Punch 2: The 'Ould' Ring

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I’ve been out of the ring for a while, but I am excited to be bringing you my next fully loaded punch!

My first Punch Post looked at Absolutes- and what they can do to your thought life. Today I’m going to start a series looking at WOULD, SHOULD and COULD and what these little ‘ould’ words can do if you are not aware of their tactics.

They seem like pretty harmless words when they are used by themselves. And if they are used in their right context they can be very helpful in expressing meaning. However, most often we don't use them to our advantage. I'm going to take you back to how we all first learnt these words and then show you how they can affect our thinking.

When you were at school, you may remember a group of words called ‘doing words’. Their official category or name is ‘Verbs’. This wonderful group is all about action- think along the lines of run, jump, leap, yell and talk! There is something special about each of these three ‘ould’ words that form the foundation of this series. I’m going to break each word down for you to show how these words can work against us if we aren’t aware. First up is 'would'- get your boxing gloves ready!

WOULD

How often do you use the word 'would'? How often do you think it?

Surprisingly, 'would' is the past tense of the word ‘will’. Which means it can be used to describe an action or an intention that has or is about to take place. Sometimes it can be used as a softer version of the word ‘will’ because it doesn’t sound as imposing.

Some of my most common thoughts involving 'would' are:

  • I would have gone but I was tired.
  • She said that I would be stupid if I did that.
  • I wish I would just do this thing!

What do all these phrases have in common? Notice how 'would' becomes a nice substitute for will.

It sets up an excuse:  " I would have gone but..."
It sets up an intention: "She said that I would be..." 
It sets up indirection: "I wish I would just do..."

Pretty sneaky, hey? Can you imagine the trouble 'would' can cause if left to its own devices? What I've had to realise is that MY thinking is FOR ME. I can easily slip into the habit of letting 'would' create excuses, unrealistic or negative intentions and indirection in my thinking... and then in me. 'Would' can encourage self comparison, self doubt and not taking responsibility for actions and choices. A classic example for me is going to the gym: I would have gone yesterday but I was too tired. My sister said that she would come with me today but she didn't. I would go but I have a blocked nose. I wish I would just go to the gym!" Notice how 'would' creates frustration and inaction, it doesn't encourage problem solving and other options. Let's flip 'would' back to its original meaning.

  • I am tired but I will go. 
  • She said I will be stupid if I do that. Is that true? 
  • I will do this thing.  

What's the difference? Being DEFINITE. Look at the transformation of these phrases by using 'will'!

It provides motivation, realism and action: "I am tired  but I will go."
It provides clarity and awareness of other's intentions or expectations: "She said that I will be stupid if do that. Is that true?"
It provides direction and clear goals: "I will do this thing."

One of the best tips I can give you with the 'ould' words -and especially with 'would'- is to start to listen to your thinking. If you have never stopped and listened, it's never too late to start! The way I started building my awareness of what I was thinking was identifying key phrases or thoughts that I felt were not helpful to me. It's important to start with one or two that you can focus on, rather than trying to do everything at once!

My biggest 'would' statement that I get myself in the boxing ring with is "I wish I would just be better." Because I am aware of the statement and its affect on my mood, I can then practice my punch, the flip. (I know I can hear the Rocky theme song in my head, can you?). It's exactly what we did with the 'would' phrases above. I'll map out my moves for you!

The thought: I wish I would just be better.
The awareness: 'Would' statement alert!! What does it make me believe?
The action: Does this thought work FOR me or against me? How can I make it work FOR me? 

It works AGAINST me because it encourages the idea that being 'better' is something that can just be given or granted. Wellness or being 'better' isn't wishful thinking: it's a conscious choice that we sometimes need to fight for. Time to look at your punching moves!

The choice: What am I going to do about it?

I'm going to flip the statement. I wish I would just be better turns into: I will get better- it takes time and practice. Being well doesn't happen instantly, I need to turn my thoughts to work for me. And that's what I am doing now, to the best of my ability.

How did you find those moves? I actually used to keep a sort of 'thought journal' where I would record what I did to combat any thoughts and how effective it was so I could work out the best strategy. The biggest point to remember is with all these punches, they take time and practice!

You learn how they work for you by using them again and again- sometimes you may get knocked out and other days you may knock the thought out! But each time you get a little bit more experience in how to swing the right punch and it prepares you for the next round. Each move gives you training and inspiration to keep fighting. (Check out Heidi's experiences in the ring here! )

The next in the 'ould' series will be 'could'. Get pumped! 

Love Emily xx