Article by Jodie Cook
Your thoughts and the things you say to yourself and others are more powerful than you know. These phrases define how you think, how you act and how others perceive you. What you might think is a flippant, non-committal remark could frame your entire day and career without you even realizing.
Here are six phrases that will undermine your success, that you won’t catch successful people using.
1. “It’s just one of those days”
Believing that everything is going wrong and that the world is somehow conspiring against you is not conducive to success. In fact, believing that bad things are currently happening and will keep happening will only train you to see the negatives. Using that phrase is manifesting misfortune that will only compound.
Instead, try thinking of individual adversities as small tests. Create some distance between yourself and the test. See it objectively and act accordingly. It’s not personal, it’s not malicious, it’s just something in front of you that you can choose how to deal with. Choose to be grateful that the test exists because now you have the chance to become proficient at dealing with it. As Monica from Friends said, “I don’t get older, I just get better!”
2. “It’s not my fault”
Everything is your fault, and that’s a good thing. Successful people know that everything that happens in their business is connected to an action they have made or should have made, however indirectly. It could be a bad hire, research you didn’t do, or a problem you didn’t foresee. Either way, owning the problem means you own the solution.
Shirking responsibility and making excuses is a passive, pathetic response to something not going well and is not what winners are made of. Forget the 10% of things you genuinely cannot control (the weather, global market forces, etc.) and focus on the things you can. Everything is in your hands, which means success and being exceptional is in your hands, too.
3. “I’ll try”
Successful people decide what they are going to do and then they do it. As Yoda says, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” If they commit to making something happen they will follow through on that promise. Answering “I’ll try” really means: “This isn’t that important to me. It’s not a priority.” If that’s the case, just say no.
Tom O’Ryan, graphic designer and member of my team, has a mantra: Decide, plan, act. It’s a sound framework. Far better than “I’ll try” is “I’ll find a way”. Or even, “I’m not going to do it, but I propose…” where what you propose is something that removes a barrier for someone else. Promising to try to do things that you know, deep down, you probably won’t do, isn’t productive or useful to anyone.
4. “Let’s wait and see”
Waiting to see is rarely the right strategy. Successful people don’t leave succeeding to market forces or external occurrences, they make succeeding inevitable. Imagine a book launch. If your book is written, your content is scheduled, your email announcements are ready, your marketing funnel is set up, your reviewers are primed, your publisher is prepared, then sure–you can wait and see. Even when waiting, however, you’ll be monitoring, assessing and responding as soon as possible. Waiting and seeing instead of taking action will not lead to a positive outcome. Timing is everything, and passively observing can become a habit difficult to break.
Instead of waiting and seeing, predict the future. Create a map of “if this then that” scenarios, and have a plan for every eventuality. Work out how you can succeed no matter what happens. Deploy plan B. Whatever you choose, be intentional, in control, and an active part of the success you seek.
5. “That’s never going to work”
Successful people who are confident in their own ability don’t feel the need to shut down the ideas of others. They are aware that whenever significant progress is made in any field, it involves breakthroughs and realizations that were previously deemed impossible. They don’t close their minds to the possibility that something, however unlikely it seems, could be a resounding success. Rather than taking pitches at face value, they will ask questions. They will dig deep on the beliefs and values a new idea is grounded in and they will keep an open mind. If it turns out to be a bad idea, they won’t look to say “I told you so”.
If you find yourself dismissing the ideas of those around you, ask why. Perhaps it’s based on insecurity; that they’ve thought of something you missed, that you wish you’d thought of first. Perhaps you subconsciously want to knock someone down a few pegs. Sharing in the enthusiasm and thought processes of others is a valuable exercise for all involved, not to be overlooked.
6. “It’s not fair”
Successful people are the heroes of their own lives, not the victims. They are not naïve to think that “unfair” circumstances don’t exist, but they find ways around them rather than dwelling on the perceived unfairness of it all. They know that claiming unfairness doesn’t get them anywhere near as far as just being exceptional.
Biased referees? Let’s stick even closer to the rules. Hidden allegiances? Let’s offer something different. Unfair prejudices? Let’s be the best option there is. Successful people know that for every time the cards have fallen unfairly, there’s another time where they were dealt a great hand. They don’t take either for granted and they plough on with their path regardless of random coin tosses.
Your words become your actions and your actions define your past, present and future. Watch your phrases carefully and don’t slip into unhelpful lexical habits that send you off course.