The Power Of Language To Create Freedom in Your Life
“All that we are is the result of all that we have thought. It is founded on thought. It is based on thought.” — Buddha, The Dharmapada
“The limits of your language are the limits of your world.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein
Language is a spell woven into life. The words we speak and the meanings given to them have a profound impact upon our lives. Language is central to our experience of being human. We live our lives under sentences that have powerful, often unconscious effects upon how we perceive, think and act in the world.
A sentence is a linguistic phrase, a complete and independent grammatical unit. It is also a judicial decision of a punishment given to one who has been convicted of a crime. We can live under sentences that trap us in fixed ways of seeing our world. As Henry Ford said famously
“Whether you think you can or you can’t. You’re right”
Your words impact your life
That words can influence how we feel is rooted in the origin of sentence emerging from sentience. Feeling and thinking are linked together. Thoughts have an impact upon how we feel, feelings influence our actions and the meaning that we put onto situations.
The sentences that we live under can liberate our capacity to access more of our potential or keep us trapped within cages of meaning that trigger stress or inhibit our lives. We are hardwired to understand the world through stories that configure contextual triggers and influence our behaviour.
Language plays a causal role in shaping cognition. Studies have shown that changing how people talk changes how they think. Teaching people new ways of talking about time gives them a new way of thinking about it. ¹
It can be challenging to have our basic assumptions about the way we see the world challenged and to see how we use certain phrases to back up those assumptions and maintain our convictions that the way we see things is accurate.
How many times for example do you answer a question with ‘I don’t know’ as a way to turn down the volume on the natural confidence of knowing and trusting in your answer? I don’t know is one of my dead phrases.
I have become aware of the language I use that repeats patterns, that carries no life in the moment but is rather an old habit. A barrier to intimacy, to action.
When I say I don’t know, as a standard I then appear to other people as less confident that I could be. I found a belief living buried deep in an inherited cultural fear of power. I was living under a sentence that said ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ It’s only when I examined this question and explored the way that it kept me trapped and limiting myself and what I was capable of achieving that the spell was broken.
Under that sentence I was able to transform a deep shame that felt as though I had been carrying it around in my body for generations. I don’t know if that’s true, I do know that my grandfather fought at Dunkirk in World War II yet his wife never saw him undress in front of her in 60 years of marriage.
Our definitions define how we show up and act in the world. If power doesn’t corrupt then what does it mean to be powerful?
Power to me means freedom and responsibility. It means making choices that are in my best interests that are also aligned with service and speaking and living the truth with humility and courage. If I want to choose freedom I have the opportunity to take ownership of the sentences that I am living under and define them differently.
To find new meaning to the way that I see and engage with the world.
Your Words Determine Your Beliefs
Dr Leonard Orr theorised that the human mind behaves as though it were divided into two parts. The thinker and the prover. What the thinker thinks the prover proves. Which means that our perception revolves around what we think.
The job of the ‘prover’ part of the mind is to find evidence to support the ideas of the thinking part of the mind. To prove that what we think is true.
For example, if you think that climate change isn’t real then your mind will ignore or dismiss all the evidence that supports the existence of climate change. The more vocally and passionately evidence is presented to the opposite view, the more entrenched the positions become, each believing wholeheartedly that they are right.
It’s simple to understand intellectually that our thoughts, perceptions and language influences how we feel. How we feel then affects or motivates us to act. To see how other people are stuck in the language they use to describe their world and experiences is much easier than to see the thoughts or beliefs operating and influencing our own behaviour
Change Your Words, Change Your Life
When I work with clients, a powerful shift takes place when the impact of a phrase of sentence, or the language spoken unconsciously is realised. One powerful insight can make a huge difference that ripples out into all areas of life.
In a deep coaching conversation my client started talking about needing to rest more and finding that their levels of incredibly high performance were being affected by a lack of sleep and a need to improve their eating habits. I found it interesting how they spoke about this. When the need to care for our body is termed as slacking off. It gives an interesting message.
When I challenged this and suggested that what was slack was putting achievement and work constantly ahead of the needs of their body. They had an insight into the sentence that was pushing them beyond their limit and how they were creating a constant state of high stress and anxiety.
After the realisation hit home, they were able to fine tune their language and awareness and start putting the needs of their body first and became even more productive and creative over time.
Claim Yourself Now
One of the most rewarding aspects of my work as a coach for high achievers is my ability to draw out clients’ visions to expand to greater levels than they have previously seen or expressed.
I am intimate with the power of this ability that calls out a dream that is powerful and bold.
I know from personal experience and in my work, that most people who dare to dream this big are told to quieten down, to be less ambitious. That’s especially true for women. It’s easy to talk about giving power away to authority yet the reality of our experiences in life can often leave little choice.
It’s a great honour to be in service to powerful, expansive dreams that in their realisation are shaping a positive future for humanity.
There are times when I find it hard to believe that this is what happens, despite the evidence and experience. I think ‘who am I’ a boy from Barnsley. A mining town in the North of England. The place in the UK where statistically you are still most likely to be born, raised and die without living in a different location. The place where I learned not to step out of line and be different.
It’s a powerful sentence to impose of our potential born out of the reality of the struggle of survival.
I can almost hear the voice of family members asking who do you think you are?
Who are you? Feeling like Alice in Wonderland sitting next to a toadstool, trying to answer an impossible question while a caterpillar blows smoke rings around me.
There was this inner monologue, who am I to dare to call out people’s visions?
Who am I to say that I am a King? Who am I to be a leader and be powerful, inspirational, catalyse deep and lasting transformations?
The sentence said Who are you?
I was owned by it. Knowing intellectually that no one else is responsible but me. Knowing this as an idea, as a concept and experiencing it as a truth are worlds apart. Like the difference between a good basketball player and Michael Jordan in his prime.
Then one day. The realisation sinks in.
I get to decide who I am. I can define who I want to be and what qualities I want to embody and the values I want to live by.
This is the liberation from the sentence. This is who I am. This is where I am living from.
I am a powerful leader. I call out the greatest dreams and the highest potential of people to raise their game and show up fully as who they are. I am nature.
I catalyse lasting transformations in the lives of incredible leaders who make an impact in the world.
Define who you are
Once we find the sentence of how we have been defined by the outside world, by the experiences of our past or by getting caught up in other people’s expectations or confused by the overwhelming information that detracts from knowing and speaking our truth.
Then we have an opportunity to create and name ourselves again. Why not take on and accept the responsibility as the creator of our destiny?
Why not notice the language that we use and examine how we limit what is possible or break though the walls with the words that we speak out to the world and inside our minds?
Leadership and accepting responsibility means we have to make complex decisions. It means that there’s no one else to blame for our results. It’s easy to want to avoid that.
It’s all too easy to accept the way things are without questioning them. It’s easy to live under a sentence that keeps us in a prison of our own making. It’s up to us to break those spells and courageously define who we are and what we stand for. Then embody and live from those principles and values.
It often takes a container of deep safety and trust to go deep into explorations and find the sentences that cast shadows on aspect of their lives.
Often high achievers are living into and under sentences that say they have to keep hustling, maintain their level, keep on being successful in order to survive. Imagine what can happen to a high performance individual when you are able to question and then transform the deep underlying insecurities that drove them to success.
When you understand that and see the sentences that have been running your life. When that can be owned at an embodies level. It creates an impact that can ripple out into other areas of your life. When you see clearly that the unconscious answer to the question of who you are effects the way that you act around people, how you trust, how you show up, how you perform at work, how easily you connect to your natural confidence and ability to create. You can see how changing our sentences can liberate your life.
Pay attention to the sentences you think and speak and notice their impact on you and those around you.
What are the sentences you need to change?