If you had to place a bet, which of the following people is most likely to complete a marathon?
- Person A
I'm not much of a runner. It'll be a struggle for me.
- Person B
I'm not sure I'll be able to do it, but I'll do my best.
- Person C
I'm going to give it my all, let's see what happens.
Of course, we can't predict the future, but we can make a prediction based on the language people use. Person A's response is weak and signals a lack of confidence. Person B's response is average and may go either way. Person C's response signals someone positive and willing to push themselves.
Gun to your head, where would you place your bet?
You may not be conscious of the language you use to describe your actions, but other people are. At the same time, your subconscious is also listening to every word you say. It's listening so it can understand how to interact with the challenges ahead. Our bodies have no way to interface with the world around us.
Our bodies can't tell if something is good or bad until we create a feeling for it.
That's why language plays a big part in our behaviour, because language has feelings tied to it. There's a massive difference between someone that's happy, and someone who's ecstatic, even though the words have fundamentally the same meaning.
But, when we close our eyes and imagine the difference between a happy and ecstatic person, the difference is night and day. If changing one word has the power to change the images inside of our minds, imagine how those words will change our feelings. Imagine if instead of describing the situation you're about to dive into as terrifying, you describe it as challenging. Doing this conjures up an entirely different image of the challenge ahead.
If you see what you're about to do differently, then you interact with it differently.
It's easy to be sceptical of the power of language, but if you need more proof, watch a few TED talks and listen to the language the speakers use. The words they use are persuasive and they're concrete. They create images in your mind to convince you of the point they're making. If you learn to use language like this, there's no reason why you can't convince your subconscious to feel the same way that the speakers make you feel. After all, TED speakers don't live inside you. Each talk only takes about 20-minutes of your time, whereas we each have around 20,000-70,000 thoughts per day. Imagine if you use language to reframe those thoughts. The influence you'll have on your actions is unbelievable.
Of course, this isn't by any means a simple process—nothing in life ever is. But, what you can do is slowly retrain the way you think, by catching the language you use to describe yourself or the situations in front of you.
As an example, the next time you catch yourself thinking negatively about yourself, or others, replace that negative thought with three positive ones instead.
Here's an example:
- "I'm useless at X."
- "I'm putting in work to learn and grow"
- "I'm learning from my mistakes and improving my knowledge"
- "I know that putting in the work will get results"
You won't catch yourself on every negative thought, but if you catch some, then you'll slowly retrain your relationship with the language you use.
Any improvement is still an improvement.
You can also create triggers words in your language to remove. For example, I'm ruthless with the words 'try' and 'just'. Every time I hear myself use either of these words, I rephrase the sentence entirely. Why? Because both of these words are weak and vague, they don't support action, and they're far too grey.
Instead of 'try', I'll always say 'I'll do my best' as it sets a standard. If I fail, I fail, but I did my best in the process. Instead of 'just', I'll give it to myself straight. If I missed the target, I missed the target—it doesn't matter how close I was. For me, I'm conscious that language sets the standard for my thinking. Sure, it's difficult, and of course, I trip over a few times along the way. But from my experience so far, I've seen great results from something as simple as a change in language.
It's a given that your words will influence how others feel. It should also be a given that your words will affect how you feel too.
A Lesson for Future Champions
Change your language, change your life.
Words have a profound impact on the way we see the world, and they have a profound impact on how we feel about the world.
Our bodies have no way to interface with 'reality', they only understand the world around us through emotions. We can influence our emotions and our responses to situations by changing the language we use.
We can be challenged instead of terrified. We can be ecstatic instead of happy. If you're able to picture the difference between these words, then you're ready to feel the difference too.
Focus on using language that elevates you and helps you be your best self. When you catch yourself using weak words or having negative thoughts, reframe these with language that serves you.
Ever been to sleep saying "it's late, so tomorrow I'm going to be tired" then, 'surprisingly' you wake up feeling tired the next day?
Language creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, so use your words wisely.