3 Words to Remove from our Vocabulary

Kids get punished for a lot of different things.  But lying tends to be universal. 

Almost every parent wants their kids to be truthful.  “If you lie, people won’t trust you,” they say.

It’s true.  Healthy adult relationships are built on trust.  If someone lies to us and we find out, it damages the relationship and trust goes out the window. 

But what about lying to ourselves?  Do we break trust with ourselves when we’re dishonest with ourselves?

I’m not trying to get all ‘Tony Robbins’ here.  But I think the words we use can keep us from trusting ourselves.  We can get “stuck.”

I’ve been thinking about how I talk to myself, wondering if it’s honest.  In the process, I’ve landed on three words (or phrases) that might be worth reconsidering: 

I can’t

I’m not talking about things that are physically impossible, like jumping 50 feet in the air or going for a year without sleep. 

But when we say “I can’t,” it often means “it’s hard.”  It ends the discussion and keeps us from exploring options. 

If we say, “I can’t lose weight,” we really mean, “It’s hard to lose weight.”

That’s honest.

Better: “I want to lose weight, and I know it’s hard.  But if I decide to, I could explore the possibilities, get help and find a way to do it.”

If we say, “I can’t run a half-marathon,” we really mean, “It would be hard to run a half-marathon.”  Saying “I can’t” keeps us on the couch.

I have to

This one is subtle, but puts us in the “victim” mentality.  It means, “I don’t have a choice.  Somebody else is forcing me to do something.”

But we do have a choice.  We can always choose what we do.  We just can’t choose the consequences of those choices.

“I have to go to work.”  Not really.  I can choose to stay home.  But if I do, I might lose my job.  That’s a consequence I don’t want, so I choose to go to work.” 

“I have to go to the dentist.”  Not really.  But if I don’t go, there might be long-term consequences.  I don’t like those consequences, so I choose to go to the dentist.

“I have to eat better.”  Not really.  I can choose to eat dessert all the time.  But if I don’t eat better, it will affect a lot of things in my life – so I choose to eat better.

Instead of “I have to,” it’s better to say “I’m going to” or “I choose to.”  It means I take responsibility for my choices, and accept the outcomes.


We don’t know how successful we’ll be when we attempt something new.  But when we say, “I’ll try,” it gives us an easy out when things get tough. 

I’m not sure about this one.  But I’m thinking it would be better to say, “I will” or “I won’t” instead of “I’ll try.”  Making a commitment usually gets better results than poking around at possibilities.

As the great philosopher Yoda said:

“Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”

So I’m just exploring the words we use with ourselves.  I want to be careful of casual words that might sabotage my potential.

I want to build trust with myself.

What do you think?




Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)

  • Derek Atchley Dc

    Great list and even greater insight… I make an effort every night to read “The Guy in the Glass” before I go to bed. I find I put more effort into my life and don’t let myself off as easy with challenges. After all, the only person we really are accountable to at the end of the day is our self.

    I have also been reading and working through “The Master Keys” by Hanell and he speak a lot to the point of the world within. When you pay attention to the words you use you gain a much clearer insight into the internal dialouge that goes on in your head. You can then make a very good assesment of where you are in life and where you will be based off of those words. Change the vocabulary and you can change the world.

    As always I appreciate your insights and your thoughts.

    Take care.

    • Thanks, Derek – Hadn’t heard of “Guy In the Glass” – will check it out. Also enjoying Og Mandino’s book. Have always wanted to go through it, but it took your recommendation to get me to pick it up – thanks!