Words are hugely important, and we often use horrible ones internally about ourselves. Given the massive impact that they have on our lives, I wanted to share an exercise I started doing over a decade ago with you. I made a list of words that I wanted to stop saying. The list is organic, so I am continually adding new words and phrases to it. 

The first word (or phrase) on my list was “have to.” My daughter was about 12 years old, and I remember saying, “I have to go to work.” But the reality was, I didn’t have to, I chose to. To keep me honest and focused on this goal, I asked my family for help. Every time I said, “I have to,” I asked them to let me know when I said it. It was super helpful to me, and I think they enjoyed calling me out! 

Here are a few other words and phrases that I stay away from: 

  • Try: As my favorite quote from Yoda goes, “Do or do not. There is no try.” 
  • Always and never: Absolutes are usually inaccurate. Instead of saying, “She is always late,” switch that to, “Last week she was late.” Be specific. 
  • I can’t: I am totally fine with saying “I won’t” or “I will,” but I stay away from “I can’t.” 
  • I need: I once caught myself saying “I need a drink.” I didn’t like the feeling that word gave me, so I focus on “I want” versus “I need.” 
  • Awful: It’s such a powerfully negative word. Instead of saying “This is going to be awful,” I will say something like, “This is going to be interesting.” 

While these slight shifts in word choice may seem small or even insignificant, they are compelling. They can help shift our mindset, outlook on life, and our general demeanor.

There is an excellent quote from Don Juan (Carlos Castaneda) that I want to encourage you to think about: “The trick is what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” 

So, make your list. What words do you want to eliminate from your vocabulary permanently? Write them down. Commit to being mindful of not using them. Ask for help from your friends and family. I’m confident that this exercise will have a positive impact on your day-to-day life.

Life is good.


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