But Out: Replace This One Word to Change Your Life

We live in a world of contradictions.

“I want to do this, but I have to do that.”

We hear this all the time. We say this all the time.

“I want to build my business, but I spend so much time at work.”

“I want to achieve my goals, but I have to take care of my family.” 

“I want to travel, but I don’t have enough money.” 

That one word, but, removes our power in those statements. It makes the two items around the but absolutely incompatible. You can’t do both, is what a statement like that says.

Our words are powerful. They have the power to change our minds, and in doing so, change our lives. We all know how the stories we tell about ourselves impact us. Being a linguistics major, I can tell you that the words we choose to use about ourselves, about others, about anything, matter. They matter a lot.

And, unfortunately, this habit of using but between two items is very, very common. So common we don’t even realize there’s another grammatical way of saying the same thing, one that gives us power back.

Instead of using but, use and. Replace every but up there with and and see what happens.

“I want to build my business, and I spend so much time at work.” 

“I want to achieve my goals, and I have to take care of my family.” 

“I want to travel, and I don’t have enough money.” 

By replacing that one word, we’ve given power back to ourselves. Instead of lamenting that we don’t have enough time to work on our business or our dreams, we realize that we have obligations, and we have dreams, and we can do both. We aren’t sacrificing our families or quitting our jobs, we’re finding ways to work with them.

In the last example, the use of and creates an incentive for action. Okay, so you don’t have enough money to travel, and you want to, so now, how will you get that money? But kind of implies that “oh well, I don’t have enough money. That’s that,” and forces no further action. It stops us in our tracks. But and implies a realization of your current situation and a call to action.

It’s amazing how this simple change can affect your outlook, your optimism, your mindset, and your energy levels.

Now, I don’t recommend replacing every but with and all the time. You’ll sound weird. Just try it out with things that really get you stumped. That make you feel down. The phrases that put a pause in your action plan.

Reframe the idea that two things are incompatible with the idea that there is a way to have both. You can have a full workload and build a business on the side. You can be less than wealthy and travel the world.* You can take care of your family and pursue your goals.

You can do whatever you choose to. So give power back to yourself now. Take the buts out.

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*For tips on traveling cheap, check out anything by Chris Guillebeau on Travel Hacking.

4 thoughts on “But Out: Replace This One Word to Change Your Life

  1. I love this! I love how much you love words and recognize the importance of them, too! I know you talked about this before on one of my posts so it’s nice reading one of your posts on this.
    I think “but” also leads to excuses in the examples you’ve mentioned. Even though they can be totally legitimate excuses, I’ve realized that part of growing up is owning up to everything in life. Wow this can be a really deep, complicated topic, but basically if you really want to do something, you would find a way, if not, you’d find an excuse. That’s one of my favorite quotes because I think I make too many excuses to basically excuse myself from feeling guilty about this or that or putting off something I’m scared about.
    Lots of people go through their lives feeling like victims and that they have no control of their lives. I think “and” really does give some of that power back to you, like you said, rather than justifying fear and putting things off with “but.” It also gives off a less biased feeling because it sounds like you’re just stating facts that you can acknowledge–like this is just the way things are right now and you can accept that right now, but they don’t need to have some mutually exclusive relationship, like you said.
    Love it 😀 thanks so much for sharing! I’m going to end it here before I add anything more or edit to the point it’s this unreadable ramble. I am so bad at organizing my thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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