Watch Your Words
by M. Jane Garvey
“Whether you think you can, or you can’t, either way you are right.” Henry Ford
It is no secret that attitude can be everything in making things happen. Believing that we can achieve our dreams is one of the most surefire predictors of whether we will or won’t. So, how do we use this knowledge to our advantage?
I am going to suggest that we change our language. There are powerful words that all of us can use to spur creativity and help us find solutions, and there are words we use that shut us down in resignation to our fate. Make the right choice and you will start believing that you can. That is a very important first step to success.
Looking at the quote from Henry Ford, we want to change our thinking to “I can”. See how the words “I can” feel? In some circumstances they are empowering, but in others we may not really believe them. Think of something you would like to be doing, but aren’t. Do you believe you can do it? If you believe you can, why aren’t you? What is holding you back?
I find the words “How can I?” to be very powerful when I am feeling like I can’t. When I use these in connection with something that I would like to be doing I suddenly have a whirlwind of thoughts and ideas. Very often it helps me change my energy and attitude about the possibility of success. Use them in a group setting and you will kick off a brainstorming session that may very well produce the answers you are looking for.
Sometimes we setup barriers for ourselves because we are afraid. New investors may say: “I don’t know what to say”, or “I don’t have the money”. These excuses can stand between them and their dreams for years. The question “What should I say?” will open the door to ideas and may get you started on searching and learning. “How can I do this with the resources I have?” or “Who do I know that can help me with the money?” are both questions of exploration that will help you resolve the money barrier. Some committed investors with a “can do” attitude just proceed confidently in pursuit of their dream and find that even though they may stumble a few times, eventually the barriers fall away. You do not need to be perfect to do it, doing it is what is important, and you will find that “practice makes perfect”.
So, the questions of exploration which get our ideas and creativity flowing often start with the words How, What, Where and Who. Use them to expand your ideas, your thinking, and your actions. Using the same words you used to make an excuse, and turning it into a question can make a huge difference, and just may change your life.
For instance, turn:
“I can’t ___________” into “How can I ___________?”
“I am afraid to __________” into “What can I do to make me more comfortable doing ______ ?”
“I don’t know how to _______” into “Where can I find out how to ________________?”
“I don’t have ___________” into “Who do I know that can help with ___________?”
Every January I hear people talking about their New Year’s resolutions. For many people this is an annual exercise in futility. They say things like “I am going to give up _______”, and then they proceed to do so for a few days, weeks, or even months. The whole time they are doing it, they are feeling deprived, and eventually they go back to their old habits. What has gone wrong? In my opinion it is the simple fact that they were relying on will power and denial. Will power can only carry you so far before the effort is too much, and denial makes you think that you are deprived of something you deserve. Neither works very well for long-term success.
Here is another approach that has proven successful. I have a friend who chose the words, “I am” to define himself as what he wants to be. For instance, he said to himself “I am a non-smoker” as he quit smoking. If you define yourself as a non-smoker, and keep defining yourself as this, then your behavior has to come into alignment.
One of the powerful things about the phrase “I am” is that it is in the present. Changes to our behavior and our thinking are things we have to make in the present. We can make plans for the future, but the actions we take today are what make those plans come to fruition. So, whenever possible change your words to the present tense, and then take the action associated with them.
“I am going to make 5 offers.” Using the words “going to” changes this to a future action so it is nowhere near as powerful as saying: “I am making 5 offers.” Even if both actions are actually taking place in the same time frame, one has more certainty with it than the other, making it more likely that you actually do it.
We also use questions to explore the dark side: what went wrong, why didn’t I get the results I expected. To me, these questions feel heavier than asking “What can be learned from this? or How can I improve on this?” The earlier questions invite us to explore the problems, the later questions invite us to explore the same problems but in a positive, solution seeking manner.
I recommend that you listen to yourself and the words you use. Pay particular attention to the way you talk about the things you want to change in your life. How do the words make you feel? Are you empowered by them? Do they invite exploration of possible solutions. If not, change the words. Success can be as simple as choosing the right words in our self-talk.
Jane Garvey is President of the Chicago Creative Investors Association.