Goal-Oriented Language | Success in Action
When are you going to take that vacation you've been dreaming about? To put it another, possibly stranger way, WHO is going to take it? Some analystshave tried to show that how you talk about something has a profound effect on what you do about it. It is the kind of really interesting and thought provoking idea that can impact more than just how you scroll through your morning while eating that bread-sliced bagel.
So what does language mean for perception and behavior? How about how people who speak languages that do not strongly separate future occurrences from present ones are 30% more likely to save money? I'd say a 25% increase in your nest egg is a pretty big bonus from just thinking “Rain is likely” instead of “It will likely rain”. (The study in question, in order to access language in a neutral and universal way, studied weather forecasts across multiple tongues. No data on whether this distinction in tense had any impact on the accuracy of the meteorologists, though.) The theory here is that when you think about the future as a very distinct time from the Now, you are less likely to value it.
It seems like a far-fetched proposal, but as the articles and studies above show, we can prove that language differences can have a concrete impact on our lives. We've all heard about how Eskimo language families have over a hundred different words for snow and ice of various kinds. It makes sense, when you deal with something all day every day, that's why New Yorkers have dozens of colorful words for idiots on the road. Speaking of colors and blue language, there are languages out there that have multiple words for what we could consider the same thing, like how Russian has different words for different shades of blue. The fun part is that means Russian speakers can distinguish more colors of blue than English speakers. Similar effects come in for spatial terms: Australian Aboriginal communities talk about direction in absolute terms, in relation to things like the sun, and are much less likely to get themselves lost.
But it's the now versus later divide that I mentioned first that has the biggest implications for success. Just as language distinguishing Future from Present can impact savings, actual brain scans show that you use a different part of the brainto think about “Me” than you do to think about “Me In Two Months” That guy, the one who has to deal with the long term effects of the decisions you make today? As far as your brain is concerned, he's a Different Guy. Let him deal with the fallout, carpe diem, right?
What's my lesson here? Obviously you can't change what language you were brought up learning, the one that shaped itself on your adorably pliant infant brain. But you can, and should, be aware of the language you use, vigorously policing it to keep it from coming back to bite you. I've talked about this before. Quite a few times, actually.
“But Peter,” I hear you interrupt after going back and reading those two entries, “Those are completely contradictory statements! One time you say you should be more negative, and the other you say you should be less negative!” Please let me finish my argument, dear fictional reader. My advice is this: use language that is going to spur you to action! Think about things in ways that are going to make your life better! When you are tempted to put off bad news because “it can wait” it is going to do you more good if you instead think about it in those terms that “it can't wait”. That the deadline is now, and you need to bet your butt in gear and do something about it. Don't push it off onto Future You.
And when it's Monday morningand you're tired and unmotivated and just waiting for Friday? Don't tell yourself Mondays suck. Don't pin up that Garfield comic. You're working for a reason, with a goal! Sure, the paycheck comes on Friday, but it's the work you put in on Monday (and Tuesday, Wednesday...) that puts it in your pocket.
Think a little bit more about what your are doing now, no matter the day or the task. Now you are calling that client. Now you are filling out that paperwork. Now you are working on that blog post. It's not a “chore” or a “drag” or a “bother”. It's an “accomplishment”, it's a “coup”. It's a job well done. Instead of worrying whether it's time for a break or wondering if you should be working so hard, ask yourself if you have finished everything you need to do, everything you planned on doing. Focus on your needs, your goals, and what you can do about that right now. Was last week a bust and you dropped the ball? That's okay. That is in the past, it's not last week now, it's This Week. It's Today, and you've got nothing but opportunity and results looking you in the face.
Give it a try and not only will you find yourself more successful, you'll probably find yourself happier and with a healthier work/life balance as a bonus.
What do you think about the subject? Convinced or skeptical? How have you struggled keeping your language goal-oriented, whether talking to your employees, your customers, or just the face in the mirror? How has a change in perspective lead to a change in your fortunes? Let us know with your comments, anecdotes, and related advice!
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