Build Your Flowcabulary

Change Your Words to Change Your Life


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Weekly Lessons in Designing Your Best Life

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As Seen In
flow state

We all want to enjoy being in our natural flow state as much as we can. If we could wave a magic wand and miraculously appear in the Flow Zone, we all would! Actually, it’s almost that easy if we make small changes to our actions and thoughts over time … and build our FLOWcabulary.

Change Your Vocabulary, Change Your Life

Words have the power to shape our lives. The words we’ve heard from others affect us in little ways on a daily basis. Sometimes their impact can be so significant, yet subtle, that we don’t even comprehend their effect until many years and much inner reflection later.

Improve Your FlowcabularyThink about what a relative may have said to you as a child that happened to stick with you through adulthood. Regardless whether that statement is true – or was ever true, you may still be trying to live up to that story (“she’s always [fill in the blank] perfectly) or continuing to rebel against it (“she’s never been any good at [fill in the blank]”).

The same is true for the words we use to tell ourselves the true (and untrue) stories that we replay in our daily lives. We might say in our heads, “I won’t ever lose weight because diets don’t work for me”; “I’m not good at math so I shouldn’t figure out the bill for the table”; “I’m too shy to ask for the promotion/perks I want, so I guess I’ll wait until review time.” Stories don’t have to be so overtly negative or constraining to have a limiting impact on us. We may say things like, “I can’t,” “It’s too hard to,” or “I’m not a,” which seem innocuous, but are just as harmful.

Why Words May Be Blocking Your Best Life

Is it really catastrophic to say something like, “I can’t?” Yes!

When you say, “I can’t,” you’re mentally blocking the possibility of something happening – even if it actually is completely possible.

Or let’s say you describe your house as “a small, dark dungeon.” When framed in that light, you’ve permanently painted a dreadful picture in your mind that prevents you from seeing the potential in your cozy abode.

This is where mantras or positive affirmations come in handy. But if that’s too woo-woo for you, simply switch up your word choice and watch your world open up in a beautiful new way.

Create Your Own FLOWcabulary

If our words shape our mental states, which in turn drive our attitudes and behaviors, then it makes sense for us to choose our words wisely.

Even if we’re not natural writers or feel the least bit poetically inclined, we have the power to select the language of our lives.

Build Your Flowcabulary

The fact that I was an English major in college does not make me any more adept at building an effective flowcabulary.

The only advantage I may have over you – at this point in time – is that I’ve been working for years on fine tuning my flowcabulary. Of course, it’s not perfect and it’s a continual work in progress. Instead of thinking of my flowcabulary as a permanent publication like a hardback dictionary (if you still remember those!), I see it more like a series of constantly evolving entries on a wiki site.

FLOWcabulary Lesson: 5 Changes To Make To Your FLOWcabulary Now

If you’re just getting started at paying attention to the language of your life, try these strategies out and see if they help you progress more easily towards your Flow Zone.

  1. Eliminate “I can’t” and use words that tell your true story. Instead of “I can’t lose weight because diets don’t work for me,” describe your situation more accurately. This may be something like, “I don’t like low-carb diets because they make me feel weak.” When you change your language, it’s easy to see that you can lose weight because you can find a diet that works for you – just not one that is too carb restrictive!
  2. Stop boxing yourself in with “I’m not.” My constant refrain used to be, “I’m not a morning person” … until I became a morning person. When I realized using that limiting phrase was preventing me from achieving certain personal goals, I flipped my script and started telling myself, “I get up at 5:30 a.m. to [fill in the blank] because I want to [fill in the blank].” Within six months of the day I changed my language, I was well on my way to achieving my goals and surprisingly, I had become a morning person. (Well, at least someone who can wake up and function early in the morning if I need to).
  3. Say “I will” to ensure that you act on your intentions. By using this active verb instead of the uncertain or vague “I might,” “I think I may,” or “I plan to,” you will automatically set your course into motion.
  4. Use words of loving kindness towards yourself. When you catch yourself berating your own conduct (“I can’t believe I did that”; “how stupid of me”) or your body (“Ugh, I’m so fat”; “My race time was so slow”), stop and add a phrase of gratitude to switch your mental state. For instance, at one time I would exercise harder as a way of punishing myself into being or looking better. Now, instead of framing my workouts as a negative exercise – pun very much intended! – I celebrate my body and its capabilities and think of my workouts as a treat my body gets to experience. You can say things like, “I’m thankful that my legs are so strong that they can carry me through this grueling lunge and squat sequence”; “I love how flexible I am”; “Thank you, body, for allowing me to experience this endorphin high”; or “I’m so lucky to be able to perform these exercises – even if it feels like they’re killing me.”
  5. Practice positivity and gratitude. In every situation you can choose to describe your experience as something less than desirable or good enough under the circumstances. For example, if a meal with a friend is inedible, you could choose to groan about the imperfect food and spread an infectious wave of negativity to your friend and the waitstaff or you could say something like, “At least wine doesn’t get cooked” or “Luckily, we can still spend this time together.” If you’re really at a loss for words in a negative or trying situation, you can always borrow the Thai phrase, “mai pen rai,” which literally means “it’s not bad.” We use this phrase not just as a response to events, but as an attitude towards life. Loosely, it means that everything is alright and we’ll all be okay. Living in a “mai pen rai” mindset puts a perpetually positive spin on our perspective.

Give these strategies some thought as you build your starting flowcabulary and grow it from there at your own pace. Changing your language will start changing your mindset in no time.

Flowcabulary For Your Best Life

Let me know in the comments below: What stories block you from your best life? How do you wordsmith your way around them? Do you have any puzzlers that we can work through together?



Find Your Freedom

Weekly Lessons in Designing Your Best Life

Your Journey Starts Now!
We respect your privacy and never share your information.