I’ve been thinking a lot of language choice lately and I decided to share three of my favorite word swaps. These are simple changes we can make in our language which make huge changes in our perspective.
Swap “Can’t” for “Don’t”
I found this one online; it was confirmed through a study done by Boston College. This one is particularly helpful if you are having trouble with boundaries, with telling people “no” or having trouble sticking to a goal. Instead of “I can’t go to the party,” try “I don’t go to parties.” Instead of “I can’t have soda” which can feel like depriving yourself of something you want, try “I don’t drink soda” which incorporates this into who you are: you are a person who doesn’t drink soda. In this way it affirms your own willpower.
Swap “Should” for “Want” or “Will” or “Feel”
This is one I learned from a counselor years ago. Is there any word that makes us feel more guilty and less in control than “should?” It brings to light the gap between all the things we aren’t and all the things we wish we were. Swap “I should work out” for “I will work out.” Swap “I should visit my family” for “I want to visit them.” If that doesn’t do the trick, connect to the reason you want to do those things with “because”, i.e. “I will work out because I love being healthy” or “I want to visit my family because I love them.”
And then finally, “feel.” Are you “shoulding yourself” because you are avoiding difficult feelings about obligations that you need to confront? Maybe you are telling yourself “I should hang out with this person” instead of admitting, “I don’t feel good around this person.” Being honest with your feelings can help you live your happiest life.
Swap “Spend” for “Invest”
I mentioned this one in my New Year’s Resolution. This is probably my favorite swap. To spend is to pay out money. To invest, in contrast, carries with it the expectation for growth. You spend money at a fast food chain. You invest in healthy foods at home. You spend money on new clothes you don’t need, but you invest in a quality wardrobe. Before I make a purchase, I like to ask myself, “Is this an investment?”
These words are all a work in progress for me, but I encourage you to try them and see just how much your perspective can change from these three simple swaps.