Two Simple Word Changes to Make Life Easier

Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches tools for breaking problems down into smaller parts and changing negative thought patterns resulting in greater life satisfaction .  This week Orlando Therapist Krista Bringley discusses how word choice impacts our motivation to follow through on goals and how to get started on a path toward more productive self-talk.

Krista Jean Bringley, MA
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

If you’ve been feeling defeated or unmotivated or just wanting to make a change and are having trouble figuring out where to start, here are two ideas for simple word changes you can make to get the changes you want kick-started.
1. Should!
Should, unfortunately, is one of the most unhelpful words we use. You really should banish should from your vocabulary!  No wait, that didn’t help!  Let’s take a look at it. What’s​ so problematic about should?  Well, if you are wanting to start a workout program and you’re having trouble getting going, you might say to yourself “I really should go to the gym today” or “I should lose 10 pounds.”  If you say that to yourself, how do you feel?  I would guess maybe pressured, frustrated that you haven’t already done it, annoyed, angry, discouraged, put-down, or even shamed. Unfortunately, should contains an element of judgement. If you’re trying to get yourself to do something, does judgement help?  I would argue no!  What’s far more useful is encouragement, and even if that doesn’t feel right for you, you could start with just a factual statement. For example, what are you really saying when you say you should go to the gym?  Perhaps that you want to go to the gym? (Would you be my gym buddy?!) That others want you to go to the gym?  That you think it would help you if you went to the gym?  What if we said these things instead?  “I know it would help me meet my goals if I went to the gym today.” Hopefully that’s a little more true and a little less judgy. Without that shame and with facts instead, you might have a little bit easier time actually walking out the door.
2. But
Once you make the statement without should, you might immediately run into a new problem, but!  For example, “I know it would help me if I went to the gym today, but I’m tired!” How do you feel saying that?  My guess is you’re once again discouraged, and your belief that you’ll be able to go to the gym is decreased. That said, it probably is true that you’re tired (and busy and stressed and…), so it probably doesn’t make sense to change this one to something more true. Ok, what if instead we let multiple things be true at the same time?  “I know it would help me if I go to the gym today, and I’m tired.” Now we’ve acknowledged both sides. Does that feel different?  I hope so!  There’s an issue that makes it difficult to go to the gym, and we’re  not letting it dictate what happens.  We can problem solve from there.
The problem with but happens because but tends to cancel out everything that came before it. If I say “You look great today, but…” well, I bet you’ll agree that it doesn’t matter what I say next, you already feel like you might not actually look great today, and you’re probably not looking forward to whatever comes next. So whenever you’re wanting to say but, try and instead switch it to “and” and see what happens!
Now, while these are simple word changes, I’m not saying that actually changing them in your vocabulary is simple to do!  No way!  AND (not but!) I am saying that paying attention to these words is a place to start to make the next step just a little bit easier. Start by just noticing when you use these words, then try to restate them for yourself. Slowly but (uh oh!) surely, I bet you’ll see yourself talking more usefully to yourself.
If you’d like a partner in figuring out how to apply these and other changes in your life, Life Skills resource group as a team of therapists ready to offer a FREE phone consultation to get you started AND we can be reached by phone at 407-355-7378 or by email at  Our Orlando counselors are looking forward to walking with you on your healing  journey!