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It’s easier to change any habit when you use slightly different vocabulary.
The word “don’t” holds much more power than “can’t.”
Let’s face it: Changing habits can be tough, and some are certainly easier to break than others. A few years ago, I learned a habit-changing trick that has revolutionized my thinking. Now, I want to share it with you!
To make changing habits easier, switch from using the word “can’t” to “don’t.”
It almost seems too simple, right? That’s what I thought at first! However, after a couple of years of incorporating this slight vocabulary change into my daily life, I’m hooked! Here’s how/why it works…
“Can’t” is problematic for many reasons.
“I can’t take the elevator.”
“I can’t cook.”
“I can’t eat sweets.”
1. Anytime you use the word “can’t,” you shift the power outside of yourself to some external source. Who says you can’t? Some blog you read? Some external pressure? Some lofty New Year’s resolution you made?
2. Consistently using the word “can’t” makes you feel powerless, not powerful. When it comes to changing habits, feeling powerful is key.
3. When you use the word “can’t,” you set yourself up for feelings of guilt and shame. If you can’t eat a cookie but then do, you may end up feeling terrible about your lack of willpower. Here’s more food for thought: Some argue that willpower shouldn’t even be a thing, like author Benjamin Hardy in one of my favorite books Willpower Doesn’t Work!
4. Telling yourself you “can’t” do something usually only makes you want to do it more. Imagine telling a two year old she can’t have a cookie. Prepare for a tantrum!
5. Finally, “can’t” encourages a defeatist attitude. If you tell yourself you can’t cook, you’ll likely never learn.
“Don’t” is empowering.
“I don’t take the elevator unless absolutely necessary.”
“I don’t regularly order takeout.”
“I don’t keep tempting foods in my house.”
“Don’t” requires ownership of a certain lifestyle change, and it puts the onus on you, not some unseen outside force.
In saying “don’t,” no one (including you!) is saying you can’t do something; rather, you’re owning the fact that you don’t make unhealthy habits a regular part of your lifestyle…end of story!
Again, it sounds like such a simple change. The road to optimal health and habits must be difficult, right? In reality, many behavior changes are tough. But, if this simple shift in vocabulary can help you achieve your goals, why not give it a try?
“Don’t” + “because” is the golden standard.
“I don’t take the elevator at work because it’s good for me to move and get my blood flowing throughout the day.”
“I don’t regularly order takeout because I know it’s filled with toxic, addictive additives (like highly processed oils and sugar), and I can prepare healthier meals myself.”
“I don’t keep the most tempting foods (like chips and candy) in my home because I know that ironclad willpower is not a thing.” (Again, you should read Hardy’s aforementioned book Willpower Doesn’t Work. In his opinion, successful habit change requires the optimization of one’s environment. When you remove temptations from your environment, you set yourself up for prolonged success. In fact, I can help you take the first step towards bettering your kitchen environment so that you can improve your diet! Sign up for my email list to receive the FREE PDF “The Back-to-Basics Fridge/Freezer/Pantry Cleanse” in your inbox!)
Attaching a “because” reason to any basic “don’t” statement is extra empowering! When you consistently remind yourself of the rationale behind any behavior change, it makes switching to better habits that much simpler. Soon, they become second nature.
Now, you try…
Instead of making sweeping New Year’s resolutions, commit to one “don’t…because” statement each month. Why wait for January? Make one today! Each time you’re tempted to revert back to your old habit, think of your “don’t…because” statement. Repeat it over and over in your head until the positive change becomes a natural part of your life.
Possibly, it’d even be helpful to write your “don’t…because” statements down. Should you display them on Post-it notes on your bathroom mirror? Should you keep them in a note on your phone? Accountability is key!
In just a few months, you can make so many healthful, empowering changes!
Bottom line: The next time you want to change a habit, incorporate the word “don’t” into your vocabulary. You’ll be surprised by how much this one little word helps!
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