Depositphotos girl with hand over mouth

I can read self-help tips online all day long. In fact, many days I do. The problem is, as inspiring as many blogs, vlogs, and podcasts are, they don’t help you unless you actually do something with the information.

But with all the amazing information out there, where do you start?

By changing the words you use. 

It may sound like a small thing, but your word choice has a huge impact on your outlook and psychology.

Many of the words and phrases we choose leave us powerless victims of circumstance. Over time, we start believing what we say, and then saying more of what we believe.

Imagine if instead our words built us up.

Imagine if our words both enabled and gave us the confidence to fully express who we are and want to be.

They can.

Try switching out these common phrases for more empowering alternatives:

1.  Should

Should and shouldn’t are like chocolate-coated guilt. They sound oh-so-good but leave us feeling heavy.

Using “should” on yourself is akin to saying “there’s a group of perfect people in the world who have set a standard for how to behave and perform and, if I fall short, I will never be perfect.”

No pressure.

Instead, use “will” or “will not”. That way, you’ll be in integrity and have a better chance of following through on what you choose to do or not do.

2.  Can’t

The extent to which we limit ourselves and our capabilities with “can’t” drives me nuts.

“I can’t make it to your event”. Of course you can. You know how to drive, you know where it is, and you’re physically sound and well. But you may choose not to come, because you have another priority.

“I can’t go to Europe by myself”. Of course you can! You buy a ticket, fly to your chosen European country, and voila – there you are. But if you don’t want to go alone, that’s a different story.

When you use “can’t”, you mask your own power to decide and act.

Similar to “should”, “can’t” feels a lot like someone else told you what you were and were not allowed to do. That’s why we use “can’t” – it’s a way to make people feel better about denying their invitations – like it’s not our fault, not our choice.

When you deny your ownership of the decision, you also deny yourself the opportunity to change – to discover why you don’t want to travel alone and brainstorm alternatives.

Next time you catch yourself saying “can’t”, change it to “I won’t” or “I don’t want to”. It may feel confronting at first, but you’ll be speaking your truth and nothing feels better than truth in the long run.

 3.  Try

Similar to “can’t”, try is a cop out. It’s a way to avoid saying “I don’t want to” that we’ve somehow convinced ourselves is more polite. Let me go on the record here – leading people on is not polite.

“Will you come to see my play?” – “I’ll try”. If the asker is an optimist, they hope you’ll show and be disappointed when you don’t. If they’re a pessimist, they assume you won’t and are cynical when you don’t.

Either way, wouldn’t a straight “yes” or “no” be much easier and avoid the stress of hanging invitations? (I speak from experience here – I’m the master of non-committal responses to invitations. That’s why I know how stressful they can be!).

“Try” is even more dangerous when we turn it on ourselves. As a coach, I hear “I’ll try” from clients when we discuss tackling new areas of growth. Let me go on the record again – there is no “try”.

You either do it or you don’t; you will or you won’t.

When I hear “I’ll try”, I hear you say you don’t have clear boundaries and don’t trust yourself. I hear that you’re avoiding the truth – that you’re afraid you’re not capable and will fail.

I can’t help you “try”, but I can help you with boundaries, trust, and fear. Owning the problem is the key to finding the solution. Being honest is the key to living with integrity.

So next time you start to say you’ll “try”, choose a word to describe what you really mean instead – “yes”, “no”, “I will”, “I won’t”, “I want to”, or “I want to, but”.

4.  Need

This may be a radical idea, but you don’t “need” to do anything. The way I see it, there are suggestions, rules, implications, agreed-upon laws, and even blackmail, but you don’t “need” to follow any of it. You either want to or you don’t.

Do you need to mow the lawn? No, but you choose to because you agreed to take on that responsibility and are vested in the implied social rules about the length of grass.

Do you need to go grocery shopping? No, but if you have a specific recipe in mind and don’t have the ingredients, you want to go to a store to buy them.

In each agreement, there are implicit trade-offs and you choose to act one way or another to achieve a certain result. It’s your choice.

Instead of “need”, use “I choose to” or “I want to” instead. I bet you’ll feel less stressed instantly.

This week choose one word and listen for it.

Who do you say it to? When? Under what circumstances? 
Can you find another – more truthful – word to use instead?

Go slowly and give yourself a break. It took me a full year to eradicate “need”, “should” and “can’t” from my vocabulary and I still slip up 10 years on.

But you can experience amazing results just from these “simple” changes. You can take true responsibility for your life and own what you choose.

Be free. Be brave. Be YOU!


Which word will you focus on this week?  Leave a comment below!