Choose Your Words Carefully

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There is a psychological demonstration of this effect. In a famous study by Loftus and Palmer, 45 college students were shown a video of a car accident. Then, the students were asked to estimate the speed at which the cars were moving when they 'hit'. Some of the students were asked the question with the word 'hit', and others were asked with words such as 'collided', 'smashed', bumped', and 'contacted'. As you might expect, the word used significantly impacted the speed estimates of the students. A week later, the students were asked a question about broken glass in the video, even though the video did not show any broken glass. Those students who had been exposed to the more serious words remembered there being broken glass in the video. Here is a link to more info on the Loftus and Palmer study. The study demonstrates very clearly that words can alter how people construct and recall memories, which is basically the way we construct out world.

Just as the words we call ourselves can impact how we act around others, the words we use to refer to others can change how they act in relation to us. An example of this occurs in pickup. Pickup artists often suggest that men trying to attract women refer to all women as 'girls' and all men as 'men' or 'guys' (not 'boys'). This puts men in a position of dominance in the pickup artist's mind, which reflects in his actions towards women, who theoretically prefer dominant men.

Change How You Talk, Change How You Think

So how can you use this phenomenon to help you accomplish your dreams and stand up against all the forces of mediocrity in society that will try to hold you back?

A good first step is to stop thinking of your long-term goals and aspirations as mere dreams (I know, I use the word 'dream' a lot here, so I'm going to start using more empowering terminology). When you talk to yourself about the things you want to do and accomplish, try to use terminology that implies the expectation of actualization. Instead of calling them dreams, call them goals or objectives. Talk about them as if they are in the works, like you are expecting them to occur, even if in the distant future.

When I was in high school, I never had any doubt in my mind that I would go to the college of my choice. I spoke and thought about college as if it were a forgone conclusion. For me the application process was merely fulfilling a formality because I was so certain that I'd go where I wanted. Others occasionally tried to convince me to be more cautious and to apply to more schools, but I just couldn't shake the assumption that I'd get in. Even when I tried to be more cautious in my planning, my perspective was so strongly held I couldn't even make sense of a more conservative plan. Perhaps I was being foolish and I got lucky, or perhaps my conviction came across in my application and infected whoever read it.

So take a minute to think about what you want to do and check what kinds of words you use.

Here's a list of words to look out for:

Try replacing them with these words:

You'll hear yourself speaking with more certainty and expectation of accomplishment and you will start to visualize these things happening in a more concrete way, rather than simply daydreaming about them. The first step of moving towards your goals is being able to see yourself having them, so this subtle change in language will make a big difference in allowing you to get a strong grasp on how to make things happen.

What words do you use to talk about your ideas and future plans? Are they enabling you or holding you back from making your aspirations concrete?

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