Remember that classic children’s book The Little Engine That Could? You know, about the Little Blue Engine who is smaller than all the other big, tough, engines, who’s never been over the mountain, but who is kinder than the other engines who are too good to help the broken down train get over the mountain. And she is able to pull this huge heavy up the long, steep mountain because she’s saying to herself, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” the entire way?
That book used to bug the crap out of me when I was a kid.
I would get so annoyed by the repetitive rhythm of that “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” Of course now, as an adult and a writer, I see the brilliance of that rhythm imitating the sound of a train chugging along. But as a kid I thought, why does she have to say it over and over? And why does she only THINK she can? Why not just do it and then KNOW?
Pragmatic little 10-year-old, huh?
Obviously I missed the moral of the story: thought affects outcome.
In all of the personal development work I’ve done over the years, this one principle is often the hardest to practice. On the surface it is so simple and even elementary (how often do we tell children they can do anything they put their mind to?). It is easy to know this truth intellectually, but it’s incredibly complicated and challenging to know this truth emotionally in our hearts and physically in our actions.
We are our own worst critic. We know this, and yet we still let our internal critic to run rampant, dishing out the criticism and the insults and the tear-downs. We still let ourselves say things about our creative work like:
- It’s a mess.
- It’s all over the place.
- I don’t know what I’m doing.
- I’ll never figure this out.
- I can’t get it to work.
- It’s not relevant.
- No one will want to read this.
- No one cares what I have to say.
Raise your hand if you are guilty of this negative self-talk. Writer or not, I guarantee that you’re not alone in this. I hear these words from my clients all the time—it gets worse the closer we are to their submission deadline. And—guess what?
THEIR WORK IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN THEY TELL ME IT IS.
So let me challenge you right now: pay attention to how you SPEAK about the thing you’re working on. How do you describe it? Do you speak of it with affection or derision? With love or hate? With hopefulness or dread?
However you speak about your work, THAT is the ENERGY you bring to it.
I can tell you this awareness and practice around the language that I use in my business, in my writing, in my work with clients has worked wonders. It is like magic. I love my work because I say that I do. The more I say it, the more I love it. I have not worked on my own book manuscript for six months (that’s what starting a business will do!), but I am excited to return to it because I SAY IT.
Words have power. You know this even if you are not a writer. So use that power to your advantage.
Do one thing for me before I go. Say it outloud right now: I love my work. I’m excited about what I’m working on, and I AM GOOD AT IT.
Use your power.