Wednesday, October 22, 2008

By any other name...

Words matter.

What we say to ourselves in our quiet spaces gives birth to actions. Life is the consequences of those events. If we wish to alter the course of our existence, to change its path, or to enjoy more the process, we must begin with the thoughts that steer it.

For example, let us take the overused, beaten down, threadbare expression: "I'm going on a diet." At the point when the peoples of all nations unite in solidarity and appoint me Head Honcho in charge of Global Linguistics, I shall ban the expression; I find its limited options lead to broken promises, loss of joy, low self esteem, and eventual failure.

In the stark and barren world where one "goes on a diet," it automatically implies one must - at some time - go off a diet. All is black and white; there is no gray; only "on" or "off," "good" or "bad," "following the diet" or "cheating." The gradations of in-between, which fill most of life, do not exist as, in that thought process, one cannot be "a little off" anymore than one can be "a little pregnant."

This perfect/awful thinking supposedly drives us to be perfect, which is an impossibility, so we inevitably label ourselves as "failures." Those of us who are recovering perfectionists know well the mantra of the dieter who has crossed to the dark side: "As long as I blew it, I might as well really blow it! I can start again tomorrow." (or "Monday," or "next year"...) Once I have failed, I might as well get all of the "failing" out of my system, cleaning myself so I will be ready for to be perfect next time (ignoring the fact that it too will end up the same way).

Success in anything is rarely cut and dried. Rather the definition varies from one person to the next; sometimes even within oneself, depending on circumstances. Success is fluid; it requires parsing and nuance. More times than not, it is a two-step forward, one-step backward progression. In the sphere of success, one does not have it one day, lose it the next, regain it the third. She is more successful than she is not, learns from mistakes, makes adjustments - and therefore moves in a generally successful direction. Successful people have setbacks; the difference is they don't see them as the end of the line.

Only in mathematics and science, can lines can be clearly drawn. Two plus two will always equal four. In matters related of the heart and mind, crystal clear, straight-line delineation is not possible. We are not rigid robotroids fitting precision machined, pre-ordained molds. One cannot apply a formula to us and expect an exact result. We are too complex - and too human - for that.

The nice thing about that is if we accept that we will make mistakes, and can find a way to label them not as "failures," but rather "feedback," we can adjust, change, and even excel.

Words do matter; choose them wisely.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Welcome back, Scott. I hope you had a good holiday.

Here goes...

"In the stark and barren world where one "goes on a diet," it automatically implies one must - at some time - go off a diet."

I should hope so. A diet that works has a beginning, a middle, and -- most important -- an end. And it needs no maintenance.

"All is black and white; there is no gray; only "on" or "off," "good" or "bad," "following the diet" or "cheating."

Black and white dieting is part and parcel of a daily regimen. On a grey, every-other-day diet, 'cheating' is de rigeur. What's not to like?

"The gradations of in-between, which fill most of life, do not exist..."

They could, if you would allow them to.

Happy New Year, Scott.