You may have heard me talk about the power of language before. This is because I truly believe that understanding the meaning we attribute to the language we use, the way we define words and what our behaviour looks like as we bring our thoughts to life, has a critical impact on our self-image, our actions and our self-esteem.
Let me ask you a question, what does being ‘good’ mean to you? Take a moment and really think about this. Do you hear your voice or someone else’s voice in your answer? Is it an internally or externally imposed concept for you?
I’ve been reflecting on this question lately and I want to share with you that I’ve had a bit of an ‘aha’ moment. What I realised is that I tend to think of myself as being ‘good’ when I’m following external rules and ideas, or even self-imposed rules. Either way, ‘good’ is very much associated with rule following for me. I’m being ‘good’ because I’m following the rules, not because I necessarily think the behaviour is the right thing for me. This has a big impact on how you feel about the things you do. It certainly has for me.
Let me give you a light hearted example. I’ve been told a number of times to cut back on the amount of coffee I drink, or to at least avoid coffee first thing in the morning. Apart from the caffeine, coffee is very acidic and so isn't ideal as the first thing that hits your stomach in the morning. I actually don’t drink excessive amounts of coffee, but I know I could do better. The thing is, I love coffee. I mean, I really love coffee. I love the taste, the smell, the ritual and the habit and I’m just not willing to give it up altogether.
When I do cut back my coffee intake, my inner voice is telling me that I’m ‘being good’. I’m following the rules. I’m doing what I’ve been told to. I haven’t owned the thought that I want to lovingly care for my body. Rather, I’m reacting to a set of rules. Can you see the difference? When I’m being good, my actions are almost for someone else rather than for me and as you can imagine, this isn't as sustainable as if my thought was that I wanted to lovingly care for my body.
As a result, my inner child comes to the fore kicking, screaming and rebelling – after all, I can drink coffee if I want to! It’s just coffee! We’re not talking hard core drugs here! I know, very mature!
The ‘aha’ moment came when I asked myself who I was rebelling against and if it was relevant. So I really thought about this and about what being good means to me. As a result, I am working on changing my definition of ‘good’. I now think about good as being ‘good to myself’, rather than about following rules. Thinking about ‘good’ as following rules has been a habit in my thinking, so it takes some work to shift, but the result is that I’m more aware of my reasons for doing what I’m doing and as a result, I have kept my coffee levels down a little and I own my decisions more. As you can imagine, being good or not isn't really about coffee for me, it's about thinking through what 'good' actually means to me and how this impacts my motivations.
So whether the word that trips you up is ‘good’, or another word altogether, I would encourage you to be very aware of your language. What meaning do you attribute to the words you use and is this working for you? If not, it might be time to review your definitions. Think about how else you could define the words you use and what the impact might be on your thoughts and actions.
I’m off to have a green tea ;)
Laurenne Di Salvo
Leadership & Professional Development Coach | Corporate Trainer | Learning & Development Consultant
0413 776 564