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There’s a famous saying that you should “never underestimate the power of your words.” But how many people actually understand the magnitude of that power? I’ll give you a hint – most people think their words are completely harmless. 

The power of words has a ‘ripple effect’ on your life. When you think and speak better, you act better. Are your thoughts healing or harming the bigger picture?

In this episode, I’ll discuss the profound power of how you speak and three words you can avoid right now for personal growth beyond measure.

Show Highlights Include:

  • The historical damage of words and how to reinforce a greater message for your future. (0:57)
  • Why passive thoughts cause more arguments – and the simple shift in vocabulary to communicate better now. (4:40)
  • Why gratification and greater brain health start with turning everything into a Google-searching game. (7:19) 
  • The ‘classic excuse’ you should ditch to quickly fuel your creativity, get rid of fears, and take life to the next level. (11:19)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. I’m so glad you tuned in today. Boy, do I have a good one? I want to title my talk “three bad words”, and they might not be the three bad words that you're thinking, but I’ll tell you something. In my life, I have discovered that when I use any one of these three words, I place limits upon myself. I really challenge myself not to be the kind of person that I want to be.

Let me begin, before I tell you what these three bad words are, with this background. [01:01.8]

I'm a wordsmith. I've been a wordsmith I think all my life. My mother said I used to tell stories. I got in trouble for telling stories in grade school and then got paid to tell stories as a television reporter. For 40 years, I have used words and I've studied words in school. I've seen the impact of words as a citizen.

I'm here to report that words are very powerful. Externally, we use words to advance history, to talk our way out of taxation without representation here in America. We’ve talked ourselves into wars. We've used words to talk ourselves out of wars.

We talked ourselves into slavery in the United States. We called it a necessary evil and then it became a positive good, and then we talked ourselves out of slavery. Even in the ’60s, during the civil rights movement, we had an American president who echoed the words of the civil rights debutantes when Lyndon Johnson said, “And we shall overcome.” [02:12.7]

Our words have healed. Our words have hurt. A lot of our words are infamous and they mark a very important moment in history. I'll never forget, then president Ronald Reagan on the occasion of the space shuttle Challenger exploding right after takeoff back in 1985, this is what he told a grieving world. “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.’ ”

Friends, words are powerful and the words we speak have consequences, but perhaps more important than the words we speak are the words that we tell ourselves. Oh, baby, this is what I'm devoting this particular podcast to. [03:14.5]

I want to share with you three words that I choose to never tell myself any longer and it's based on my belief that words are powerful and how we use words can actually shape our reality. I remember the words of Frank Outlaw who is credited with this phrase among other people. Remember this one? “Watch your thoughts; they determine your words. Watch your words; they determine your actions. Watch your actions; they determine your habits. Watch your habits; they form your character. And watch your character; your character determines your destiny.” Isn’t it interesting that it begins with a thought and it's transferred with words? [04:05.7]

I've titled this podcast, “Three bad words”, and you might not agree with these words and that's okay. We don't have to think alike, but let's think together, and I want to encourage you to try to see the bigger picture. What I really want to encourage you to do is come up with your own list of words that are destructive to you, words that are limiting to you, words that you don't want to use any more about you, and I think that's really the beginning of growth when we can acknowledge those words.

For me, and I think that this first one stems from, truthfully, arguments with my wife. Now, this is me. I'm not talking about my wife. I'm talking about me. I'm done with the word, “sorry”. [04:55.0]

Now, friends, here's a disclaimer before some of you get upset. “Sorry” in and of itself is a good word. It has its place. It's a word that represents the feelings of regret, and so I do reserve the word, “sorry”, but rarely in my life and here's why. I don't like when I say I'm sorry because it's almost as if it tells my will to relax that I got away with something. Oh, I made a little booboo. I told a little white lie. What does that mean? Oh, I'm so sorry, hee-hee, but I really don't truly mean it. It just sounds good to say I'm sorry.

Now, this is me. When I say I'm sorry, it informs my will to simply relax, chill. Hey, Rick, you got away with something. Instead, I've been saying lately, especially in arguments, I'll say, I was wrong. Uh-oh. [05:57.7]

You see, just that simple shift, just the use of those three words, “I was wrong”, it places a demand upon my will. It instructs and commands my will to stop the particular behavior in question. It demands my will to stop, to turn and to change. Oh-ho.

Listen again. “I'm sorry.” Listen to the passivity of it, at least in my mind. “I'm sorry.” “I'm sorry.” “I'm sorry.” “I'm genuinely sorry.” Now I want you to listen to the demand placed on these words, “I was wrong,” and in my mind it communicates something more powerful.

Will I never use “sorry” again? Yes, I will use it, but rarely, occasionally. I want the one offended to know that not only am I wrong, but that I'm willing to change, that I am willing to turn from the behavior that is offensive. I don't like the word, “sorry”. For me, it says, Rick, you got away with it, buddy. It's okay. It's even okay if you offer that offense again. [07:17.8]

Here's the second word. This one I can't stand, the word, “forgot”. Oh, friend, how many times in the course of a day do we say I forgot? Because the reality is the inability to recall information plagues us daily, especially in an environment and an age where we're traveling at high speeds along the super information highway. I mean, the bits of information that come at us every single day is overwhelming, but that's not an excuse and I don't want to go down that road, no pun intended. I don't like personally using the word, “I forgot”, because of how it instructs my mind. [08:04.4]

I think sometimes looking at my own experiences, I use the word, “forgot”, to excuse myself, to try to get out of something, but more importantly than excusing myself by blowing it off by saying, Oh, I forgot to do that, my bad, more important, it informs my mind. It says to my mind, Relax. It says to my mind, At ease.

I can't tell you how many times throughout the day, there's the opportunity for me to recall information. The same is true with you. Try this, friends. Instead of saying, I forgot, how about saying, Hmm, let me think about it? Just that little shift puts your mind in user mode.

I love the wisdom of older folks. I love hanging around older folks. They have a wisdom that you can't get in graduate school. Come on, somebody. And those older folks used to always say, If you don't use it, you will lose it. Anything, absolutely anything that puts our mind in user mode is a good thing. Don't y'all agree? [09:15.6]

So, instead of just offering a very passive “I forgot”, how about “Let me think about that. Let me get back to you. Let me think on it”? Guess what, friends? I'm just going to level with you. I know this sounds geeky, but I don't care. It becomes a game for me.

If my wife says, Now, what was that movie that we saw three weeks ago with Denzel Washington? What was the name of that movie? That tendency quickly is to say, I forgot. It excuses me. I don't have to think about it. I don't have to exert any effort whatsoever.

But if I say, Let me think about it for just a moment, now all of a sudden, I'm in user mode, baby. I’m thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking, probably driving everybody crazy around me, but I’ve got to tell you something. When I come up with the name of that, Training Day, when I come up with the name of that movie, I'm telling you I'm having a party in my soul like y'all can't believe. I’ve got blowers and had some balloons and a cake, baby. [10:21.3]

Why? Because one of the things I learned as a college professor is that students would be gratified when they had an opportunity to reminisce and recall information. It's a gratification and I feel that gratification. More importantly than that temporal feeling of gratification is this. I'm instructing my brain to be active, to work, to be utilized. So, try that. Rather than saying, I forgot oh-oh-oh…how about “Let me think on it.” [10:56.0]

Now, friends, I have no idea whatsoever if this is going to help us with greater brain health by promoting brain health. I don't know, but it couldn't hurt. At least I am trying to figure out ways to engage my brain, so that my brain is not so passive throughout the day and throughout the night.

The third bad word, in my opinion, is the absolute worst. The word is “can't”. Can’t. Remember the quote from Henry Ford? “If you think you can or if you think you can't, you're right.” Remember the biblical phrase, “As a person thinketh,” actually in the Bible it's “As a man thinketh, so is he,” right?

When you say, I can't, you have basically stamped your brain a limited mindset. Yeah, because “can't” saps your power. “Can't” stops your creativity and “can't” tells your imagination to go on vacation. Whenever you say you can't do something, you're reinforcing that message. Your brain is listening to that message and I have to believe that your soul, your spirit is responding. [12:22.2]

It's important to ask, really, I think this question. Instead of saying “I can't” so quickly, ask yourself what's the reason behind saying “I can't”? Listen carefully. I hear people say, I can't quit my job and work for myself because I'm scared to do it or I can't lose weight because I don't know how to start, or I can't stop smoking because I need some help or I can't get organized because I don't have time. Friends, none of the statements that I just made have anything to do with the word, “can't”. [12:57.5]

Listen carefully. “I'm scared.” “I don't know how to start.” “I need some help.” “I don't have time.” In other words, yes, you can. Yes, you can. Yes, you might need to get some more information. Come on. You might need to talk to somebody. Come on. You might need to increase your savings account and work out a plan. You might need to figure out how to start.

I’ve got a buddy that can do 70 pushups and he told me when he started, he couldn't even do one. You might need to just start. You might need to just admit that the only thing that's holding you back, the very thing that is causing you to say can't is you. The only thing holding you back is you. Friend, “can't” is a powerful, powerful word. “Can't” stops forward progress. “Can't” places limits on you. “Can't” reflects a fixed mindset. [14:02.8]

I love the work of Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, and her landmark book, Mindset. Her basic argument is our mindset determines how we live our lives and she identified a fixed mindset as one where we believe our abilities are fixed. We don't tend to want to learn anything new. We don't think we can learn anything new. We refuse to adjust our course. We really don't have much of a teachable spirit and we tend to live way below what we could possibly achieve.

Contrast that with a growth mindset where we really believe our abilities can be developed. We're eager to learn about new ideas. We enjoy the process of problem-solving. We're constantly challenging ourselves to go beyond the comfort zone, and we see possibilities, not limitations. [15:01.3]

There's a great passage in the Bible where the Apostle Paul put a growth mindset in these words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I remind myself that every day, as opposed to having a fixed mindset, a fixed mindset that says I can't, which really translates to I'm unteachable, I refuse to learn and I'm not going to grow.

So, here's our homework assignment as I close, friends. Let's decrease our use of bad words. In fact, I would also ask you to come up with some words that you can think of that have limited you in the past or words that you really believe haven't been productive in helping you to develop a growth mindset.

Let's decrease our use of bad words. Instead of saying, I'm sorry, so often, how about saying, I was wrong? It signals something to the brain. Instead of saying, I forgot, how about “Let me think about it”? It signals something to the brain. Instead of saying, I can't, how about saying, I can? I'm telling you, it signals something to the brain.

That signal to the brain—a growth mindset and the willingness to eliminate the fears and the concerns that oftentimes we just don't want to acknowledge.

Oh, friends, I want you to think about this podcast for a few days. Think about some bad words that you're using and make a commitment to decrease, if not eliminate those in your life, so that our lives would go to the next level, that we would have a growth mindset every day and that growth mindset would be reflected in the awesome, incredible, limitless, powerful words that we choose to tell ourselves. [17:01.5]

And until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick asking you the most important question I can ask today. How you livin’?

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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