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A New Year's Wish - May I Ban Two Words From Our Vocabulary?

Not sure how anyone else feels, but it keeps hitting me more and more that some words in our language simply add zero value. On the contrary, they tend to over time undermine our sense of joy and empowerment.

Take a wild guess, please, which words I might be thinking of. Alternatively, what if you could pick any two words, which one(s) might you ban from the vocabulary?

Mine are “should” and “fault.” For most of my life, I have gone back and forth on them, for decades quite subconsciously and for the last several years in a much more aware manner.

In my leadership-development work, I come across them regularly. I have actually started making it a habit to especially address usage of the word 'should' with most of my clients, whether in a coaching or training capacity. Interestingly, most everyone agrees with me, yet, they appear so deeply ingrained in our psyche that using them seems to be a hard habit to break. Only my own years of conscious practice now, have allowed me to rid myself of these trigger words as much as I believe possible.

Let me elaborate. I kept trying to come up with scenarios or examples where either word could actually add some value to any given situation. To this day, I haven’t found one.

The moment we say: “I should or should not do this,” what happens? We make ourselves inadvertently feel bad for what we are doing or what we are omitting to do. Either way, we are not living up to whatever expectations we ourselves or other people are carrying, and we are comparing our actual behavior against that benchmark. In a way, we are telling ourselves that we are not ok or not good enough the way we “are,” at least not in the way we behave.

Same with blaming others or ourselves. “It is his, her, their, or my fault …” What does that do with our own or the sense of self-worth of the other person? Fault always seems to carry the notion of failure, letting someone down, not being good enough because we do not seem to be without some major flaws. What a nice low bar!? Not wanting to be cynical, but what did we already learn in the New Testament from John that seems to stick very little with us: “...So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.””

Doesn't it appear particularly challenging to avoid throwing that stone at ourselves? I remember that I was deeply touched when I first heard of this bible passage when I was still a child. Yet, it never really helped me to have any grace with myself in moments when I felt I had “sinned.” It took me until rather recently to accept that the things that I am ashamed of or that I wish I had handled differently at the time, are as much part of who I am and deserve to be embraced as much as the things I am proud of. We are all love-able and worthy human beings and naturally fallible. Luckily, we have the capability to analyze our behavior and to learn and grow towards more evolved levels. Therefore, rather than getting lost in self-defeating talk, what I support my clients to explore is what they could do with their new learning and insights. In my experience, a key aspect of successful coaching engagements is whether we choose to own all of our actions, learn from them in a constructive manner and do the best job we can to grow and excel as human beings.

That takes us to how we can extract the “constructive” element from both words and turn them into a powerful statement instead. We could say something along the lines of: “I own what I did, and I will use it to learn from it as best as possible.” Similarly, “I am aware that a different approach of mine could have saved us a big headache, yet, I take it on as a growth and learning opportunity and will be much better prepared next time.” Another should replacement could sound like this: “I am aware of what is expected of me and I still choose to walk down a different path.”

Again, it all revolves around owning what we are doing, respectively not doing. In my personal and professional experience, healing comes from not hiding behind whatever pressure might have been--most likely well-meaningly--imposed on us. Instead, coming out into the light and making a powerful choice to take what we believe to be the right next step. I want to or will do X, and I will own the consequences of it. Either way.

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