Around six years ago I invested in a few sessions with a psychologist; at the time I was going through a bit of internal turbulence and decided to seek out some professional help. I had worked with sports psychologists and mental skills coaches before back in my cricket playing days and found that to be incredibly helpful so it was through those experiences that I decided to choose to engage with a psychologist.
At the time I was in the process of changing jobs and this next move was a big one for me because I was transitioning out of the sports industry where I had been for around 20 years and coming into private industry. I was nervous about this next move. This was a big change for me; I was having some extreme self-doubt, experiencing what I now know as “imposters syndrome”, and was lacking energy. I didn’t feel like I had the energy to take on this new challenge so I was really questioning what I was doing.
There was a particular moment during the first session with the psychologist where I remember having a light bulb moment and it has stuck with me ever since. The psychologist asked me to tell her why I had come along, what I wanted to get out of the session and to give her some context of who I was. So away I went. I covered everything off and once I had finished the psychologist looked at me, thanked me for sharing my story and asked for permission to make an observation. My mind went into overdrive: What had she picked up? What’s wrong with me? What is she going to say?
I replied “Yes of course”. With a tone of curiosity and compassion she said to me “Have you ever noticed the kind of words and phrases that you use?” I wasn’t really sure what she meant. She continued. “The language, words, phrases that you used were interesting especially in terms of how you described how you feel.”
The psychologist pointed out that I was using words and phrases like “I should, I should’ve, I try, I tried, I’m trying, I need to, I have to, I could, I could have.” She then asked me, “Do you feel that those words, those phrases are energising you or sucking energy away from you?” I sat there for a moment contemplating what she had asked me and replied “I feel it’s sucking energy from me.” She asked me why I felt the energy was being taken from me, and I replied, “Well I’m being non-committal, I’m flip flopping around, not going all in and using language that is disempowering, energy sapping and demotivating.” She sat there nodding in agreement with me.
This was a light-bulb moment for me, the power that my language was having on me was so negatively impactful and it wasn’t just the words I was using in conversation, I was using the same words with myself in terms of my internal chatter. From that day on I have brought heightened awareness to the words I use and how those words make me feel from an energetic perspective.
I worked hard on reframing my language. It took a while to get into the habit of doing it but every time I used a word or phrase that was not energising me I would recognise it, acknowledge that it’s not the language I use anymore and reframe it, even if I was chatting to someone and I still do it today. For example, this is what I did, if I said to myself-
- “I have to exercise in the morning” I reframe it to “I choose to utilise the morning to exercise because I know it sets me up well for the day.”
- “I should spend more time with my work colleagues” I reframe it to “I’m committed to spending more time with my work colleagues because I enjoy their company.”
- “I’m trying to eat better” I reframe it to “I choose to eat healthy food because I know it gives me great energy.”
- “I could focus more on being present” I reframe it to “I’m focused on being more present and have started meditating in the mornings.”
The word or phrase that I use more often than not is “choose” or “I choose to…”. I find this gives me a lot of energy, it helps me to commit, there’s no grey because I “choose” to do whatever it is I’m thinking of doing or I choose to think this way or I choose to be this way.
The language you use affects your energy and the energy of the people around you. As a leader you should choose to bring awareness to your internal chatter and to the words and phrases you use in your conversations at work, with your family and your friends, and start to build an understanding as to how the language you use affects your energy.
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