No, this is not another blog post on digital wiretapping and 1984-like scenarios. This is about the power that our thoughts have over us. Are you watching your thoughts? Are you wiretapping your brain? Because if you don’t, I strongly suggest you do.
Here’s an example:
“I have to go to work.”
I think think this sentence is easily on the top-10-list of most spoken sentences in the western world.
I also think it is among the sentences that do the most damage. Right alongside “What’s this button for?”, “Let’s shoot that guy.” and “I wonder if that catches fire.” Except in this case, it’s not quite so obvious. Let me explain.
I remember one morning, when I had finished my breakfast and I got up saying “Ok, I have to go to work.” Then it hit me. You can blame it on the brain food*, but right then and there it occurred to me how incredibly stupid that sentence was.
“I have to go to work.” Seriously? That’s how I felt? There was NO better way to put this?
I had studied long and hard to become an animator. I had worked even harder to get the incredible job that I had. I felt fortunate to be working with an incredible team on amazing projects. And what did I have to say about it? “I have to go to work.”
Are you catching yourself doing the same?
Let’s look at it in some more detail:
Really? So someone is putting a gun to your head? The ships going to hit an iceberg if you don’t? That is how I understand “have to”.
Unless you’re a millionaire or unemployed, you probably really “have to” go if you insist on putting it that way. But wouldn’t you agree that your day will start on a higher note if you choose a more positive wording?
How about: “I’m looking forward to”, “I can’t wait to”, “I can’t believe I get to”. Doesn’t that say the same thing?
Save “have to” for when you need to explain to a police officer why you were speeding with a live organ container on the passenger seat.
That word, to me, explains nothing more than the concept of trading in time for money. Does that really describe the situation? Is the situation really that dire for you?
There are better ways of putting it:
“help people look their absolute best” (in case you are a hairdresser, dentist, or work in a fashion store or gym)
“show kids how to bring out their A-game” (kindergarten teacher, teacher)
“bring smiles to the faces of children” (that’s what I use when working in cartoons)
Now, I admit that you might get a few bewildered looks when you get up from your breakfast table and declare
“Honey, I am looking forward to bring smiles to the faces of children.”
I admit that this is not the most socially accepted form of saying why you need to leave now.
It takes some getting used to.
This was a long-winded example to show how what you think, and what you say can go two ways:
1) You can look at the negative side of it.
The scary thing is that this actually makes sense, because humans agree on nothing more than on two things: complaints, and the weather. If you want people to agree with you, just complain.
2) You can look at the positive side of it.
Look, I get it: You might have a hard time finding anything positive to say about something particular. You might hate its guts and never want to hear/see/do that certain something.
Now, that’s either actually the case, in which case you’re lucky and get to move on. Wonderful.
Or you do have to hear/see/do that certain something at one point in time, in which case there is apparently some reason for its existence. In that case, I suggest you find it, and concentrate on that one good thing instead of all the other bad ones.
“So I can finally get that off my list” might be your first step and/or last resort in the world of positive attitude.
Here comes the mind bender though:
The way you formulate something, and the way you feel about something, can not be separated. At least not for long. And that is where you apply the lever.
If you rephrase the things that you say or think into a positive attitude, you will soon find how your feelings shift as well. It is like making your negative emotions try to swim upstream.
Here is what I do:
On my phone, I keep a list of vocabulary. Except that it’s not there to grow my vocabulary – it is there to down-size it.
On one side, I write a word that I want to eliminate from my vocabulary.
On the other side, I write several alternative words or phrases that I’d rather use. Usually, just writing it down once puts it into my conscience and flags it as a “watchword”, so it doesn’t get used anymore. Coming up with an alternative takes a second or two in the beginning, but it’s well worth it.
I should give a few examples of words that I unlearnt, but they seem to have slipped my mind 😉
I’m curious – in what situations do you constantly think in a negative way? How could you change what you say or think?
*) nuts and other omega-3/6 fatty acid rich foods. I don’t have someones cerebellum on my plate. Unless it’s cerebellum-tuesday, of course.