97: Yet a Word May Change Your Life . . .

97: Yet a Word May Change Your Life . . .

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

Yet a Word May Change Your Life . . .

Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used to think that to make big changes in your life, you had to do big things. Harboring a bit of a defeatist attitude, I also assumed that big, scary actions would cost enormous amounts of money, which I didn’t have. So, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy that I couldn’t change my life and I stayed in my safe rut.

My optimistic friend Donna changed all that. A native Californian, she taught me the power of word choice. Reminding me that it was absolutely free, she took away my self-imposed economic barrier.

“Watch what you say because your subconscious hears the exact words, not what you ‘mean to’ say.”

At first it sounded a bit “airy-fairy,” but, with the proverbial nothing to lose, I decided to try it. Wow. This simple but potent piece of advice soon became a catalyst for all kinds of fantastic changes in my life, making me the most positive I have ever been.

Slowly I stopped using the word “can’t,” and that forced me to recognize that everything was a choice. Instead of saying, “I can’t go with you tonight” I would say things like, “I wish I could go with you, but I already have plans and I don’t cancel on my friends.” I would try and remind my subconscious that I was choosing a different option; there is always another way. Sometimes it forced me out of old habits. Instead of saying, “I can’t, I have to work,” I found myself asking my boss for a vacation day!

I began to think more about which words I selected, trying to be as specific as possible about what I was trying to express. The next word to go was “should.” Says who? The word “should” symbolized something I felt obligated to do but I didn’t want to do. Instead, I started doing what I liked.

Unfortunately, I was getting great offers to attend events and go out for dinner and my time at my health club was taking a back seat. That led me to working out in the morning. While I’ll probably never be a morning person, it was a great way to ensure that I got my workouts in. Nora, a good friend I met when I changed my workout routine, explained this phenomenon to me.

“Early morning, before you head into the office, is the only time you own. After that, your job can easily take over.” How right she was!

Then I got rid of “never,” replacing it with “not yet,” particularly when responding to a travel question. For example, when someone asked me if I had ever been to a remote island in the Pacific, I would proudly answer, “No, not yet.” Instead of closing a door, this expands the possibility of at least going someday.

I kept practicing and paying attention to my word choices. Over time, they became automatic. My careful word choices, practiced for months, became habits . . . habits that had a profound effect and got me to a positive place.

My best example took place when I was traveling. I had gone to Córdoba (the second largest city in Argentina), to spend some time with my friend Monique when a friend of hers, Regina, walked in and joined us. We were quickly laughing like old friends. Regina was originally from Ireland but had been living in the United Arab Emirates (in Dubai and then in Abu Dhabi) for some time.

“Wow!” I exclaimed. “I would love to go there.”

“You’ve never been to Dubai?” Regina asked.

“Nope. Not yet.”

“Well, what’s keeping you? Come visit! You can stay with me — I’d love the company!”

I was dumbfounded. Here was a free place to stay in an Arab country known for ultra luxury hotels with Rolls-Royces and helicopter landings. How cool would that be? Cool, yes. But, me? No. I was scared out of my mind at the possibility of how easily my dream could happen! Fear was holding me hostage.

So I looked for an out. “You can take it back,” I said. “I’m a backpacker without responsibilities and with a bunch of frequent flier miles, so I could come and visit you. Easily.”

Regina, a wonderfully optimistic person, looked at me and shook her head.

“Darling, I’m a very straightforward person. I invited you, so I mean it. You’re welcome to come and stay with me. Just tell me when.”

One look at my doubting face and she added, “I’m not going to un-invite you. I’d love to show you around. We’d have a blast.”

“But you barely know me!” I protested.

“We get along great. I have an extra couch and time off. We can visit Oman. Have you ever been there?”

I was too shocked to even spit out my classic, “No. Not yet.”

“Where else is on your bucket list?” she wanted to know.

“Egypt. I would really love to see the pyramids.”

“FlyDubai. They’re a great budget airline and you can find ridiculously cheap airfares there. Of course, Egypt is pretty close.”

I was too terrified to act that day. Eventually, thinking about how much fun it would be, I gathered my courage. Less than a year later, I cashed in a bunch of frequent flier miles and went to visit Regina in Abu Dhabi. She took me to amazing places and we had profound discussions on changes we wanted to make in our lives. Before I knew it, it was time for my side trip to Egypt.

When I checked into a hostel in gorgeous Alexandria, the owner triple upgraded me, saying that I was the only person to have ever written my request in more than one language.

He added, “I would like to make your dream come true.” Was I dreaming?

He walked me to an ocean view room with a private bath, and breakfast included! All for twelve dollars U.S. Knowing I was on a budget, he carefully explained how to take public transportation to Cairo. With the word “Great Pyramids” written in Arabic, I hopped from one small bus to the next. I will always remember my first glimpse of that Wonder of the World.

Returning to Abu Dhabi, my eyes filled with tears when I told Regina about my adventure. I thanked her for making such a difference in my life.

True to her word, she was the perfect hostess: we went all over and she became one of my dearest friends. And still is. We’re trying to figure out where to meet up next.

All because I used the words “not yet.”

~JC Sullivan

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