Your thoughts and your speech reflect your attitude. The words that you use indicate just how you think. If you want to change from negative to positive, then start with your language.

Just notice how many people respond to the greeting, “How are you?”, with “Not too bad”. ‘Not’ and ‘bad’ are words with negative connotations.

If you catch yourself saying, ‘Not too bad’, stop and change your reply to ‘Good’, ‘Great’ or ‘fantastic’.

The word we use set us up (internally) for how we feel. Change your words and feel and see the difference it makes not only to you but also to the people you engage with. Try it.

Your subconscious mind does not evaluate things; it is non-judgemental. This means that it is unable to distinguish between genuine and true attitudes and those that are false. They are all given the same credence because the subconscious mind takes in everything it is given.

So when you say to yourself “I can’t.” your subconscious will look for all the evidence to support it, think of it like a giant filling system and it’s retrieved the file on “I can’t.” and rattled off all the reason on the A4 sheet or worse sheets why you can’t!

The human brain has a cluster of cells that act as a filter to perceptions. It accepts information that is consistent with your beliefs and goals and that fit with your picture of life.

The perceptions that make up your picture of life are well-worn and reinforced regularly, what you expect to happen to you often does, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You interpret life and what happens to you in the light of your beliefs. You search around to find evidence to support your stance to the exclusion of all alternative points of view.

Why “I Don't” Works Better Than “I Can't.” *

Your words help to frame your sense of empowerment and control. Furthermore, the words that you use create a feedback loop in your brain that impacts your future behaviors.

For example, every time you tell yourself “I can’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that is a reminder of your limitations. This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.

In comparison, when you tell yourself “I don’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that reminds you of your control and power over the situation. It’s a phrase that can propel you towards breaking your bad habits and following your good ones.

Heidi Grant Halvorson is the director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University. Here’s how she explains the difference between saying “I don’t” compared to “I can’t”…

“I don’t” is experienced as a choice, so it feels empowering. It’s an affirmation of your determination and willpower. “I can’t” isn’t a choice. It’s a restriction; it’s being imposed upon you. So thinking “I can’t” undermines your sense of power and personal agency.

In other words, the phrase “I don’t” is a psychologically empowering way to say no, while the phrase “I can’t” is a psychologically draining way to say no.

How You Can Apply This To Your Life

One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.

—Leonardo Da Vinci

There are situations everyday when you need to say no to something. For example, the waiter who offers you a dessert menu… or the urge to skip a workout and stay home… or the distracting call of texts, tweets, and updates when you should be focusing on something important.

Individually, our responses to these little choices seem insignificant, which is why we don’t make a big deal about telling ourselves that we “can’t” do something. But imagine the cumulative effect of choosing more empowering words consistently.

“I can’t” and “I don’t” are words that seem similar, and we often interchange them for one another, but psychologically they can provide very different feedback and, ultimately, result in very different actions. They aren’t just words and phrases. They are affirmations of what you believe, reasons for why you do what you do, and reminders of where you want to go.

The ability to overcome temptation and effectively say no is critical not only to your physical health but also to maintaining a sense of well–being and control in your mental health.

To put it simply: you can either be the victim of your words or the architect of them. Which one would you prefer?

  • Excerpts courtesy of James Clear

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