My wife and I cruised down 70 East to meet some of her relatives for brunch at a place called Bacon.
I don’t eat pork but I respect a funny name. I also figured the joint would still have plenty of bacon-free options for brunch, an assumption which turned out to be more wishful thinking than reality, but the servers were accommodating.
As we drove to Bacon – I just love typing that name – I mentioned an article I wrote about picking up on someone’s energy before you see, hear, or observe their body language. The premise of the article is that people can know things about you, based on the subtle energy you broadcast, and you can know things about other people – usually subconsciously – for the same reason. You can read my article here.
I asked my wife, “What experiences have you had with that?”
“Hmmm,” my wife said. “I always got a weird vibe from one of our regular customers at a shop I worked at, even though he seemed nice. Later, he freaked out at the store and started throwing stuff at another employee.”
She told me a couple more stories and then said, “How about you?”
“I just have my thing…” I said. Then I stopped myself, and started over. “I have my thing…” I described the times I had a gut feeling about someone and discovered later that he was a bad person or a con artist. “I disliked the person from the beginning. I always made it personal, for some reason.”
Then I said, “I’m trying to pay more attention…” I stopped again, and started over. “I’m paying more attention…” I described how I was tuning into how my body felt around people, to keep track of observations rather than jump to emotional conclusions.
In a span of thirty seconds, I caught the way I spoke and corrected myself twice.
Can you see why? Make a guess and read on…
First, I said, “I just have my thing…” when I described my gut instincts. Just. “Just” minimized something I should be proud of. “Just” dismissed something I should be excited to enhance. When I slipped the word “just” into the sentence, I shrank my tiger into a tabby cat.
Watch yourself for when you say, “It’s just this project…” or “I just have this fun idea…” Monitor for when a “just” jostles an otherwise excellent point, like a party guest’s unwelcome date drinking too much and ruining someone else’s opportunity to get laid.
You don’t “just” have anything.
You have hopes, dreams, desires, abilities, priorities, ambitions, plans, philosophies, lessons, wisdom, and they matter.
They’re important. They might even kick ass. When you say otherwise, even if it’s just a little just, you squish what you’re saying and yourself into a mini-me version.
“Just” was just (ha ha) the first problem. Can you decipher what the second problem was? My second slip was when I said, “I’m trying to…” when I described something I was doing.
I could see Yoda, perched on a rock in the swamp on Dagobah, shaking his little, green head. “Do. Or do not.” I started my sentence over and declared what I was doing. No trying. Doing.
I remembered my first training seminar with Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson, my teacher of Daoism, where we students practiced neigong* drills with a partner.
“Relax,” an assistant teacher said.
“Yeah, I’m trying to relax more,” I said.
He locked eyes with me. “What if you stopped trying to relax and did it?”
There are exceptions to the language rule of “try” that I imagine even Yoda would approve of – or “approve of Yoda would.” If, for example, an experienced weight trainer says, “I’m going to try to lift 500 pounds,” then I get it. They’ve stated their intention is not a guaranteed result. Some self-help language Nazi could needle them with a misinterpretation of the Yoda quote. “No, you are going to lift 500 pounds!” Gee, thanks. But if that same weight trainer says, “I’m trying to lift weights to get stronger,” then they need to adjust their language. Here’s why.
They’re tying a tripwire for their own failure. The language implies it won’t actually happen.
If they truly were going to lift weights, then trying wouldn’t enter the equation – or their sentence.
If you do let a just flop from your lips, stop and start the sentence again. No one else will consciously notice. But everyone, including yourself, will feel the difference on a deeper level. You’ll get treated with more respect. You’ll treat yourself with more respect.
Own your actions. This doesn’t mean you declare the results as if they’re 100% guaranteed – that’s a great way to get God to laugh at you. But when you say you’re trying something that you actually do, like exercising, you latch yourself with mental handcuffs. You’re mentally prepping yourself to be congruent with your eventual failure.
When you were young, your parents and teachers probably yelled, “Watch your language!”
Too bad they were warning you about the wrong issue.
Now you get to watch the more destructive parts of your language… the parts that minimize you, and what you value.
Watch for when you shrink yourself by saying your ideas, desires, or projects are “just” something. They aren’t just anything – they’re yours. Watch for when you unlatch a linguistic backdoor “I’m trying to…” you can later sneak through “well I tried…” if you don’t follow through on your actions. Don’t be a politician. Instead, take a firm position. Make the language leap. It will help you make the real leap. If it helps, replace just and trying to with bacon. “I’m baconing to exercise more so I can bacon lose some weight.”
*Neigong means skill of internal energy and is developed through certain postures and exercises where you cultivate and transmit subtle energy. It has applications for martial arts, healing, and spiritual development.