I remember feeling very proud of myself, back when I was General Manager of a stock car racing track called Delaware Speedway, when I read something in the local newspaper quoting me on something unpleasant we had encountered. I can’t recall the exact details of the situation, but it might well have been something like the race track surface falling apart, or not having enough staff to run the event, or worrying that there would not be enough race teams to be able to create a division of competition, or even how we were ever going to get along with an arrogant and unreasonable sanctioning body. What I do remember was that I had been quoted as saying that we had “a challenge to overcome” or that we were “up for the challenge,” and that it was an “opportunity to make improvements.” When I read that, I knew that I had fully internalized and applied a lesson taught to me years before.
Change your words, change your world. May as well start with one.
Thank Goodness for Great Mentors!
I owe a lot of my personal and professional development to a good friend and mentor of mine named George Lightfoot. After working for many years in the banking industry, George set out on his own, created a company called Entrepreneurial Support Services, and has helped countless businesses and individuals in the time since by offering coaching, consulting and seminars on consultative sales, strategic market planning, effective practical management, and financial management skills. Within each of those trainings, George would, of course, give very specific examples of ways to improve performance in that area. So it’s always been kind of interesting to me that some of the things that stood out the most from his training and that have endured and woven themselves into my personality in the time since are the things that don’t necessarily have to do directly with business at all. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve applied all kinds of useful information into each of the areas of business I just described. Yet it seems to be the very simple, universal ideas that are helpful in just about all aspects of life (As a quick aside, one of the things that he noted in his sales seminar was common courtesy. To this day, that is the best sales technique that I know of; just being courteous in treating people with the respect that I would like them to treated with. It’s really pretty basic).
Cut This Word Out of Your Dictionary, Out of Your Mind, Out of Your Life
It’s very possible I was exposed to this many times before, but I first remember hearing this from George. It’s definitely not a new idea, but it is very powerful in its simplicity. It involves one word that you can change and eliminate from your vocabulary. Take this one word out of your thoughts, speech, and other communication, and you almost can’t help but be in a more positive state more of the time and feel more optimistic.
The word? Problem.
If the word “problem” were a person or a character, it would be a shadowy figure in very dark clothing. It would make you cold, or at least a little bit chillier, every single time it came anywhere near. It would be the kind of person that would walk into a room and cause everyone already there to have the reaction of, “Oh, what a downer!” And yet, we use this word all the time. We think it, we say it, we type it, and we swing it around at work and at home, recklessly unaware of the shadow we’re casting on our positive spirit and the chokehold we are throwing around our optimism.
What To Use Instead?
No one likes a problem. It’s a downer. It’s an automatic trip to the basement of human vibration. It’s a drag. But everyone can relate to the idea of rousing your spirit to overcome a challenge. And everyone loves opportunity. These two words put together in place of the previous word offer a much more empowering thought and communication process. Now, imagine if we changed some other thoughts and words and the messages that we’re telling ourselves and others on a grander scale. What would that do?! Well, that is a message for another day.
For now, I encourage you to try this: take the next few days and put your awareness to your thoughts and communication, written and verbal. Listen to what others are saying. See how much that word comes up and take note of how it makes you feel. When you’re getting ready to say it, or even think it, stop yourself if you can. See if you can rephrase it to use the word challenge or opportunity instead. See how that feels.
Beware Those “Sneaky” Negators …
Oh, and by the way, this even works when you’re trying to be positive! I’ll give you an example: When somebody says “thank you” for something, and you replied, “no problem!” You are still using a negative word and it is hurting you more than you probably think. Try the phrases, “You’re welcome,” or “My pleasure” instead. Here’s what you are going to notice: Those latter two phrases feel awkward to say! But “problem” feels normal. What does that tell you about the society we’ve created?! The good news is, you have the power to choose your words and thoughts. Try starting with just this one for today and see how it goes. What have you got to lose?
I would love to know how you make out, and also would be happy for you to share other words or phrases you use to feel more optimistic more of the time. Please feel welcome to leave a comment below, as always.
If you’d like to explore this more, I highly recommend reading “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. It was life-changing for me. See why one of the agreements is to “Be Impeccable With Your Word.” You can learn more about the book at the link below. You can probably find it at your local library. Or if you feel like buying it through Amazon, using the link below will kick a few cents back my way. It all helps.
And if you’d like to be put in touch with George Lightfoot of Entrepreneurial Support Services (a good idea for anyone in business, in my opinion), contact me directly and I’ll put you in touch.