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Posts Tagged ‘words to live by’

Try Less; Do More

Posted by languageandgrammar on October 30, 2009

Try is one of those simple, little words that we don’t give much thought to, but the difference in how we use the word is the difference between persevering and lacking commitment.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

If you don’t have multiple examples of situations in which a failed attempt (or several) was  followed by a successful outcome, then you give up too easily. Perseverance and determinations are keys to success, and the common wisdom of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is its stated motto.

The number of successful writers, singers, actors, musicians, and businessmen would most likely be very low if they stopped at the first rejection rather than continuing. Nothing is more vital to a successful outcome than continuing to try–unless you’re using it as a way to indicate a lack of commitment.

The Negative Side of Trying

We’ve all said things such as “A Tupperware party on Super Bowl Sunday? Sounds great. I’ll try to make it” when we mean “A Tupperware party on Super Bowl Sunday? No way!” often enough to know that we use the word try as a way to show a lack of commitment.

That lack of commitment doesn’t end with being too passive to say how we really feel (like the previous example); it extends to important parts of our lives.

We often say things such as “I’m trying to find a better job” or “I’ll try to get my homework done on Friday afternoon so that I can enjoy the weekend” or “I’ll try to lose weight after the holidays.”

With all of those statements, the word try (or trying) gives the speaker a way out of meeting that commitment–an escape clause. (The one about losing weight has a double out since it’s pushed back until after the holidays.)

We’ll have much more luck getting that job, completing that homework, or losing that weight if we do so with a strong sense of commitment.

Stop trying and start committing.

–Paul Yeager

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Fear Versus Hope

Posted by languageandgrammar on September 30, 2009

Fear and hope are opposite emotions, but like so many opposites, the difference between the two is slight. The question, then, is why live in fear when you can live with hope?

Living in fear is living with the belief that a negative outcome is inevitable, whether that means fearing that the job interview will go poorly, the next layoff will be you, sickness is inevitable, or love will never come your way.

Living with hope is living with the belief  that a positive outcome is possible, whether that means trusting that the interview will go well, job opportunities abound, good health can last forever, and love is possible for you.

Either way, you’re unsure of the future, so why assume it will be negative when it might very well be positive.

Not Pollyanna

Living with hope is not living in an overly simplistic, pollyanna world where, if you smile, the sun will always shine, and you’ll get everything you want; however, living with hope is a way to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

In other words, living positively can mean that if the job interview doesn’t go well, you can take lessons from the failed interview and be more prepared for the next one. That’s better than feeling like a failure and assuming more will follow.

Living with hope can mean that if you get laid off, you can be more relaxed and confident that a better opportunity will follow. That certainly gives you a better opportunity to succeed than assuming that the lost job was the only one for you.

Living with hope can mean that if you become sick or injured, you might develop a greater appreciation of health when it returns, or an appreciation of family and friends. This gives you something positive to focus on during a difficult time, rather than focusing on your problems.

It can mean that if you don’t find someone to share your life with, you’ll learn to enjoy life on your own rather that wallowing in self pity.

Being hopeful is a choice that we can all make.


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Envy Versus Support

Posted by languageandgrammar on September 7, 2009

When given a choice between something positive or negative, always pick the positive. That’s the case in  life and in language, and most negative words and emotions are closely related to positive words and emotions.

For instance, why be envious when you can be supportive instead?


An envious person is one who focuses on something that another person has in a covetous way–whether it be an accomplishment or a possession–leaving the envious person feeling negative and less hopeful.

This makes sense since the envious person is focusing on the negative–wanting the other person to fail or focusing on what he, himself, doesn’t have or hasn’t accomplished. This is not the approach successful people use.


A supportive person is one who encourages another in a helpful way–by encouraging someone to do (or be) more or sharing the joy of another person’s accomplishment or abundance–leaving the supportive person feeling positive and more hopeful.

This also makes sense since the supportive person is focusing on what is possible, not only for others but also for himself.

A focus on the positive and a belief  in the future–that’s a hallmark of success.


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Thoughtful Sports Figure?

Posted by languageandgrammar on June 10, 2009

We usually give examples of poor communication in the blog, but I recently heard a quote from an unusually candid and thoughtful sports figure. Since sports personalities usually answer in nothing but cliches, I thought the exception  was worth noting.


When Pittsburgh Penguin (National Hockey League) coach Dan Bylsma was asked if his team had any doubts before a possible elimination game in the Stanley Cup Finals, he did not respond with the type of evasive and dismissive answer that we’ve grown to expect. He did not immediately say, “No. We always think we’ll win” or “No, our team always gives 110%” or even the tired, hubris-filled “If anyone on this team thinks we’re not going to win, he should just leave now” response.

Instead, he said (paraphrased since I wasn’t taking notes!), “I’m not the type of person who dismisses thoughts that come into my head. Of course, we have some doubt.” He then went on to explain that the team had a choice, either to focus on the doubt or prepare to win the game.

Positive Language

The quote was simple and, in my opinion, representative of a positive way to approach language and life–another example of words to live by. Many of us are so busy denying doubt or fear that we don’t ever get to the part about focusing on what we want.

When asked if we’re ready for a new challenge, we defensively say “I’m always confident” or “I know I won’t have any problem” or “I don’t worry about things like that” each time, always  suppressing and denying an honest emotion of doubt. The doubt will remain in your head until it’s addressed, at which time it will disappear, having done its job.

If you feel a doubt about an upcoming event (even a small amount of doubt), admit that it’s there. It’s a natural part of being  human. Then,  release the doubt and focus on what you want. You will then  approach the upcoming event with a complete focus on the task at hand instead of having your focus split between the task at hand and the doubt that has never been addressed.

By the way, Bylsma’s team, which had been one that lost as many games as it won prior to his taking over, has won 33 out of 43 games, including a regular season record of 18-3,  and is one win away from a championship.


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Passive Versus Patient

Posted by languageandgrammar on June 3, 2009

As I mentioned in the first Words to Live By post, Desperation Versus Determination, positive language leads to a more positive life. I also believe that any negative word (and associated emotion, belief, or action) has a positive side that we can choose to focus on instead.

Passive Versus Patient

Waiting is something that we’ve all had to do; however, there’s an important difference between passively waiting and patiently waiting.

Being passive means being inactive, and being inactive means that you’ve given up control. Being patient means waiting with calmness, which can be inactive, but it doesn’t have to be. Control hasn’t been ceded; patience allows for productive activity while waiting.

To illustrate my point, think of a passive farmer and a patient farmer.

Being Passive

The passive farmer would plant his seed and then do nothing. If it rains enough and if the ground has enough nutrients, then he will have a successful crop, and his passivity will have paid off. If it doesn’t rain enough or the ground doesn’t have the right nutrients, then he will have a poor crop.

Either way, it’s not up to him.

Being Patient

The patient farmer would plant his seeds and then wait with calmness. He will, however, remain active.  He will monitor rainfall and the nutrients in the ground, and if needed, he will irrigate and fertilize.

There is, of course, a limit to how much a farmer can do to assist his crops, but the patient farmer’s chances of success are greater than those of the passive farmer. He has more control.

If you are passive, then you must deal what is dealt to you. If you’re patient, then you will have some control over the outcome.


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Desperation Versus Determination

Posted by languageandgrammar on May 13, 2009

I believe in the power of words, and I also believe in the power of positive energy; therefore, it’s not surprising that I believe it’s important to focus our language–and thus our lives– in a positive direction. That’s why I’m starting a new feature on the blog, Words to Live By, which will attempt, through language, to give us a way to turn some negative aspects of our lives into positive ones.

Similar But Vastly Different

When either desperate or determined, we have no control over the outcome–we don’t currently have what we want and whether we get it isn’t up to us; however, desperation is living passively and hopelessly, and determination is living actively and confidently.


We have all desperately wanted something, whether we desperately wanted a relationship to work out, desperately wanted a particular job, or  desperately wanted to lose weight. I’m talking about true desperation, not just wanting something that would make your life better as long as it’s convenient.

This is the only person who will make me happy, and I know I’ll never be happy if this doesn’t work out.

This is the perfect  job for me, and if I don’t get it, I will have wasted the years of preparation leading to this moment–it will all be gone, and another opportunity like this will never come my way.

I am overweight, unhealthy, and unattractive, and if I don’t do something about it, I’ll always hate myself.

We’ve all felt that desperation, and we’ve all felt that heavy, torturous hopelessness and lack of power that comes with it. It’s a paralyzing feeling as you wait for someone or something to decide your fate. It prevents you from controlling your own life.

That’s no way to live, and perhaps more important, it’s no way for you to get what you want. My recommendation is that you turn desperation into determination.


A determined person focuses on what he wants and commits to doing whatever he needs to do in order to get it.  I’m talking about a sincere, focused commitment to a specific goal, not wishing that things were different as long as it’s easy.

I hope this relationship works out, but I’m determined to find a way to be happy regardless, either with someone else or by myself. No man or woman is going to decide whether I’m happy.

I’ve worked too hard and too long for me not to find a job that satisfies all of my needs, and I’m going to find it even if it takes until the day before I retire. This one job isn’t going to make or break my career.

I’ve made a lot of poor choices in my life, but I’m going to love myself today and commit to whatever changes I need to make in order to be healthy.

We’ve all felt the feeling of true determination–and the sense of hope and power that comes with it. We know what we want, and nothing is going to stop us. It’s a great feeling.

Desperation or Determination

When faced with something that we want and have no control over whether we get it, we can be desperate or determined. It’s a choice.


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