It is good to be back at it again! I hope that you are doing well. I look forward to seeing what 2021 has in store for us.
This week I wanted to share with you a thought exercise that I started a few days ago. It began when I had the random revelation that adding “yet” to the end of some statements can drastically change how I see, and how others see, a situation. As an example, I could change the thought “I don’t know how to build a shed” to “I don’t know how to build a shed yet.” Do you see how that one word makes all the difference? With it, I am able to change a declaration into a challenge for myself. I open the door to the possibility that, with the right attitude, resources, and time I might be able to change my circumstances. It’s an exhilarating thought!
This got me wondering if there were other words that had the same kind of power to change a thought or perspective merely by being added or replacing another word. I wanted to share with you some of the ideas that I have come up with so far. Often, the hardest battle that fathers face is the battle in their mind. We tell ourselves things that keep us from doing what we should or focus on things that don’t matter. Doing exercises like the one I am sharing with you will help us to have greater control over our “self-talk.” The sooner we incorporate these strategies into our lives, the more positive impact that they can have on our parenting success.
Here is a word exercise that addresses procrastination- When we find ourselves saying “later,” I challenge us to say “by …” or “before …” instead. Here’s what I mean- say we start with the thought, “I will take out the trash later.” Alternatively, we could say, “I will take out the trash by lunchtime” or “I will take out the trash before I watch T.V.” By doing so, we are taking on more responsibility to do the task within a reasonable amount of time. We may not have the time right now to get something done, but by putting a time frame on the issue, we are less likely to continue putting it off.
The next example is to replace “never” with “rarely.” When I say things like, “I never have time for myself,” there is a strong possibility that I am exaggerating the truth. When I say that I “rarely have time for myself,” I am suggesting to myself and others that I do have time to myself, but not as much as I may want or need. There is an old animated movie, “An American Tail,” in which a pigeon sings a song to a young mouse to give him some encouragement. The song that he sings is called, “Never Say Never.” The point of the song is to point out that “never” is a strong word that “rarely” conveys what is true, and which often leaves us feeling needlessly defeated. In the same way, we can have the same effect when changing instances of “always” to “often.” In both cases, we are trying to avoid falling into unrealistic extremes.
My following example is going to reveal a trick that I use when writing these posts. Whenever I find myself sharing something that I believe might be challenging, and could possibly ruffle some feathers, I will replace any instance of “you” to “we.” If I want to say that I am challenging men to spend more time with their children, I realize that I could also benefit from the challenge. Therefore, instead of saying, “you can care for your family better by spending more time with them,” I will instead say, “we can care for our family better by spending more time with them.” It sends the honest message: we are in this together. Go back over my previous posts and see how many times I do this. I don’t always say “we,” but I do it often. This is a great tool to use when we find ourselves needing to encourage someone toward action without offending them or put them on the defense.
These are the few exercises that I was able to come up with so far. I am interested to hear what other examples we can think of collectively. For most, tinkering is a common characteristic of men. This is a productive way for us to tinker with one of our most powerful tools, our words.