This is the third post of a three part series on the power of words. My intent has been to highlight the psychological impact of words we commonly use but rarely think about in terms of what these words actually mean, how they impact us, and how to choose more adaptive words to facilitate psychological progress.
The words you use to describe how you perceive the situation in which you find yourself are often highly significant for several reasons…
- The words reflect your perception
- Your perception reflects your assessment of your situation and elicit specific emotions.
- Your emotions lead to and elicit behavior which may, or may not, contribute to your successfully dealing with your situation.
- Like most people, you may use these words almost habitually and not think about what they mean (or what they do, or do not, communicate).
A not-uncommon scenario…
You are “working” on a project and find yourself unable to make any progress.
Someone asks you:
“How’s it going? ”
What exactly does it mean to “be stuck”?
Let’s take a look at what stuck might involve.
These words only communicate that forward progress on the project has stopped.
There is no information in this communication that you can use to restore the progress you were making before y0u “got stuck”.
Let’s dig deeper…
What is the underlying reason that you are “stuck”?
This information is crucial if you wish to get unstuck because you have to know the obstacle you are facing in order to do something about that obstacle.
- facing a “wall”?
- in an emotional quagmire?
- have misaligned priorities?
The wall —-
- There is some obstruction preventing you from moving forward.
- You need something you don’t have such as an approval, an idea, or a change in something like a policy.
- You are lacking resources/authority/understanding/courage.
An emotional quagmire—
- Your emotions are holding you back.
- You are procrastinating.
- You are seeking perfection.
- You are anxious and focusing on what could go wrong.
- You are being “forced” to do something ( it is someoneelse’s priority)
- There are burdensome time constraints.
- You have other priorities.
Once you have identified the underlying obstacle that you are facing, you can use the correct words to describe that obstacle and you can make a plan to deal with, move through, and, thereby, eliminate the obstacle.
- I cannot progress until I get the needed authorization, resources, data sets, etc.
- I am not making progress because my approach to this project isn’t producing useful ideas. Perhaps, I need to step back and take a different perspective.
- I’m not making progress because I am so anxious about how the project will turn out. The message of anxiety is that there MAY be a future threat. I need to examine the validity of possible threats, move on if these threats are not credible or take action to nullify them.
- I am not making progress because I am annoyed that I am being redirected from my priorities to work on this project. Oh well, suck it up. This is the job and, while I might not like it, it is what it is and I need to focus to get it done so I can get back to my priorities.
- I’m procastinating because I want this project to be perfect. Yet, when I think about it, perfection is impossible so I will do the best I can and go from there. That is all I can legitimately expect.
In the last three posts, I have attempted to put a spotlight on the words you use to describe/define the situations you find yourself in. These words are often not challenged or even given a whole lot of thought. They just come out and are accepted as valid,. informative and accurate.
The challenge is that the words you use are often not accurate.
Whether accurate or not, the words you use impact your emotions and the actions you take.
Now that you know this, you will be better able to question the words you use in situations that are important to you.
By changing your language, you empower yourself to take adaptive action. When the obstacle is nullified, you are no longer stuck and you can move forward.
These are links to posts which address other relevant topics to “being stuck”
- 5/2016. Procrastination as anxiety
- 8/2018 Getting to Done Procrastination
- 9/2020 Sensitivity to criticism
- 7&8/2020 Power of words (saying can’t etc)
mastering emots as tools