Importance of Language in our lives

November 7, 2011 at 9:27 am | Posted in Blogroll, Practice Excellence, Self Improvement | 1 Comment

What we say, the words & language we use, shapes our thinking. It profoundly affects our assumptions and beliefs, and through them how we decide and act. If we wish to change ourselves for the better, the place to start is consciously & intentionally using a different language. Here are a few real life examples from my experience along with the general lessons I leant from them.

Every option has some pros & cons when we have to make a decision. Till a few years back, whenever I had to choose between different options, a thought would automatically come to my mind that I have to make a “compromise” which left me a little dissatisfied, whatever option I chose. One day I thought whether it is really a compromise? What is the basis on which I am taking a decision? Normally I was trying to get the best of either money, growth, knowledge, relationships or just happiness. In short, I was trying to “optimize” something. With this sudden realization, I decided to start using “optimize” in my thoughts as well as while speaking to others instead of using “compromise”. The result was that I felt less unhappy about the options I did not choose, but also the decisions I took turned out to be better.

Another example is more recent. I used to strongly feel the need to change something, either in my habits or behavior. Though I used to be convinced of the need but found it quite difficult to put it in practice. Then one day a few months backs, I noticed that the language I used was like “I like this; I don’t like this” or “I am like this or that”, which sustained and even reinforced what I was. How could I then expect to change myself so easily? For example, I was so proud of my punctuality that I would reach an event or a meeting on time or little before time, irrespective of whether anybody else had turned up or not. I was so attached to and blinded by my punctuality that I never thought of the consequences for me or others. The solution was to try a different language which transferred by current habits / behavior from the present to the past. So I started thinking & talking like “I used to be very proud of punctuality”. This helped free myself from the attachment and I had the possibility of thinking / behaving differently started opening up. Of course, when I was required for starting the event like if I had to conduct a training session, my presence by the scheduled time was essential whether or not anybody else turned up. But when I was only a participant, I could watch others’ timeliness or otherwise more carefully and apply a different strategy depending on the type of meeting, people involved and level of my involvement. Earlier, I used to consider punctuality as a rule to be observed irrespective of the circumstances. Just the change of language made this possible.

The last example is very recent, actually within last few days. Currently an external consultancy agency is coaching us at office in self-transformation. The course is very good, really an eye-opener. But I was little uncomfortable with a pair of terms “Breakdowns” & “breakthrough”. The course covers some nice techniques for converting breakdowns into breakthroughs. My problem was that whenever I heard the term breakdown it reminded me of a car breaking down & I felt that I am not a car being driven to my destiny but rather a driver driving the car of my internal & external resources & tools towards my destiny. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with my car except some wear & tear and occasional servicing required. However, it faced “roadblocks” from time to time and would get stuck. Thinking in terms of “roadblocks” rather than “breakdowns” helped me because depending on situation you could either by-pass it, slowly & carefully go over it or in a worst case try to break it. Another reason why “roadblock” makes more sense is because a “breakdown” is an event whereas a “roadblock” is a structure. In life it is the structures, hardened over time, which restrict our freedom and we need to work on them till either they become soft or completely broken down.

For me the takeaways from these examples were,

  • A positive approach like “optimize” opens up new possibilities while a negative one like “compromise” locks us up in the same thought process
  • Saying that we like or are so & so, creates the attachment which can be broken if we shift such statements to past tense
  • If some terms make more sense to us and help us to achieve the objective, even if majority of others are using different terms, it is okay

Your views and inputs are valuable; please share.


1 Comment »

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  1. Words create our world and creat our approach path.
    My take away from this blog – “Keep a positive approach”

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