The messages we tell ourselves have a profound impact on our thoughts and perceptions.
As Maura Koutoujian, a career and life coach in Jody Michael Associates’ Chicago office explains, “The words we choose to convey those messages carry more meaning than many of us realize.
“We tend to believe our self-talk,” she says. “Most people know that using certain words can influence the nature of our interactions with others. What many fail to recognize is that they can also — perhaps even more powerfully — influence the ‘conversations’ that take place in our minds.”
9 life coaching Phrases to Incorporate Into Your Vocabulary — and Life — Today
- Yes, and … — This classic improv exercise is a great way to increase the flexibility of your thinking. Our natural inclination is to overuse the conjunction “but” (“That’s a great idea, but …” or “I’d love to lose 10 pounds, but …”) which immediately negates the notion preceding it, according to Maura. In conversations — whether in our own heads or with others — the word “but” can be the quickest way to abandon a goal, put the brakes on innovation and end dialogue. By contrast, she points out that “yes, and …” invites exploration. It opens the door to creativity, collaboration and connection.
- Thank you — One of the first lessons we learned in life remains one of the most powerful. When you express appreciation, you’re not just being polite. An authentic “thank you” acknowledges that you’ve noticed another person’s kindness — evidenced through their thoughtfulness, words or actions — and that it has meaning. Maura says, “I love the idea of learning the translation of ‘thank you’ in many languages. The concept of gratitude is at the essence of positive psychology around the globe.”
- Progress, not perfection — With roots in addiction recovery programs, this life coaching reminder is one that can provide encouragement when striving for any goal. It’s so easy to beat ourselves up when we fall short of our expectations (our own or those that we perceive others have for us), but giving yourself credit for the small steps you make along the way can be very empowering. “Yet” is another good word for progress … “not yet” implies indeed, someday.
- How will I …? — The flip side of “I can’t” is “I can.” But how will you get from point A to point B? A shallow promise to yourself can — and likely will — disappoint if you don’t explore ways to connect the dots. Effective leaders with a flexible mindset inspire their team to develop innovative processes by asking “how can we accomplish x, y or z?” As the CEO of your own life, asking yourself the same question encourages you to consider a variety of options to achieve the results you envision.
- I trust you — Sometimes we need to reassure those close to us that we have faith in their abilities, decisions and perspectives. That reassurance can buoy their self-confidence and deepen our connection. Often, we neglect to remind ourselves. “Self-doubt can follow you around like a dark cloud,” Maura says. “Quieting your inner critic can be very empowering, opening the door to infinite possibilities.” Looking for concrete strategies to develop greater trust in your own abilities, decisions and actions? See the JMA Catalyst article, Building Self-Confidence: 10 Life-Changing Strategies.
- TGIM — Who doesn’t love a weekend? No alarm clock, “me” (or “us”) time and implicit permission to enjoy life. TGIF, a phrase so popular that a restaurant chain took it as its name, is relatable because weekends are what so many of us work toward — all week long. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your professional path, a career coach can help you sort out whether it’s time for a change. A career that’s properly aligned with your innate abilities, interests and values can help you banish the Sunday Night Blues and welcome the start of a new work week. Mondays can be pretty awesome, too!
- At the moment — A meteorological storm can be intensely frightening when you’re standing in the eye of it. While it can leave great havoc in its wake, it always passes. There is no such thing as a permanent tornado, hurricane or thunderstorm. And so it goes with emotional “storms.” Whether you experience loneliness, anger, or even stress, by adding “at the moment,” you acknowledge its finite-but-temporary existence. “I’m lonely” has a far more permanent ring than “I’m lonely at the moment.” By learning to control the thoughts that influence your moods and impact your behavior, you can significantly empower yourself.
- Good enough — No one aims for mediocrity (nor should they), but too often, we fall prey to perfectionistic tendencies. The concept of the “good-enough parent” stems from the work of British pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, who found that children learned to cope with the realities of the world as a result of “imperfect” parenting. Self-blame is often a byproduct of the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves to be the perfect parent, spouse or student/ lawyer/writer/boss/employee. Recognizing that humans are imperfect beings can help you accept that often, good enough is, indeed, the best you can expect from yourself in some situations — and that’s OK.
- Just be — We have become champions of busyness. With a cultural emphasis on productivity and checking things off our To-Do lists (quickly and efficiently), it’s easy to forget how good it can feel to “just be.” Maura reminds life coaching clients that a sense of mindfulness, appreciating the here and now, can be very soothing, especially in the face of stress and anxiety. It can also invite curiosity, increase clarity and foster a sense of calmness.
What other phrases have helped you live a better life?