Tag Archives: words

What Appeals to You? Ditch Day, Catch-Up Day, or Mandatory Vacation Day?

When we’re tackling our habits, word matter.

Research shows that people who use language that emphasizes that they’re acting by their own choice and exercising control (“I don’t,” “I choose to,” “I’m going to,” or “I don’t want to”) stick to their habits better than people who use language that undermines their self-efficacy (“I can’t,” “I’m not allowed to,” or “I’m supposed to”). There’s a real difference between “I don’t” and “I can’t.”

For instance, I don’t eat sugar; I can eat sugar, but I don’t. In fact, I love not eating sugar!

Also, in my own mind, I try to replace “I have to” with “I get to” whenever possible. “I get to go the library today.” “I get to go to a parent coffee tomorrow.”

The very words we choose to characterize our habits can make them seem more or less appealing. “Engagement time” sounds more interesting than “email time.” “Playing the piano” sounds more fun than “practicing the piano.” And what sounds more attractive, a “personal retreat day” or a “catch-up day” or a “ditch day” or a “mandatory vacation day”? (People of different Tendencies might choose different terms.)

Would a person rather “take a dance class” or “exercise”? Some people like the word “quit,” as in “I’ve quit caffeine”; some are put off by its overtones of addiction. A woman told me, “I try not to use the words ‘forever’ and ‘never,’ but I like the word ‘permanent.’ ”

Do you make choices about the vocabulary you use, to help you master your habits?

To read more about this, check out Better Than Before, my book about when and why we change our habits. You can pre-order here – and if you’re inclined to buy the book, it really helps me if you pre-order. Don’t worry, you won’t be charged until it ships.

Story: Sometimes Words Only Diminish What You Want To Convey.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: Sometimes words only diminish what you want to convey. I’ve never forgotten this story, ever since I came across it while doing research for 40 Ways To Look at Winston Churchill. I love it so much; I get choked up whenever I think about Eisenhower’s message.

If you’d like to see a photo of the actual document sent by Eisenhower, with its single sentence, it’s here.

 

If you want to read more along these lines, check out…

Stop talking, or, a happiness lesson from Sex and the City 2.

8 tips for finding the right thing to say in a difficult situation.

11 tips for broaching difficult subjects.

Zoikes, it’s not often that Dwight Eisenhower and Carrie Bradshaw appear together in one post.

You can check out the archives of videos here.