Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda
How changing your words can change your life (and your business!)
I started my dance studio back in 2003 when I was 21 years old, but to call it an actual business was a stretch… My husband sat me down in 2007, after we got married and had a baby on the way, and told me, “Honey, if it’s not making any money, it’s a hobby. Not a job.” Ouch.
Faced with the decision to shut my business baby down and get a real job, or pull up my bootstraps and find out how to make it work… I decided to cry it out for a bit. Haha. And then I got to work.
I did lots of practical things like automating my monthly tuition collections, setting regular office hours, creating a decent website and starting a Facebook page. Those things definitely helped me out, but they didn’t solve the underlying problems.
The anxiety and overwhelm of working too hard in my business (and not making enough money!) was wearing on me. It ran in the background of everything else in my life. My husband was walking on eggshells waiting to see how stressed out I’d be when I got home, and I was starting to wonder if getting a 9-5 would’ve been a better idea… at least I’d know how much my paycheck was going to be.
I was getting desperate. It was time to get some help or give up my dream of self-employment. I opted for one, last-ditch effort: hiring a coach.
One of the first, most profound things my life coach taught me was the power of my words. Back then I had no real idea what coaching was, but I was in a bad way and needed help:
Seriously unhappy and lacking any real purpose, there was a lot of “I should really” and “I have to” and “if she would only” running through my head and then coming right out of my mouth, too.
“I should really get my bookkeeping done today.”
“I have to go to work this afternoon.”
“If she would only do her job better, then I could relax a little bit.”
It was all so unconscious that I didn’t realize how the subtle pressure of all of those words was adding up and weighing me down. They imply that I’m not good enough or that life is a burden or that it’s someone else’s fault that I’m unhappy. What a revelation.
Notice the difference in energy of these statements:
“I have to go pick my kids up from school now.” or
“I get to go pick my kids up from school now.”
“I need to start eating healthier.” or
“I want to start eating healthier.”
“I wish my business was really kicking ass.” or
“I can’t wait until my business is really kicking ass.”
These are seemingly small shifts from one statement to the next, but the energy they put out into the world is so different! “I have to” implies obligation while “I get to” implies opportunity. And it’s our choice which experience we have in any given moment.
I say all of this to encourage you to simply become aware of the words you use - both the words that come out of your mouth and the silent thoughts that cross your mind. What is your language like? How does it make you feel? Does it support the experience you want to have in your life and in your business (if you’re a fellow business owner)? If not, start making some simple changes like the ones I demonstrated above.
I’ll be honest. I felt a little cheesy at first changing the way I spoke about picking my kids up from school. But I’ll be damned if the switch from “have to” to “get to” isn’t one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done. This is especially helpful for those of us balancing both family and work life. We have so much going on that it’s really easy to get stuck in “have to” mode.
“Need to” is also huge. Forget about the not good enough that “need to” implies. Start operating from a “want to” perspective, and then figure out why you want to. Now that is powerful. Then you also have some motivation behind the change you’re wanting to make. Cha-ching! You’ll be on your way to feeling more empowered and in charge of your life in no time.
And now, you won’t be able to stop noticing when you hear “I need to” come out of others’ mouths, too. Sorry, not sorry. ;)
Just remember, “I have to” implies obligation while “I get to” implies opportunity. What language choices are you making?