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.

Changing the Storyline of Your Life for Better Living

Change the storyline of your life to live a better story.

I heard this idea in my meditation practice. We go through life telling ourselves stories about who we are, what we do, and how we live. I imagine they call it a story because even though there is a reality and therefore a truth to it, there’s no way we can know the whole truth of ourselves, others, or any situation. There are always going to be factors that remain unknown.

So, then, we create a story. I am a victim. I am powerful. I am no good. I am destined for failure. No one likes me. Everyone likes me. The story can be good or bad, but mostly, we’re talking about the bad stories of our lives. Those are the ones we want to change.

For me, I had one story about myself for most of my life; I lived thinking I was in control, cool, intelligent, put together, sensible, and fun. Back when I first started having stress-related health issues, they didn’t fit my story. (I also tested as an INTJ back then, and false or otherwise, it definitely colored my perception of myself.) I didn’t let anyone know I was having stress issues or that I was depressed because I didn’t see myself as a person that happened to. The story went that depressed people weren’t trying hard enough, didn’t read books showing them how to have a better mindset, and wanted attention.

I was lucky to get better at all with all that crap in my head. Well, better-ish, since the whole thing happened again a few months ago. This time (over several years) my story had changed. I had slowly come around to accepting myself as an INFJ, an HSP, a multipotentialite, and more creative and dreamy than hardass and intellectual. I was sensitive, and now my sensitivity had taken a blow. But I still thought it was on me. I still thought I hadn’t done something right or I hadn’t taken good enough care of myself. That’s probably true, but it put me in the mindset of victimization. All these external factors had contributed to my fall. It was the school’s fault, it was my friend’s fault, it was my doctor’s fault, it was God’s fault, it was my fault, etc.

Who cares? It doesn’t matter how it happened. It happened, so what am I going to do about it? Thinking about where the blame falls is not only toxic in that it’s automatically negative, but it also keeps the focus on the problem, instead of on the possible solutions.

One foot in front of the other. I can’t see three feet ahead, just the next step, so move there. And then there. And then there. Forward, forward…

The above is a kind of mantra I go through when I’m terrified of what’s next. I don’t know where to go. I knew in college, I had a general idea in Korea, but now…there is nothing ahead of me. It’s a fog, and I can only put one foot ahead. Go to the doctor. See a psychiatrist. Eat better. Exercise to keep me healthy. Get my mind healthy. Find positive friends who support and challenge me. Find a healthy church group. Find a writing group.

The story is changing around me, but I’m not a useless bystander. I can direct it.

Instead of I am a sick person –> I am a recovering person.

Instead of I am not in control of my life –> I can make decisions that influence my life.

Instead of I must be successful/financially stable –> I can determine what is enough for my life.

Instead of I have to be a published author to be worthy –> I am enough.

Instead of I am a burden when I’m sick –> I am worthy of being helped.

Instead of I am someone with a depressing past/history of abuse –> I am able to be better/I can share my story to help others.

You can see how valuable this is. It’s not just positive thinking. It’s changing how you view your entire self in terms of your life. Really, this is best for getting over a mindset of helplessness. Too many people who are victims of abuse, depression, chronic illness, or other really and truly debilitating problems let themselves lose control over their lives and continue to live out the story of their problem. I’m one of them, so I would know.

But I also know that it’s not the only truth. As many people I know who are this way, there are so many stories of people who have overcome awful situations with hope and determination and totally changed their own storylines.

Some of the most well-known examples; Viktor Frankl, Martina Stawski, Nick Vujicic, and Joni Tada.

Change the story of you in your head, and you can change your life.*

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*I want to be clear – if you do have depression, anxiety, or have suffered trauma or abuse, positive thinking and this sort of advice will only do so much. I always encourage you to see a doctor or psychiatrist first. They are trained professionals. The sort of advice I give on this blog is more general. 🙂