your goal of enjoying life to the fullest.
The next idea that people said is to live a healthier lifestyle. Think about what word would be your touchstone to remember to hold strong when you pass by the ice-cream section in your local grocery store. Would it be energy? Strong body? Strength? See, what you don’t want to say is skinny or thin because you’ve said those words before, and they don’t work because they are not an action. To have energy is a big idea that is reachable by living a healthy lifestyle vs. “I want to be skinny.” I see this a lot when people talk about losing weight. The reality is, when you want a healthier lifestyle and you desire to lose weight, your ultimate true idea is that you want better health, so choose words that agree with your desire. Think about being stronger, svelte, powerful, energetic, look good in your clothes or whatever word(s) would be the anchor you need to hold onto when you pass the donut shop.
The same is true for the other aspects of your life that you want to be successful in creating. One of the reasons I teach the idea of anchoring is because I know it works, and when other fly-by-night, feel-good mantras leave good-hearted people discouraged because nothing changed, we need to take the next step to be strong in our resolve to do the thing we want to do and then make it as simple as possible to follow through.
Let me walk you through another one.
People say that they want a better love life or they want to find the right person to be a relationship with. Okay, if that is your heart’s desire, don’t tell yourself that you just want to be married or happily dating; choose a word that would fit perfectly the idea of how you would feel if the right person walked into your life. Think about a word. I would venture to guess that you want to be respected, revered, adored, valued, don’t just say loved–that is general (your cat can love you). Say admired, cared for. Go deeper than the surface to a word or words that would settle the matter in your heart and mind if the person you have in mind matches the word–that would describe the relationship you have envisioned for your life.
A lot of people are looking for a job, so let’s think about what you want in the perfect job–responsibility, advancement, recognition, reward? It will become very clear to you in your present situation if these attributes of the job you want are forthcoming or, as you talk to others about a job, you now know what words will ring true in the conversation or interview. The job ideal is a little harder because it involves other people who will make a decision about hiring you, but you now have an idea of what you want and not just what you’d settle for.
We can choose a word or words for every aspect of our life, and I encourage you to do it, because it is more likely to stick than a fleeting resolution. This word attachment works because the mind is very powerful, but the mind needs nourishment, and you (dear listener) have to provide the words to feed the mind. Words matter. What you say to yourself, your whole body hears, which is why you need to monitor the conversation in your head…to a more positive voice that respects your mind, body, soul and spirit.
I love my quote for today from Margaret Atwood, “A word after a word after a word is power.”
In thinking of the power of words to direct your life goals, let me move past your New Year resolutions about your goals to resolutions about you. So, tell me, do you know what word comes to mind when someone says your name? Stop and think about that for a moment. Really, what word comes to people’s minds when someone says your name? If you’re bold enough to ask your friends and family, it might be an interesting observation (or not). You and I know people–even casual friends of ours–that when someone says their name no one has a good word that comes to mind about them. Oh, we’ve got other words that they are known for, but nothing positive we can say about them.
Now on a more positive note, what word do you hope comes to mind when someone says your name? Hmmm…not so easy is it?
My word that I hope people associate me with is encourager. I want to be known as someone who encourages others to live their best life ever. I am known for a lot of other things–radio host, podcaster, speaker, author, coach, politician–and while those words are who I am in my everyday life, I choose to promote the word that I want to be known for and that is as an Encourager. I even joke that it is my secret power.
You know, starting today, you have the power the change the word in people’s minds when someone says your name, so think about what word you want associated with your name.
Think about choosing a word(s) for yourself that will be the foundation for your desired change or personal perception and write that word down in a place where you’ll see it often, because it is important that we are reminded of how we want to be thought of. Trust me, it will change you. It will force you to think before you speak and act, it will make you pause before you rush into some fight you weren’t invited to, and, frankly, it will make you a better person if it is a word that adds value to the lives of others.
You know, the best part of all of this is that it is simple and anyone can do it anytime, anywhere. So what are you waiting for? Some today need to seriously take stock in the idea of how you will be thought of by others.
Don’t let another year go by without doing some personal work on yourself –for yourself and your future. And don’t believe the story that it doesn’t matter what others say about you. Now, if it’s a lie, of course it doesn’t matter, but if it’s the truth it does matter and deep in your heart you know it, so fix it.
As a speaker, I know that the words I give from the stage can change a life for the better. I teach people the skills for how to deal with the media and survive. I teach public speaking skills so my clients and audience can understand the value of their words to inspire, cajole or simply change others. I know that words have power–they can heal and they can hurt, and once you learn the difference, you might be the one person with the right word to save a life. Yes, words are that powerful, so be wise with your words.
I am sure in my lifetime I’ve spoken words that have hurt others, and for that I am sorry, but I’m not that person anymore; in fact, as I’ve gotten older, I am more quiet now than I used to be, and I’ll continue to guard my words and speak only when needed to offer a word of kindness for a hurting soul, a gentle word for a broken heart or a word of wisdom for the lost and lonely. The world doesn’t need more words; what the world needs is words that change lives for the better.
Remember, “A word after a word after a word is power.”
So what is your word for your life? Choose wisely, my friend, the year is young and your words will last a lifetime.