5 Words to STOP Saying to Create a Better Life – and 5 Words to Start.

You can change your world by changing your words – Joel Osteen.

www.yourlifeyourway.net

(This is a post by Melissa Foster Cook). 

The words we speak are a direct reflection of our state of mind.

You think a certain way and the words come out accordingly.

Damaging words are common and produce thoughts and feelings of guilt, frustration, powerlessness. Sometimes we get in a rut with thinking a certain way; stuck with a perspective that does not serve us. This can be a hold up with the whole life-improvement thing.

In this article, I’m going to shine a light on certain damaging words you may often use. I’ll also give you a suggested replacement word so that when you catch yourself using the damaging word, you have an immediate substitute to plug in!

When you make these vocab changes, you will, NO DOUBT, begin to notice shifts in your perspective.

DAMAGING WORD #1: SHOULD.
REPLACEMENT WORD: COULD.

Should may quite possibly be THE most damaging word in the English language.

I agree with teacher and author Louise Hay – that anytime we use the word should, we are essentially saying “wrong”. Either we are wrong, we were wrong, we’re doing something wrong, or are going to be wrong.

Instead, the world “could” gives us choice. With could we are never wrong. Could gives us the power back. Let me show you what I mean. Say the following sentences out loud and notice the totally different feeling you get from should vs. could:

  • I should be healthier. |vs.| I could be healthier.
  • I should have a clean house. |vs.| I could have a clean house.
  • I should stand up for myself. |vs.| I could stand up for myself.

Byron Katie, the author of Loving What Is, is a master at accepting reality.

She says that if you want reality to be different than what it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up and say “Meow”. No thinking in the world can change what is.

Should argues with what is, causing inner frustration and tension. Could provides a choice to move in a direction, not stating and/or dwelling in the “wrongness” of a situation.

DAMAGING WORD #2: HAVE TO.
REPLACEMENT: CHOOSE TO.

Have to is a victim word.

To say that you have to puts you at the mercy of someone or something. You don’t HAVE TO do anything.

You don’t have to get married. You don’t have to change your underwear. You don’t have to go to work. You don’t have to own a cell phone. You don’t have to have a bank account. You don’t have to bathe. You don’t have to tip the waiter. You don’t have to have kids. You don’t have to go home for Christmas. You don’t have to use toilet paper.

You don’t even HAVE to breathe. You don’t have to, but you may CHOOSE TO. Sometimes we don’t feel like we have a choice. But we always do. 

  • The job you have…you chose it. And you can choose to stay in it or go elsewhere.
  • The relationship you’re in…you’re choosing it.
  • You are choosing to live in the place that you do. You may not love it, but you are choosing it. 

Let’s have a look at some have to’s vs. choose to’s:

  • I have to go to work. |vs.| I choose to go to work.
  • I have to mow the lawn. |vs.| I choose to mow the lawn.
  • I have to work out. |vs.| I choose to work out.

It is much more optimistic and empowering to state that you choose to do what you do.

DAMAGING WORD #3: CAN’T.
REPLACEMENT: CHOOSE NOT TO.

Growing up, you were probably told not to say can’t.

It seems logically best to switch straight over to the word CAN. Problem is…if you don’t BELIEVE that you can – it doesn’t do any good because you are still in a disempowered belief state.

Choose not to, once again, gives the power back to you. With this replacement, you are stating your choice – not giving up because of perceived limitations.

Typically anyone who told you to never say can’t, were in essence saying “don’t even go there”, “don’t allow that disempowered mindset.”

And while I see their point, the truth is that we are human and in our everyday life there will be those times that can’t feels fitting. When you feel inclined to go that mental route and your mind says that can’t is the perfect word – KNOW THAT IT IS NOT.

Say the following sentences out loud and notice the totally different feeling you get from can’t vs. choose not to:

  • I can’t meet for coffee. |vs.| I choose not to meet for coffee.
  • I can’t stop eating. |vs.| I choose not to stop eating.
  • I can’t get it all done. |vs.| I choose not to get it all done.

As you begin to switch from can’t to choose not to, you are showing your mind that it actually does have a choice. And when your mind can understand that, it realizes that the possibilities are endless.

DAMAGING WORD #4: BUT.
REPLACEMENT: AND.

The word but sits between two separate thoughts.

Either the first thought of the sentence is relevant or the second thought of the sentence is relevant. When you use the word but, you contradict yourself. But dismisses the words in front of it. If you are dismissing the statement before but anyway, why not just leave it out? 

Now if both thoughts in the sentence are relevant OR you want to be encouraging (constructive criticism), use the replacement word AND.

Example: “Your speech sounds great, but keep up the dedication to practice” isn’t nearly as encouraging as “Your speech sounds great, AND keep up the dedication to practice”.

Another way that but can be damaging is that it announces your fear and assists in keeping you stuck. No bueno.

DAMAGING WORD #5: ALWAYS and NEVER.
REPLACEMENT: None. Just eliminate.

You get two in one here. Because the explanation on why these two words should be eliminated is exactly the same…

“I’m always sick”, “He’s always confused”, “I never do anything right”, “I never finish anything I start”.

Always and never are words of exaggeration and drama. Words of hysteria.

These two damaging words are extreme words and emotions are addicted to extreme words. Always and never exaggerate the facts and intensify your emotions. Exaggerated emotions urgently take center stage and feed the drama even more. Many people are caught up in this vicious cycle. And most don’t even know it.

Emotions do have an important role. They are a perfect tool to guide you towards your right life.

Exaggerated emotions, however, help to create the opposite of what you want. They demand attention. And remember… energy flows where attention goes.

Cut the drama. Although it may feel true sometimes – remember that it is not.

So there you have it! Five words that you can begin shifting right now to help shift your life in a positive, meaningful way. As you change your language, you are helping to change the way you think. And when there is a shift in your thinking, there is a shift in your movement and direction. That’s just how it works. 

You up for the challenge? Leave a comment below and let me know which words you use + are willing to change. Please like & share this post, thank you!

A productivity coach for startups founders and entrepreneurs, Melissa Foster Cook is on a mission to optimize her clients’ mindset + lives so they get out of their own way… and get big things done. A certified life coach, Melissa’s hyper-focused, energetic approach is coupled with wisdom, warmth, and wit.

Want more productivity tips and tricks? Check out one of her most-liked presentations here or visit her blog for videos and articles on life and productivity. 
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  1. Nicola Gilbert says

    Well I have just read this and I am amazed as I use ALL the words, especially ‘should’, ‘have to’ and ‘can’t’. Having realised the negative impact using these words can have on my mindset i am going to get rid of these ‘toxic’ words and replace them with more empowering ones. Here’s to a new me and a new vocabulary :) x

  2. Cindy says

    I like this article. I also eliminated the word need and replaced it with want. It got rid of well, the neediness. I realized I need very few things in this world to survive and be okay, the rest are all wants.
    eg.) I need my husband to help me. No I don’t. I want him to help me, I would like it if he did help me, but I don’t actually need him to help me.
    Now I have some more to add to my repertoire. Thanks

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing these tips! I personally always try to replace “I don’t have time to do so” with “I didn’t make it a priority”. That really helps me reconsider how I spend my time!

  4. says

    @Clay –

    YES! Changing phrases to more empowering ones is such a good habit to be in. Thanks for sharing the one about time. I think that’s a biggie for many people, in our culture especially. Glad you spoke up about it here!

  5. says

    Hi Melissa
    I loved your post. Choosing words carefully is something that I am pasionate about too – but I admit that sometimes it can be hard to do!! However awareness is the key – as always. I must thank you for offering an alternative word for ‘can’t’ (a word I use far too often!!) – from now on I will practice saying ‘I choose not too’ – far more empowering!
    Many thanks once again.

    • says

      Hi Janet!

      Replacing can’t was a biggie for me too! It really brings the awareness that I always have a choice to the forefront of my being. Good stuff:) Glad you’re into this too!!

  6. Parin says

    Love this post!

    So easy to forget the impact of the words we use every single day. I can honestly say that I’ve been “guilty” of using all of those “not-so-good” words in the past (and probably still do from time to time). But one practice that’s really helped is writing and reflecting.

    I’ve become so much more self-aware of not only my mindset and the words I use, but also how I spend my time through writing. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done (and still do) to help enhance my life.

    Thanks for the reminder!
    Parin

  7. says

    Love this post!

    So easy to forget the impact of the words we use every single day. I can honestly say that I’ve been “guilty” of using all of those “not-so-good” words in the past (and probably still do from time to time). But one practice that’s really helped is writing and reflecting.

    I’ve become so much more self-aware of not only my mindset and the words I use, but also how I spend my time through writing. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done (and still do) to help enhance my life.

    Thanks for the reminder!
    Parin

  8. Chanele says

    This was a very good article. I never actually thought about how often we use the word “but” to contradict our beliefs. Thank you :) Very good.

  9. Teri says

    I agree that we truely DO say things that we We DO not Mean to say when we are Mad or Angry…Just flat out Venting and we Hurt People when we do so!! I really believe that you Have to be Careful What You Wish FOR…as You Just Might Get it!! Back ten-fold….Karma can be the Worst ever!!

  10. Imp Lee says

    I started using a similar substitution method a while back – only I use “I get to” instead of “I have to”. I guess it serves a very similar purpose, just with a slightly different emphasis. Instead of thinking that “I have to” get some work done/prepare food/etc, thinking that “I get to” do these things helps me to see them as tasks which are a result of things I’ve chosen and worked for, and which will be worth doing.

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