For most people, words are an intrinsic part of daily life - but all too often, we use them carelessly, throwing them out in a cavalier manner without stopping to think about how they’re actually affecting us. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Our thoughts create our reality.” This is absolutely true - and the words we use without thinking are often mirrors of our innermost thoughts, offering us glimpses into limiting belief systems that we may not even be aware of. We can work hard, make connections, and set admirable goals - but there’s only so high we can climb if we’re operating from a foundation of negative thought patterns. The following subtle language shifts can help you change the energy around the words you use and attract more joy, positivity, happiness, and empowerment into your life.
Change “I can’t afford it” to “It’s not a financial priority”
When we say we can’t afford something, we’re speaking as though we are powerless in relation to our money. The same applies when we say things like “I’m broke” or “I’m poor” - even if these statements are technically true, when we affirm them like this, we’re demonstrating an operating mindset of scarcity and lack. If we ever want abundance to come knocking on our door, we have to raise our vibration enough so that we’ll not only attract it, but be ready to meet it when it arrives.
For example, if I have an unconscious belief system that I never have enough of what I need, that belief - however subtle - can become woven into my identity. Just as our thoughts create our reality, if I keep telling myself I am lacking, this will always be the case. To break out of this mindset of scarcity, the trick is to operate through a lens of abundance, instead - and that means acting as though we already have everything we desire.
This is why it’s so important to say “That’s not a financial priority” instead of “I can’t afford that.” It puts you back in your power and makes you realize that you do have a choice. Do you believe you can’t afford that vacation to the Cayman Islands? What about paying the mortgage? More than likely, the mortgage is your financial priority - but it’s important to understand that you could go to the Cayman Islands instead of making a couple mortgage payments. It likely wouldn't be the best choice, but the option exists regardless. It’s not that you can’t afford that vacation - it’s simply not your priority.
Change “If” to “When”
If is wishy-washy and noncommittal. When, however, carries intention. Do you find yourself saying things like “If I ever get rich, I’ll…” or “If I succeed at this, I’ll…”? What would happen if you changed the if to a when? It immediately brings so much more power into your statement. When I get rich. When I succeed.
When we say if, we’re leaving things up to chance. We’re playing it safe. By refusing to go all in on the dream, there’s nothing to fail at, is there? The problem with this, however, is as we’ve already discussed: the energy of if is low and passive. It’s not going to attract high-vibration energy into our lives. Replacing if with when forces us to be more direct and intentional about the things we desire in our lives - and this intention simultaneously helps us move in the direction of our dreams and makes room in our lives for those dreams to appear.
Change “I should” to “I choose”
Just as in the previous shift, should is passive, while choose is empowering. If we do something because we believe we should, we’re not actively making the choice for ourselves. This can lead to resentment and negativity around the situation. Choosing to do something, however, puts you in control of your life.
I used to use the phrase “I should clean” all the time. I’ve never been good at cleaning, or keeping spaces neat and organized - and I carried a lot of shame around this, because of my belief that a capable adult should be able to maintain a tidy environment. Is it any wonder, then, that whenever I said to myself “I should clean,” all this shame, negativity, and despair would come creeping in? Of course I hated it. Of course I didn’t want to do it.
Things changed when I started saying “I choose to clean.” The shift happened when I began to understand how important a tidy environment is to my productivity and mental health. Suddenly, I had a reason to clean that wasn’t a should, and I was able to look at it as a choice I was making for the well-being of my life, business, and emotional wellness. This took so much of the negativity out of it, which has ultimately made it easier for me to keep my environment neat and organized.
What task do you just hate? Is there any way you can find a reason for doing it other than that you simply should? If you can frame it as a positive choice instead, you’re taking a more empowering stance over your own life, and helping to decrease some of the negativity surrounding the task.
Change “I failed” to “I learned”
Failure is a part of life. It’s inevitable. However, we’re taught to believe it’s an awful thing - and as a result, many of us spend our lives in our comfort zones, refusing to take chances or pursue our dreams in order to avoid it.
Failure stings - but it’s not an inherently bad thing. In fact, the hardest things in life are the most valuable lessons. We learn more from struggle than we do from ease. And a life with zero failures is a life that teaches us nothing. What if we could look at our failures as opportunities for growth instead?
Henry David Thoreau said it best: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” When we remain open to learning from our failures, rather than lamenting them, we receive all sorts of valuable information about ourselves that can help propel us toward the life we want - which is much better than staying stuck in a self-esteem rut because of past mistakes. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and feel extra-empowered in the process.
Change “I have to” to “I get to”
Similar to should and choose, have to and get to carry completely opposite energies and connotations. When we have to do something, it’s implied that we don’t really want to but are being forced. Conversely, when we get to do something, the implication is joy, excitement, and gratitude.
Imagine someone has invited you to a fun social event, but you have a full day at the office and won’t be able to attend. When you respond, “I have to work,” what is the energy there? You will likely experience feelings of resentment, annoyance, and drudgery. What if you said “I get to work” instead? Could it help make the act of working feel more like a privilege than an obligation? Probably. Could it direct your mind away from the things you don’t like about your job and instead point it toward the financial opportunities it allows you to have? You bet.
This is effective even for situations that are neutral instead of negative. Imagine being invited to an event, and responding with “Sure! I have to take a shower first, and then I’ll be right over!” What would happen if you said “I get to take a shower” instead? Sure, it might feel a little silly - but it also positively alters your state of mind by putting you in a position to experience gratitude for the shower you’re about to take. Perhaps you’ll linger under the faucet a little longer, enjoying the present moment and the feeling of the warm water coursing over your body. Gratitude is an extremely effective tool for elevating our mood, level of happiness, and capacity for joy, and has been shown to reduce stress and stress-related ailments - meaning, of course, that people who feel grateful for the little things on a regular basis generally experience longer, happier, and more vibrant lives.
The words you use can hinder you - or they can be your greatest ally. Using these tips, you can begin making your language work for you, instead of against you.