“Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” Frank Outlaw

Your words create your character and your destiny. It seems quite a dramatic statement to make doesn’t it? I certainly thought so when I came across this quote first. How can what I say lead to my destiny?

Then I started thinking about it. Communication is only 7% words is it not, according to the experts. So how then can what comes out of my mouth have such an effect?

Well its to do with the picture that we create when we speak. The language that we use is heard and interpreted by both ourself and the people we’re talking to. If I heard someone say “I’m not able to go to lunch with you. Cause, you know, life’s a struggle for me at the moment.” Its probabal that I’d create an image in my mind of them being depressed, rather down and lacking in joie de vivre. And I’d probably be right. The problem is that a picture paints a thousand words so that now every time I see that person or talk to them, I see the picture of them being down in the dumps. This might be a subconsious picture but it’s there none the less.

Think of a person you know that you find negative. What’s their language like? I’m thinking that its full of words like – “I can’t… I’m not able… life’s a struggle…. i’ve so much stress going on in my life right now…etc” ! Now think of someone that you love spending time with, do they use positive words like “I want…. I can….Life’s great….etc?

Sometimes we can get ourselves into a negative state and our language changes accordingly. At the moment there’s alot of fear out in the world and we do feel that we can’t do alot of things. And that may be true but there’s always choice. Rather than saying “I can’t afford x”, say “I won’t afford x, because that won’t allow me to do y at the weekend.” The latter shows the choice you have and so, while it’s a more challenging statement, it’s more positive.

If you feel that you’re in a rut or this negative state then this is an excellent exercise to do. It will give you back control and empower you, it shows you that you do have choices, even though they may be more limited than the recent past.

So how do you take control of your words, and so your destiny? Its simple really, the following is a table by Susan Jeffers from her wonderful book – Feel the fear and do it anyway. She says:

Replace With
I can’t I won’t
I should I could
Its not my fault I’m totally responsible
It’s a problem It’s an opportunity
I’m never satisfied I want to learn and grow
Lifes a struggle Life’s an adventure
I hope I know
If only Next time
What will I do? I know I can handle it
It’s terrible It’s a learning experience

The words on the left hand side are all victim words. “I can’t” implies that it’s outside the realm of your control whereas “I won’t” gives you back choice.

Consider for example:

I can’t face the gym v’s I won’t go to the gym because I’m too tired today but I’ll promise myself that I will go tomorrow as I enjoy it and can feel the benefits of it immediately.

I should eat healthily but it’s so bland and awful and ……… v’’s I could eat healthy today or get a take away. Hmmm, ok I really WANT somthing nice and nutritious so I’ll cook myself something extra tasty.

These are challenging and will take some getting used to be patient and persevere.

For the first part of the exercise, take the first three for a week:

Replace I can’t with I won’t
Replace I should with I could
Replace It’s not my fault with I’m totally responsible.

Print the above or the table out and have it somewhere that you’ll see it frequently. Initially you’ll have to catch yourself saying these words but overtime they will become part of your vocab.

After a week add in the next three for a week. So after three weeks add in the next three, and so on.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about “should”. I hear this regularly from clients. “I should…….”, people literally “should” all over themselves. Its one of the worst words out there as it implies duty, “have-to’s”, “don’t want to but I must”, etc, etc. It’s such a heavy and disempowering word. I mean “should?” according to whom, the cats pyjamas? You’re never going to win with that word. I used to go to the gym because I “should”. when I changed this to “I could” it felt so much easier to choose to go, rather than feeling obligated. I ended up doing better workouts and enjoying it even more than I thought possible. So if you do nothing else from this exercise, please ban “should” from your vocab!

Yes we all do have obligations, like “I should see my parents.” Duties and responsibilities are part of life, but still change your language to I could and it takes the burden out of the task at hand.

Thank you 🙂

Please do let me know how you get on – ellie@xhale.ie


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