[In this series we examine the importance of the words we use and how changing our vocabulary can change our mind, thereby giving us opportunity for transformation. More articles can be found in this series @ Tools: Words]
photo by Hernán Kirsten
Sometimes the words we use to describe a problem do not prove to be helpful in the process of us getting what we really want or need. Here is a perfect example of asking the wrong question about our situation and how we can easily change the question to make a big difference.
When asking for advice, one of my clients, “Cathy” almost always starts off by querying, “Is it weird if . . . ?” For example:
- Is it weird if I stop doing online dating?
- Is it weird if I like to eat out alone?
- Is it weird that I want to change jobs in such a tough economy?
The questions as listed above are about what is normal and what is not normal, AKA “weird.” The problem with these questions is that they set us up to become unnecessarily subject to how the world perceives our choices. In other words, these questions do not leave room for decision-making that is based on what is best for us.
Many times in my life I have done things that the world would see as weird (e.g., leaving full-time computer science, getting rid of everything I owned and living out of my car for 18 months, dying my hair blue). In most of these cases where I have done things that are not normal it has worked out for me.
I am not saying that we can simply ignore what the world thinks is normal. There is often some wisdom in normal. It is weird to eat glass for breakfast, drive the whole way to work in reverse, and listen to ABBA. However, whether something is normal or weird simply can’t be the only question being asked to see if something is right.
A much more useful way to start these questions is to ask, “Is it in my best interest in the short and long term for me to . . . ?”
Yes, that is a little wordy, but you get the idea. By reshaping the question we are now moving from what is culturally normative to something much more important, what is best for me.
The transformation looks something like this:
- Is it weird if I stop doing online dating? If you want to find a mate yes. One in five relationships start online
- Is it right for me stop doing online dating? Yes. I have given it an honest effort. It is just too much work right now and I am not meeting the type of person I want right now. Maybe it will be right for me in the future.
- Is it weird if I like to eat out alone? Yes, eating out is about being with others. Eating out alone seems sad.
- Is it right for me to eat out alone? Sure. I haven’t had time to shop this week, I love this restaurant, and I am an introvert and get energy from spending time with my own thoughts.
- Is it weird that I want to change jobs in such a tough economy? Yes. You should be grateful for what you have. Others are struggling.
- Is it right for me to want to change jobs in such a tough economy? Yes. Just because it is hard over all doesn’t mean that there isn’t something better out there for me. Wanting better for myself is not wanting worse for others.
Remember, it is not about what the world thinks, but about what is best for you.