by Karem Barratt
You may have heard before: your words create your world. I didn’t quite realise the power of words until I read the novel 1984. In the story, there was a government department dedicated to strike some words from the English language, such as freedom, democracy, individuality. The reason? The realisation that, without the word, the concept is gone. Think about it. How would you say you want to be free, if the word free or any of its synonyms didn’t exist? How do you explain it to somebody else? I guess eventually you would create a word or a series of them to describe the concept, but until then, the idea of personal freedom could very well disappear from people’s awareness. What if we did to ourselves what this fictional department does, but in an inverse manner? What if instead of banning positive words, we banned negative ones? Or at least only used their least intense versions?
One word I particularly dislike and which seems to be a favourite of news readers is “desperate.” Apparently, the British are desperate for everything: from solutions to economic problems to knowing who’ll win the Oscar for best actress. Yet, to my mind, desperation is associated with the last stage of a situation. Let’s try an experiment. You are waiting for an answer, your A-level results, for example. Now say: I am desperate to know if I passed. Good. Try again, this time saying: I am eager to know if I passed. Can you feel the difference? Eagerness connects us to positivity, since we are all usually eager for good things to happen. Desperation ties us to pessimism, since we tend to associate it with bad news. Unconsciously, our tone of voice, even our gestures and facial expressions change according to which sentence we use. And so do our emotions. Emotions are one of the strongest filters of reality. Even if they are sitting side by side, the boy who is desperate to know if he passed his A-levels is experiencing a completely different world than the girl who is eagerly awaiting the results.
It’s not the same to have a “stern” father as it is to have a “firm” father. The workplace changes a lot if instead of “enemies” you have “adversaries” or “competitors.” The way you react to bad news will be different if you express your feeling as “rage” instead of “annoyance.” A new project will look more promising if you are “greatly excited” than if you are just “interested.” The way you relate to a person can be more beneficial if you see her as “a knowledgeable academic, passionate about her subject” than if you see her as a “boring history professor who only talks about old stuff”. The more intense the positive words you use are, the more positivity they generate. So be enthusiastic and vehement as you discover thrilling and stimulating new ways to relish the fantastic and whimsical adventure that accomplishing a purpose can be.
Exercise: Think of a word that you use constantly and that has a negative connotation and write it down. Now find 1-3 more positive options for the word and write them down. Say out loud a sentence using the negative word and then repeat it, but this time using the more positive version. How does it feel? Did you notice any emotions when using the different words?
Note: this is an excerpt from a Life by Design. You can get the book in Amazon Kindle here: