Change the way you respond to the world – 7 words


A number of years ago, a wise teacher (yes, it was my therapist) invited me to change the way I respond to the world. At the time, I was complaining about other people’s behavior toward me, and about the perceived injustices I was experiencing. I was angry, sad, reactive and unwilling to see the part I was playing in my own misery.

Refusing to be drawn into my drama, he calmly listed 7 words to eradicate from my vocabulary. Doing so would shift my attitudes about the choices I make in life and how I respond to the events in my life.

Are you ready for the 7 words to eliminate? Here they are:


ought to

have to


need to

supposed to

got to

you better

Pause here. Consider for a few moments what it would be like for you if didn’t use these words. Play around with ways you use these words now, what substitutuions you might chose to make.

The argument for eliminating these 7 words is that it will shift your thinking from being at the mercy of forces outside yourself (your partner, your parents, traffic, the weather) to making a choice. When you use these 7 words, you rob yourself of choice and lose the intentional force with which you steer yourself forward in this world.

Eliminating the 7 words also brings in an element of positivity to your thought process and your speech. Instead of “having to do something”, try making the statement “I am going to do something.” Even though you may feel as though you don’t have a choice about whether or not to do the thing, speaking as though you do, changes the chemistry in your brain, invoking choice and intention rather than obligation.

For many, many situations in life, we do have choice, only we do not acknowledge it. No one forces me to sit down and write this blog post. I could say “I must write this post today” and feel oppressed and obligated. Instead I choose to say, “I am going to write a blog post today.” I cannot tell you how much better I feel when I allow myself to decide instead of feeling as though something else is deciding me. Think about your own situation. In what ways is something else deciding you?

A caveat on the word need. This word is not always used to replace choicefulness. i.e. “I need to go to the bathroom!” or “I need to take my medicine at the same time each day.” And, I still maintain that you can replace it with “I am going to use the bathroom now.” or simply, “I take my medicine at the same time each day.” The idea here is to bring some mindfulness to your speech. Pay attention to what you say and how you feel when you say it. If you use need, and still feel choiceful and intentional, by all means use it. And, I am guessing that when you replace the 7 words with intentional words, you will notice a difference. I know I did.

After my teacher invited me to eliminate the 7 words, I noticed some changes in myself. It took some time and practice, but when I began to say things like “I am going to/not going to” instead of “I should have …..” or “I better …” I felt more powerful and in control of my life. I felt kinder and more compassionate toward myself. The unexpected benefit of this was the spillover into other parts of my life. I had more love for others, too. Crazy, huh?

So what are the words to use to replace the 7 words? I have listed my suggestions for intentional and choiceful words below. Please feel free to add your own in comments below.

going to


will not

did not

able to

choose to

choose not to

If you are struggling with choicefulness and intention in your life or would like some help eliminating the 7 words from your vocabulary, shoot me an email or call for a free, 20-minute telephone consultation. 512.593.0583.

Peace, friends.



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