by Ray Whittaker
A few years past, I read an editorial that claimed that, on average, a child will hear the word 'no' from their parents and other authority figures four times more than they will be told the word 'yes'. Now of course, children must be stopped from doing things that could cause them, or someone else, harm. And some would contend that children's excessive behavior ought to be limited for them to function appropriately in society. This last statement is debatable and in any case means different things to different people. But my point is, the majority of us are methodically trained from childhood to put restrictions on ourselves. We're told we can't do this; we can't afford that. Or perhaps we heard; that would be good but...; we could do that if only...
Therefore we grow up with restrictive ideas and limiting beliefs. These restrictions have been drummed into us from an early age and, seeing as we do not know any better, we pass them on to our kids. Just for good measure, we perpetuate the problem in ourselves too. Phrases similar to 'I can't...'; 'if only...'; are an articulation of our self perception. But they also confirm our self perception and continue limiting us. Part of our curious human behavior compels us to function in accordance with anything we say out loud. Hence if we say we can't achieve a thing, we are compelled to fall short simply to prove ourselves correct. What's worse is our subconscious mind will accept all we say (and all we sincerely believe) as the truth. In the event that we present conflicting words, thoughts and beliefs, our subconscious mind will compare them and go with the one that is presented most strongly. So if you say you can achieve a thing just once, but inwardly tell yourself you cannot achieve it ten times, which do you imagine will turn out to be embedded in your belief system?
To illustrate the point, I am reminded of something my father used to say. 'Never tell a child he or she is stupid. If you tell them that frequently enough, they will come to believe it and act stupidly'. If that is correct (and I believe it is), then the inverse must also be correct. If you tell a child often enough that they are a smart, gifted, amazing person; it follows that sooner or later they will come to believe it and act correspondingly
Have you ever come across the idea of a swear box? Plenty of people have I imagine. It is a cash box that you deposit money into every time you curse or swear. It is usually used to break the swearing bad habit. It can perform just as well for limiting words we employ. Put some cash into a money box every time you or someone else catches you using the restrictive language. It has to become enough money for you to feel the pain of doing this. You need to make the use of limiting words more painful than the use of empowering words. And just to get started, here are a few restrictive terms and phrases you might like to avoid:
I can't - This is a phrase that is possibly most used. In a few circumstances it might be valid but the majority of the time it is not. And do not fall for the easy cop out of 'I'm not sure I can'. That is just as bad as 'I can't'!
I'm going to do it - The inference here is 'I'm going to do it someday'. But as Credence Clearwater Revival sang, someday never comes. If you are going to do it, settle on a time and date to get it done; otherwise forget about it.
I'll try it - Whenever anybody uses the word 'try', they are setting themselves up for failure. As Yoda said in Star Wars, 'do or do not, there is no try'.
Yes but... - This is an easy one to drop into. I still catch myself doing it every now and then. When we use 'but' we are typically saying 'but it will take me out of my comfort zone and I do not want to go there'. So we look for excuses not to do whatever it would take to reach our desired goals. Learn to enjoy being out of your comfort zone and send all the 'ifs and buts' packing.
If only... - This is the result of a victim mentality. ‘If only I could find a way... If only the boss wasn’t such a jerk... If only I had the time... Empowered people are not victims; ditch the excuses!
These are just a few. If you set your mind to it, I'm confident you can uncover many more. Learning to remove these restrictions from your life can be a lifelong process; I'm still doing it! But I enjoy the journey and I think you will also.