Monday, July 15, 2024
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Opinion/Column

The words we use

Business coach Paul Kearley

“So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with.”

–John Locke

Sitting around the kitchen table, we were discussing ideas when I used the word “superfluous” to explain something. Lauren, 16, looked at me with a serious expression and asked what it meant.

“Excessive,” I replied.

“No, it doesn’t,” Alex, 18, interjected. “It means ‘not necessary.’”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Yes, it does,” he persisted.

Judy, knowing how stubborn Alex and I can be when it comes to being right, got out the dictionary.

“Superfluous: 1. Being more than is needed or wanted; excessive,” she read. “See,” I said, “I told you that.” I was ready to gloat when Judy continued, “Hold on, there’s more. Superfluous: 2. Not needed; unnecessary.” Alex declared, “I was right!”

We both looked at each other and chuckled. Usually, when we sparred, there was always an absolute: one right and the other… well, you get the picture. Often, I felt like I had to celebrate every victory, no matter how small, because the older he got, the better he became. Like me, he really hated losing. We had both developed inflated egos. Most of our sparring was in fun, but we did have our moments of stubbornness that defied logic or rational behaviour.

Anyway, back to “superfluous.” After the verdict of “You were both right” was read, Lauren, in her wonderfully innocent way, asked, “I don’t understand. How can one word have two completely different meanings? How are people supposed to communicate when words have so many different meanings? Why can’t we just say what we mean instead of using words that confuse people and make them mad?”

Ah, out of the mouths of babes come the most thought-provoking questions.

I thought about that question for a few days. Why DO people use the words they do? Better yet, why do people say one thing and do something completely different? The simple, sometimes often answer is: lack of commitment. Many people don’t like to “box” themselves in by committing to something that could change soon, so they use non-committal words to give themselves an “off-ramp.”

For example, “I’ll try to get that done by Thursday” is so much easier to say, for some people than, “I’ll have that report on your desk by Thursday morning.”

For the past 30+ years, I have been coaching people to achieve higher levels of success. Each time I coach people through the process of writing and committing to a vision, we spend the most time on which words to use to effectively declare who we will be and what we will create. It’s common for people to use wishy-washy words to describe what they want. Words like “try”, “wish,” “hope,” or “would like” don’t clearly state our intentions. They are not specific enough to create a clear picture in our minds of what we want to do. The freedom to think big and bold has been suppressed in many people due to certain events in their history. Maybe they thought big once, got excited, and mentioned it to someone else.

And here lies the problem: they told it to the wrong person.

It’s great to have a vision with powerful words and positive images, but unless we share it with the right people, we may lose our energy towards achieving the goal. Some people love nothing more than shooting down someone’s vision because they can’t see themselves doing it. If we are not completely committed to our vision, we’ll let this speed bump derail us, and we won’t proceed.

The first crucial step in writing a vision is to carefully choose the right words to describe what you want to create. Dare to be bold! Let your words clearly describe what you want others to see in you and what you want to see in yourself. Remember, it’s your vision, not anybody else’s.

Do you want to become a successful investor? Then ask yourself, what does a successful investor look and act like, and use the most powerful words to describe what you will look like when you have and apply those attributes. Do you want to be successful in growing a multi-level marketing business? Yes? Then write a vision that describes who you will become and how you will do it, even if everyone you pitch an idea to says, “no, sorry, I don’t believe in MLM.”

Remember to factor in that it’s a numbers game and that you won’t give up, no matter what. Whatever your vision is, it has to be something you are completely committed to. If you can’t be, then don’t write it. Writing visions that we are not committed to and then failing teaches us to fail and reinforces a negative belief.

The most powerful “word” we can use when following through on our visions is not really a word, but a form of communication: “action.” Without action, no matter how beautiful and bold your vision is, it won’t happen. You’ve probably heard the quote, “Action speaks louder than words.” In vision writing, action is paramount.

Writing a vision is not a simple process; it requires thinking outside your current reality bubble. When you sit down to put it on paper, remember these simple rules for vision writing, and you’ll be able to write something that is not “superfluous” and that you can really commit to:

Use powerful language.

Use positive images.

Write it as if it is happening in the present tense.

Add timelines and accountabilities.

Create a plan for putting it into action.

Make this your best year ever.

Paul