Stop Trying…

there-is-no-try-only-do-quote-do-or-do-not-there-is-no-try-4-rules-to-responding-to-angryHappy New Year! After a six-week hiatus, I am back.  I spent a lot of time over the holidays with family and friends and I am very happy to share that so many of them have included my positive speech tips as part of their New Year’s resolutions. I am confident that many of my readers have eliminated “can’t” and “have to” from their speech already and I am beyond proud of you for that.  I am also thrilled that you are spreading the word and encouraging others to eliminate these negative phrases from their speech.

This segment, Part 3 of my Positive Speech Campaign, I’m encouraging you to remove the word “try” from your lexicon.  That is, I want you to stop saying, “I’ll try”, “I’m trying”, “he/she is trying”, etc.  Why?  Because “try” is self-denigrating, “I’ll try” destroys your credibility, and “I’ll give it a try” simply gives you permission to fail.  

When you say, “I’ll try”, you are not actually committing to anything.  By using “try” to describe how or what you’re doing, you’re stating that you aren’t capable of doing what it is you are trying to do – whatever that may be.  Or, at the very least, you lack the necessary self-confidence to do it.  Also, it’s not just damaging to you to say “I’ll try”, it’s difficult to hear it.  It sounds weak, apprehensive, and noncommittal.

Also, please eliminate using the word “try” when speaking about others — your child, your spouse, your friends, etc. Why?  Because when you say someone else is “trying”, you are expressing that you have little confidence in that individual and their ability to accomplish whatever it is they are wanting to do.  That, my friends, is DISempowering, DISparaging, and DIScouraging. 

I aim to shift that mentality. You are better than that. You ARE capable, you ARE powerful, and so are the people in your life.

People who achieve don’t say, “I’ll try”.  Nope.  They do it.  Nike didn’t choose “Just try it!” as their slogan, they chose, ‘Just do it!’  It exudes power, it expresses confidence, and it assumes achievement.

Whenever you catch yourself saying, “I’ll try”, stop and decide what your real intention is. Then either commit one way or another: “I will” or “I won’t”.  Be honest with yourself. When you commit to others, either say “no” or “I’ll do my best” and mean it.

So, eliminate “try” from your lexicon.  Make up your mind to either do something, or not.  Say, “I will” and commit.  By doing so, you are declaring you are capable of doing the task.  That you have the self-confidence, the grit, and the determination to overcome any obstacle that might get in the way of you accomplishing it.  That you are confident, capable, and powerful, and so are the people in your life.  It’s as simple as that.

One short conversation example below.  I want you to read this out loud, just so you know what it sounds like to hear someone say, “I’m trying”.  Then, in the second version, how much better and more confident it sounds and feels to simply substitute “try” with a few, more powerful words.

Me:  Hi, Christine, how goes it with your New Year’s resolutions?

Christine:  Ugh. Ok, I guess.  I’m trying.  (ick!)

Let’s try this again.

Me:  Hi, Christine, how goes it with your New Year’s resolutions?                           

Christine:  Pretty good, actually.  I’m making it to the gym fairly often and sometimes even enjoying it.  Thanks for asking. (awesome!)

Is it just me or did you also hear a HUGE difference in those two statements?!  I feel sad for Christine in the first conversation and I LOVE Christine in the second one.  What a difference in attitude, power, and positivity.  It’s like comparing Eeyore from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ to Winnie the Pooh himself.  

In sum, I’ll quote the wise and enlightened Yoda from Star Wars, in a scene in which he assures Luke he has the ability to use “The Force” to lift his X-wing fighter out of the swamp, with his mind.  Luke is frustrated and half-heartedly says to Yoda, “Alright, I’ll give it a try.”  Yoda quickly responded, “No! Try, not.  Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”  And, guess what?  With a shift in mentality and commitment, Luke succeeds.

So, friends and readers, stop trying. Do.


Have to vs. Get to

This is Part 2 of my series on Positive Speech.  Part 1 – eliminating “I can’t” from your lexicon – was very well received.  Just to share one piece of feedback — My friend, Jackie, who happens to be a very successful Blogger, called me and said, “Oh my god, MB, I loved your latest post.  I have not said, ‘I can’t’ since I read it”.  She reposted the article on her Blog.  

As an FYI, new habits take anywhere from 18 days to nearly nine months to form, depending on the behavior, according to a cutting-edge study conducted by Lally in 2009.  Motivation to change is a huge factor in adapting new behaviors more quickly (hint hint).  So, having ten days to two weeks between each of my Positive Speech posts is a fair amount of time to begin eliminating those negative habits and adapting a more positive style of speaking.   

“HAVE TO”.  This week’s positive speech conversation target.  It is time to phase out saying “I have to”.  Please.  Pretty please.  When I hear people say, “I have to do X, Y, and/or Z”, I often want to scream.  Sometimes I say nothing (not very often though) and other times I say, “Actually, you don’t HAVE TO do anything in life, except die.”  The look on their faces is similar to a deer in the headlights – like a, “What do you mean?” look.

The most common knee-jerk response I then hear is, “That’s not true, Mary Beth. I have to pay taxes!”.  Um, no you don’t.  Sure, if you don’t do things, like pay your taxes or go to work, there are consequences.  BUT you do NOT have to do anything (except die).  And, by stating you HAVE TO do this, that, and the other only imprisons you in life.  Start noticing how often you say, “I have to” and how icky it sounds.  It’s disempowering.  What you choose to do on a daily basis is just that – a choice. 

Here’s an example of a typical conversation I have on a weekly, if not daily, basis:

  • Me:  Hey, Jenny, how’s it going?  What are you guys up to this weekend?
  • Jenny:  Hey MB.  Doing well, thanks.  So, Friday, John and I have to go to a company event so I have to get a babysitter for the kids.  Saturday, I have a bunch of errands – I have to pick up the dry cleaning and then I have to do some grocery shopping.  Lexi and her scout troop have to sell cookies for four hours outside of the supermarket and I have to stay there as a “chaperone”.  On Sunday, we have to go to church and then I have to get the kids to their play dates.  What are you guys up to, MB?

So, help me out here.  Does my friend, Jenny, have to do any of those things?  Heck no!  It’s a CHOICE.  Maybe even a privilege.  

What about this version of the conversation:

  • Me:  Hey, Jenny, how’s it going?  What are you guys up to this weekend?
  • Jenny:  Hey MB.  Doing well, thanks.  So, Friday, John and I are going to a company event so I’ll get a babysitter for the kids.  Saturday, I have a bunch of errands – pick up the dry cleaning and then I’ll head over to do some grocery shopping.  Lexi and her scout troop were given the “go ahead” to sell cookies for four hours outside of the supermarket and I signed up as a “chaperone”.  On Sunday, we are going to church and then I’ll get the kids to their play dates. What are you guys up to, MB?

My blood pressure goes down several notches reading the second conversation between Jenny and me.  Jenny gets to, she is going to, she is simply doing those things.  It’s positive and reflects choice and contentment.  Don’t you agree?

Just for the record…

  • You do not HAVE TO go to work.
    • You go to work because you are a responsible adult and having an income is a good thing.
  • You do not HAVE TO fly to San Francisco for vacation. 
    • You get to go to San Francisco for vacation – what a privilege!
  • You do not HAVE TO call your mother.
    • You are going to call your mother because you are a good son/daughter.
  • You do not HAVE TO pick up your kids. 
    • It might be tempting 🙂 but I suggest you pick up your kids because you are a good parent! 

You have choices and “choosing to” puts all the power in your court and makes you the master of your own life.  I would say that makes you a pretty fortunate individual.

If you think positively, you will speak more positively, and you will attract positivity into your life.

Have a great rest of the week.



You can…

After the Thanksgiving weekend – giving thanks, practicing gratitude, and spending time with family and friends, I have decided to begin a series on what I refer to as “Positive Speech”.  Why? Because I want you all to start off the New Year with positive thoughts and habits and, this way, we are getting an early start.  Because there are a slew of words people use in their everyday lives that are DIS-empowering, my goal, starting today, is to get you to shift toward EMPOWERING speech.

One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford and it goes like this, Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.  Repeat the saying to yourself and think about it for a minute.  In other words, if you “believe you can”, you are optimistically looking at something, whatever it may be in that moment and, by simply saying “you can”, you will shift an “impossibility” to a possibility.  However, if you “believe you can’t”, well then, sadly, you just closed the door to the possibility of being able to or, at the very least, you have put up a formidable barrier to being able to accomplish whatever it is you are saying “you can’t” do.  Either way, you are right.  It is that simple!

I have shared Henry Ford’s sage words with students on the firearms range, during therapy sessions, with colleagues and friends when they have all been experiencing doubt.  I tell them that by saying you “can’t” do something, you are already doubting yourself, throwing up the white flag, closing the door and locking it.  Why would you do this?  Ugh.  I get frustrated even writing about this.  It’s not that you CAN’T.  Even if you really and truly “can’t” do something (e.g. fly a B-212 Helicopter), there is always a different and more positive way to express that.

Confession — I have a visceral reaction when I hear someone utter, “I can’t” in ANY context. It literally makes me cringe or, more often, I close my eyes, shake my head, and scrunch up my face.  The word can’t is ugly, it’s disempowering, it’s defeating, AND it’s not part of my vocabulary – at least not since I recognized how negative it is.  

And, it’s not just in situations when people are doubting themselves.  People use “can’t” in response to everyday questions, such as:

  • Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night?  No, I can’t.  
  • Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow?  I can’t. 
  • Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck?  No, I can’t.

Ick, ick, and ICK!!!  It’s not that you CAN’T; in fact, you actually CAN.  However, instead of being honest, you choose the icky I can’t as your default answer.  There are so many ways these questions can be answered in a more positive and/or honest way.  How about this:

  • Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night?   
    • No thanks.  I have other plans on Friday.  Maybe another night.
  • Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow? 
    • Oh, bummer, I’ll be working.  If you change your ticket, let me know, I could leave work as early as 4pm tomorrow.
  • Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck?
    • Oh gosh, I am short on cash this month and don’t want to stress myself out.

Now, there is another perspective as well.  Maybe you are just not up for the task or you are not willing to do the thing(s) being asked of you.  No problem!  It’s better to be honest about whatever is being asked vs. saying, “I can’t”.  Try these out:

  • Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night? 
    • I am just not up for hanging out this weekend.  Maybe another day/week (this is an honest answer and not at all icky).
  • Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow? 
    • I am slammed at work and me leaving to do something personal is too stressful right now (this is essentially saying you are not willing to do this in an honest context that 100% supports your answer).
  • Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck?
    • I have a personal rule of not lending money to friends (again, you are essentially saying you are not willing to lend this person money.  By sharing your “personal rule”, although maybe a bit awkward, will lay a foundation.  That person will (hopefully) never ask to borrow money again).

Responding honestly, in a positive way, is not just empowering, it is so freeing.  Ok, so it might be a bit uncomfortable at first for some of you BUT I promise it gets easier and it feels great.

The moral of this “mini series” is:  Words reinforce your thinking.  Positive thinking is reinforced by positive speech and vice versa.  Your words create your destiny…

So, today, remove the word, “CAN’T” from your speech.  I am confident you CAN do this!  Let me know how it goes!


You can call me Professor…

“Timing is everything” is a saying that, once again, has proven true for me.  Over the past couple of weeks, I sent my CV (aka resume) to a variety of Universities in Maryland and Washington, D.C., inquiring about teaching positions in their Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology, and Criminal Justice programs.  Last week, I was contacted by the Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland (Go Terps!) asking if I might be interested in teaching a course in the Spring. 

On Monday morning, I sat in on the current version of the class I would be teaching and then met with the woman who contacted me about teaching the class starting January 2018.  After talking for 15 minutes, she looked at me and said, “So, do you think you might be interested in teaching the course?  We would love to hire you as an Adjunct Professor to teach Adult Psychopathology in the Spring.”  My response was, “Absolutely.  I am actually thrilled!  I really enjoy the subject matter and I am honored to accept the position.” I am pretty sure I danced my way out of her office and out of the building, I was so excited.

For the last few days, I have been filling out paperwork, getting my campus parking permit, talking to a slew of people that are helping me get situated, and figuring out how to best use my Teaching Assistant.  It’s all part of the process for this new chapter in my life.  I am getting more excited each day thinking about how I am going shape the course — I have ordered the book for the course through the University bookstore (I suspect many of the students will order the digital version), I have begun to craft my syllabus, and I have been thinking about people I know that would be awesome or, at least, what type of person I want to present as guest lecturers in the class.

Like most instructors, I want my class to be engaging and for the students to actually attend the lectures.  I want them to understand and conceptualize adult psychological diagnoses — I want them to be able to identify them, understand their potential origins, and be familiar with “gold standard” treatments.  And that, my friends, is the most current challenge I am adding to my list and my life.  


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