When we want to make changes in our lives, be they big or small, one practice has made that has got me noticing is that so much depends on what you say. Not just what you say to other people, but also to yourself.
We hear our words and we believe them.
"Of course, I’d love to switch industries, but I’d obviously have to take a pay cut.” “I’m always tired. I guess that’s part of real life.” “It’s just easier to keep quiet, having an argument doesn’t get the job done.”
And so it goes on, and so we dismiss our hope of it being any different.
Yet, we can start to breathe life into our dreams by changing our words. By noticing our language and challenging it. By gradually talking about our desires and our wants, we help ourselves spurt them into life.
I’ve got three examples to show you the power of words. Today, I’ve got parts 1 and 2 for you, next week, I’ll be back with part 3.
1. How 'I don’t want to' can help us
"I don’t want to [insert bad feeling here] anymore."
This is us at stage 1. We work out what we don’t like about our situation: a relationship, a circumstance, an atmosphere and we begin to express it.
When we are used to doing what we think we should do: you know, the ways that we ‘are expected to go’ - university perhaps, corporate job, maybe buying a house, getting married to the person you’ve been with, well, forever, But the stirring within you begins to question it. Your instinct is to squash it down, don’t let anyone know: I’ll get fired, they’ll hate me, I won’t like it.
And you let it have some breathing room and things get uncomfortable. And you squash it down again, and it shows up begging for a little air. We begin to show dissatisfaction and feel as though we are complaining. Yet, we can’t let it lie, it just won’t. This is a good start, trust me.
It’s a crucial start to the process of change.
I don’t want to do work that bores me out of my mind. I don’t want to be living with my parents when I’m 30. I don’t want to be scrimping and saving forever. I don’t want to be nagged all the time.
Yet, we are scared of the other thing.
The other thing…you know, saying what we WANT.
You see, 'I don’t want’ is a good start. It identifies what’s wrong in our lives, what we are not happy with and what’s not working. But if you’ve been saying 'I don’t want’ for a little while, chances are you’re not getting anywhere. You know you don’t like the place you’re life is in but you’re feeling stuck and need to shift. It’s time to start saying what you DO WANT.
Hang on, you’re saying, wait a minute. Isn’t it a bit, well, selfish, to say what you want all the time? Come on Claire, don’t you know - 'I want never gets’?
I used to think like this.
Yet now I realise that I when I choose something I think I SHOULD do, instead of what I WANT to do, I end up unhappy. Sure it’s great for the first few minutes, or maybe days or even years. You feel as though you’ve done the right thing and it’s a lot easier at the time to go with what’s expected of you or to choose what everyone says you should choose. But when you take a step because of duty and shut out your heart, over a prolonged period you shut off that part of you that knows pure joy. That makes you sing. In the end, keeping shtum can be a whole lot more damaging.
2. The next step - transforming ‘Don’t want’
To unfold your dream - that precious, precious gift, wrapped delicately in crisp pink tissue paper with a beautiful bow - to start to undo those layers of self-doubt, of challenge, of decisions, we turn that ‘I don’t want’ into what we DO want.
Let me show you.
"I don’t want to feel trapped" becomes "I want to be free" "I don’t want to be watched" becomes "I want autonomy” “I don’t want to be nagged” becomes “I want to hear words of love” “I don’t want to be alone” becomes “I want to live in community”
Can you hear the power in ‘I want'? Can you feel the difference in energy?
'I want’ is more positive than ‘I don’t want’. It’s more creative. It’s more affirming.
I want is a step forward rather than a expression of feeling. It’s directional. Yes, saying it means you lay your cards on the table. But that vulnerability in sharing your dreams is an absolutely crucial step.
Even if, to start with, you’re only vulnerable with yourself.
You can move closer TODAY to getting to where you want to be just by changing your 'I don’t wants' into 'I wants’.
Yes, it might be alien for you. Yes, it might even be a little bit frightening. It can feel wrong, weird, scary. Be bold with 'I want’. Sing it, if it helps. But say it. Try it. Practice it.
Over to you.