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  • Erin Monahan

Four Words to Stop Using Now

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

Our words are really powerful. We create worlds with them: your own inner world, your outer world, Hogwarts, and we can impact and color the experience of others’. Words are so powerful that the first of The Four Agreements is to be Impeccable with Your Word. Nail that one and watch your world change!

If you found your way to this article you are probably no stranger to affirmations: positive statements intended to shift your mindset. But what about those words you say silently to yourself when you step on the scale or dare to peek at your financial statements or the words exchanged with others in tense moments? There are some words so ingrained in modern dialogue we don’t even realize how they cut.

Allow me to propose the top four words to remove from your vocabulary.

  1. Perfect

  2. Failure

  3. Blame

  4. Fault

Perfect. Oh my dear sweet friend. Let’s end this special torment now. Born out of people pleasing and desperation for external validation, the sisyphean battle to attain perfection is a nebulous, moving target. Ultimately, perfection is boring. It’s cookie-cutter. It’s plastic. It isn’t real. It has no character. It’s numb. And it’s not the name of the game we are here to play. We are here to learn, love, laugh, and get deep into the full human experience; and that shit can get messy. It’s also beautiful.

I don’t even like to hear “You’re perfect just the way you are” by well-meaning souls, because there’s that word again. So do I need to hold status quo as I am right at this very moment? Who is judging whether or not I continue to measure up? Am I allowed to evolve, grow, and stumble?

If you are looking for permission to drop this pursuit of perfection, I’ll happily stand-in until you are comfortable claiming it yourself:

Failure. I’m not going to patronize with “there’s no such thing as failure.” Of course there is. I can’t tell you how many times I stalled the car when learning to drive a stickshift. Each time a failure and many more since.

The opportunity I invite you to is to change your relationship to the concept of failure. Let’s knock it back down to size: you tried one tactic, it didn’t work, lesson learned. Celebrate this! You took action. You got in the arena. You are already miles ahead of everyone jeering in the stands.

Somewhere in the past century we got addicted to sensationalized overnight success stories to the extent that anything short of that is perceived as a failure and you should probably pack up, eat worms, and die. Your three month old start-up founded in your parents’ basement didn’t score a $100M exit. You failed. No need to show up tomorrow. That’s the metric?

The only failure is (1) not learning the lessons; and (2) not getting back up. No one bats 1000. A failed attempt does not make you a failure and has no bearing on your worth as a person or predict your capacity to create wonderful things.

Blame and Fault.* These two go hand in hand. Blame and fault are fabricated constructs to absolve us of personal responsibility and create a victim mentality. This is intrinsically linked to a fuller conversation about responsibility -- for another day.

“He is to blame!”

“It’s her fault this happened to me.”

"Mercury Retrograde made me do it."

As soon as we start assigning blame and fault, possibilities are severed and the conversation ends. There is no opening for constructive conversation or resolution. Everyone walks away wounded. Nothing is gained. Alternatively, should you so choose, elevate the conversation with a higher intent to find win-win solutions, own your role, and allow an expanded perception of the situation. We all experience life through our own unique filters. What I perceive as completely benign, may occur to you as a disaster beyond all repair. Being able to have the conversation to understand each others’ point of view is paramount to growth. You can’t have that conversation if you are hurling blame and fault.

Challenge: Watch your thoughts, behavior, and language for a week. Just notice how often you use these words with yourself and others.

*As an attorney, I do feel obligated to be clear that I’m not referring to the legal concept of liability.

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1 Comment

Oct 03, 2019

I think one of the hardest things to do is to let go of failure - and to not repeat the same failures over and over again. Maybe by letting go of them, we will not be doomed to repeat them. I am still working on that one.

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