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3 Word Swaps to Reinforce Your Boundaries and Reach Your Goals


3 Word Swaps to Reinforce Your Boundaries and Reach Your Goals, Lynn DaueThere is power in words.

There are scores of experiments out there documenting the energy of language.

My favorite is Dr. Masaru Emoto's research using water crystals as a medium, in which he exposes twice-distilled water to a range of language, both positive and negative, and photographs the resulting ice crystals.

Another interesting experiment comes from Doreen Virtue, author and clairvoyant: while recording a podcast on archangels, she and her son discovered that positive words created big, expansive shapes within the frequency visualization, and negative words created small, contracted shapes.

Other fields have experiments to back up these claims, including applied kinesiology, neuropsychology, and of course, neuro-linguistic programming. (NLP, if you're unfamiliar with the term, is a communication, personal development, and psychotherapy approach that actively harnesses the power of language to enact change.)

Today, we're discussing three word swaps you can make to reinforce your boundaries and reach your goals.

How to Improve Your Language to Improve Your Life

Word Swap #1: Trade "can't" for "don't"

In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, participants were divided into two groups. One group was asked to say, "I can't do [X];" the other was asked to say, "I don't do [X]."

The results were astonishing. From the study:

The students who told themselves “I can’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time. Meanwhile, the students who told themselves “I don’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bars only 36% of the time. This simple change in terminology significantly improved the odds that each person would make a more healthy food choice.

Why this works: "Don't" frames the scenario as a choice. "Can't," on the other hand, victimizes the speaker and makes them more likely to rebel against the scenario at play—even if it's a scenario of his or her own making.

How to apply this word swap: Next time you come up against a decision—specifically if one decision will help you attain your goal or intention and the other decision will hinder you—try using both forms:

  • "I don't eat ice cream on Wednesdays" vs. "I can't eat ice cream on Wednesdays"
  • "I don't ignore my deadlines" vs. "I can't ignore my deadlines"
  • "I don't skip dates with my spouse" vs. "I can't skip dates with my spouse"

Which one is more empowering?

(Source: A Scientific Guide to Saying "No": How to Avoid Temptation and Distraction)

Word Swap #2: Trade "decide" for "commit"

The level of definiteness increases dramatically between "decide" and "commit." As we previously discussed in Ask Lynn, when one decides to do something, one can just as easily decide NOT to do the same thing.

A commitment, on the other hand, has more weight. It is much harder to get out of a commitment, especially if there are other people involved. It's possible, of course, just harder.

Why this works: When you commit, you are calling into action what Napoleon Hill calls a "definiteness of purpose," otherwise known as being goal-driven, purpose-driven, or having intention. In Outwitting the Devil, Hill writes

[A]ny human being who can be definite in his aims and plans can make life hand over whatever is wanted.

To decide is to want something; to commit is to make life hand that thing over.

How to apply this word swap: If there is something you really want, don't just decide—commit.

  • "I decided to marry him/her" vs. "I committed to marrying him/her"
  • "I decided to workout three times a week" vs. "I committed to working out three times a week"
  •  "I decided to go to Paris" vs. "I committed to going to Paris"

This is one of my favorite tricks for getting big things done fairly quickly, which we'll discuss in more depth at a later date.

(Read: Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success by Napoleon Hill)

Word Swap #3: Trade "I wish I ... " for "How can I ...?"

A perennial favorite of personal development leaders and success coaches, I first learned about "How can I ...?" while reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.

On RichDad.com, Kiyosaki writes

Though they didn't always have the money sitting around to buy whatever they wanted, my rich friends' parents were financially intelligent. Instead of saying, "I can't afford that," they looked at the things they wanted to buy as motivation to help them put their money to work so that they could afford to buy them.

Rather than let their finances defeat them, they looked at their finances as a game that they would win. As a result, they nearly always found a way to get what they wanted, even if it took a little patience.

Why this works: This is a little brain-trick. "I can't" and "I wish" shut down the mind through finality and fantasy, respectively. The finality of "I can't" prevents you from thinking of ways around the situation; the fantasy of "I wish" puts what you want into a realm of things that don't exist.

"How can I ...?", on the other hand, presents a problem for your mind to solve. Because you have asked a question that now needs an answer, you begin looking for the answer everywhere. Cognitive bias kicks in, takes over, and makes your dream a reality.

How to apply this word swap: Think about something that you would like to be, do, or have. Then ask yourself, "How can I be/do/have this?"

  • "How can I be Internet famous?"
  • "How can I go to New Orleans with my girlfriends?"
  • "How can I have a Kate Spade purse by March?"

Is your mind generating solutions?

(Read: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!, Robert T. Kiyosaki)

Over to you

Have you tried any of these word swaps, or do you have others that you use to reinforce your boundaries and reach your goals? If so, share them in the comments!