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It’s only words…..
Or is it?
Over the years, both as a coach and a self help junkie, I have learned the tremendous power words have. Subtle, seemingly innocent words can have a profound impact on our self image, self confidence and how we relate to others.
The image attached to this post is one of the mind maps I’ve created for my coaching clients – a map to help them harness the power of their words. On it I’ve mapped out several areas to focus on, and I’ll share some of what I know about them over several posts.
Today I’d like to talk about using “Absolutes” – those words like “Always”, “Never”, “Every”, “All” and “None”. Words that help us to paint our (gray) world “Black/White”, “For or Against” or “Either/Or”. Words that leave zero room for exception, variety or independent thinking.
The negative use of absolutes
Tell a child “you always get B’s” or “you never come to dinner on time” and before you know it, they’ll tell themselves that this is who they are. They will actually stop striving for the A, or try to get to dinner on time. These words, instead of motivating us to change, will often form our identity. We accept them as “who” we are, which makes it seem even harder to change. They’ll become a permanent “B” student or someone who is always late. Before long getting an “A”, or making it to the dinner table on time seems more like a Herculean task than a simple shift in habit, so they give up trying. .
Where have absolutes influenced you?
In what way do you use absolutes? Perhaps you say things like:
“Oh, I always forget that”
“Oh I’ll never be rich”
“He’ll never call me”
“Every time I do this (something bad happens)”
“None of my work is any good”
“I can’t ever get a break”
Here’s one from my own family: “Every time I get a couple extra dollars, something breaks”
Or perhaps it’s another person’s voice that you hear (in your head) telling you that you can’t do something, or you’ll “never make anything out of yourself” or “You’ll always be stuck in a dead end job”
Watch for “absolute” words and consider what impact they may be having on you, or those you speak with. (Especially if you use them with children)
On the other hand! (Even absolutes have two sides!) You may find absolutes are working in your favor!
One of my favorite examples of a positive way to use absolutes is in the affirmation: “Everything always works out for me”
Other statements you can try:
“I always seem to know what to do”
“It gets easier every day”
“I’ll never stop trying”
Seek out the absolutes in your life that limit, label — i.e. all people who have this (political affiliation) are this (negative quality), or attempt to motivate you through negative conditioning and remove them. Keep only those which offer a positive view of you, your abilities, and your qualities.
Have fun with this!