Your VOCABULARY affects your MOTIVATION level

I was talking to one of my clients yesterday. This lady is an internationally educated medical doctor, who has just recently immigrated to Canada and she's trying to prepare herself to sit for the necessary exams, in order to get licensed to practice as a medical doctor in her new home country. And just recently, she unfortunately failed for a second time at one of these tests. In our coaching session, she told me “Shahab, I failed a second time. This is not going to work for me.”

Now the thing is: it makes sense. She has every right to feel this way. Anybody in her situation would feel that way. But our choice of words impact us hugely. The vocabulary we use to interpret the outside events for ourselves hugely influences our mental and emotional status. When you say 'this is not going to work out for me', you're actually saying this problem is permanent. It's not going away anytime soon. Also your explanatory style is saying that this is pervasive: this is going to affect negatively all areas of your life. And also it's something personal because there's some flaw in your personality and character: you're not good enough, you're not intelligent enough and you will not be able to make it work.

The vocabulary that we use to explain our life events paints our reality. The words that we use to interpret outside events can actually create our truth. What if she chose different words to explain the situation to herself? What if she decided to say “Okay I failed at this test a second time. How am I going to act differently to make it work next time?” That would be empowering because her reality would change. That failure would not be permanent. It would not be pervasive: Something that would affect all different areas of her life. And it would not be personal, it would not be because of a flaw in her character. It would be something temporary that would go away really soon. It would be something local, something impersonal that could be changed.

The point I’m trying to make is that our vocabulary matters a lot. It can hugely impact our mental and emotional state, and the words that we use to explain our life events can actually create our reality.


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