“First we build the tools, then they build us.”
Your first and last words
What are the first words you wake up to? The last words you read before you go to bed? Are you allowing random words in emails, books, and articles to affect the start of your day or how well you sleep?
Words, at their very root, are signposts for experience and emotions, priming you to feel happy, sad, angry, focused, anxious, creative, fearful, etc. You can use simple words that are powerful for you to trigger a specific response.
The words in and of themselves are not important, but your emotional association to them can affect your behavior. For example, if I said the word, "tired," it would have more of an emotional association to you than "cansado," the Spanish word for tired. Unless you knew Spanish and had developed an association between the emotion/feeling and the word, it would be meaningless to you.
Think about a swear word
Words may just letters put together in a specific way, but your attachment to them can be incredibly potent. When someone swears, there can be a lot of emotion and feeling attached to it. That energy gets transferred where it's directed, creating a more volatile environment for those involved. Road rage, violence, or hostility may come to mind.
Or, you may swear often and casually, just for emphasis. It may still strike a chord for those around you, but you don't find it particularly negative, just a useful way to cut through formality and lighten the air. Swearing, in a way, let's you connect more closely with those you're communicating with.
The emotional weight of a word is what primes you, and priming occurs all around you, especially through ads you see every day. Think about headlines on CNN, or Weather.com, or Buzzfeed.com, and how they use just a few words to generate fear, panic, or curiosity.
So how can you use words instead of them being used on you?
A post-it note for success
Be more aware of what words surround you on a daily basis, especially the words you see when you first wake up or just before you go to sleep. You don't want negative words to trigger unwanted emotions as you start or end your day.
Instead, use specific words to prime you for what you're looking for. Money, love, happiness, confidence, energy, attention, focus, care, respect, etc. Take your definition of success right now, and find the words that you associate it with; words that have strong, contextual, and personal meaning.
Now take the words you've come up with and write them down in a place where you can seem them every day. A post-it note on your computer, nightstand, or on your bathroom mirror works well. If you have a whiteboard, write them down there. Take a picture of a word and make it your smartphone background. Get creative.
These words will do their work on your psyche, whether you notice them or not. I recommend updating them every once in a while. Try this out for yourself, and you'll notice another byproduct of this exercise. You'll become more situationally aware of how others prime you, and gain more control over your reactive decisions.
Now it's your turn: What do you read the first thing you wake up or right before you go to bed? How are the websites you visit every day priming you? Have you tried priming yourself with words before?
Please let me know in the Comments section below, and please do share this post with your network. Thanks!