I enjoy listening to how people use words. This is a cornerstone of life coaching, as the type of language we use illustrates much about how we think. How we think, in turn, determines much of our reality.
If we consistently fear that the worst is going to happen to us, and operate from a place of fear, we won’t be as proactive. We may miss opportunity and beauty even when it’s looking us right in the face.
For example, I may currently have a job that I feel is relatively secure but completely despise it. Do I stay there, or seek another line of work or perhaps even a new career? My course of action will be driven largely by the possibilities I see in the near future.
If I think the economy is going to crash completely, and that this tragedy will leave me largely powerless, then I’m likely to cling to my job like there’s no tomorrow – taking risks like pursuing a new career may seem scary indeed.
If, on the other hand, I see a brighter future and believe that change will lead to opportunity, I may muster up the courage to begin exploring new options.
This power of language becomes particularly apparent during U.S. election seasons. Some campaign strategists employ a common tactic: painting a gloom and doom landscape so they can highlight how their candidate will save the day.
Being the nerd that I sometimes am, I analyzed word frequencies in the transcript of a recent nationally televised debate. While some of the most common words were positive or neutral, such as change, support, and principles, there were also many iterations of nuclear, against, war, Iraq, taxes, weapons, economy, and dangerous. The word fight came up a number of times near the end. I suspect that analysis of other debates, campaign ads and pundit commentary would yield similar findings in many cases.
While campaigns vary in the degree to which they do this, one of the overall effects remains the same. If we allow ourselves to take in the gloom and doom messages too much, we really can start to become hopeless. Life is no longer joyous, and every day becomes a “fight.”
Additionally, we can come to rely so much upon our leaders that we lose track of ourselves, and our own proactivity begins to dwindle. Elections are extremely important, there are serious problems to address, and civic engagement is a cornerstone of our democracy, but we need to keep ourselves in balance.
Between the excitement of election seasons, we’re again faced with the reality that we as individuals continue to exercise the greatest control over change in our own lives. Our leaders wield great power and influence, but they can’t do everything. Regardless of what images they paint for us, and the balance of hope versus fear that they represent, our fate still remains driven largely by the images we ourselves sketch.
During this election season and in the future, what steps are you taking to ensure that you retain ownership of your internal dialogue?
Alongside any election-related activities, what are two or three positive change steps you plan to take in your own life over the next month?
Will you embed yourself entirely in the mindset of a constant struggle against the world? Or will you also choose to notice and embrace life’s possibilities?
Photo by Flickr user Craig Sunter. Size, brightness, and contrast adjusted. License.