Our words are powerful. And when we change what we say, we begin to change our lives.
About a year ago, I was driving on the interstate and was in the passing lane because I was driving a few miles per house above the speed limit. Ahead of me was a minivan driving about ten miles below the speed limit. My mind began to rant: "If they're going to drive below the speed limit, don't they know to stay in the right lane and let others pass?"
A few days later, I found myself in the passing lane behind another cautious driver doing considerably less than the speed limit. Again, I noticed the driver was behind the wheel of a minivan, and this time I vented aloud that I though this was inconsiderate.
As I was driving a few days later with Gail and Lia, I was again slowed by a driver in the left lane traveling well below the speed limit in, you guessed it, a minivan. This time I voiced my complaint to my family. In the ensuring weeks, this situation repeated itself, and in each time it was a minivan. I began to notice that minivans with certain symbols or stickers were the most egregious offenders. This became a pet peeve of mine, and I voiced this to everyone I know. I thought it was funny, just a clever observation, but I did notice it was happening with greater and greater frequency. Finally, I began to understand that I had decided that "minivan drivers are rude and impede the flow of traffic." As I believed, so was it done unto me, and this became true for me nearly every time I drove.
I sought a way to reframe this observation and thought of NASCAR. When there is a wreck or hazard at a NASCAR race, a pace car comes on the track to slow all the other drivers down. The drivers must fall behind the pace car until the hazard clears ahead, making it safe once again. "What if minivans are the pace cars of the interstate?" I thought. Maybe they are there to slow me down so I don't get a ticket or, worse, get involved in an accident. Whenever I was in the left lane behind a slower-moving minivan, I began to give thanks for them and to refer to them as pace cars. This became so habitual that I found myself forgetting they had another name and began to refer to minivans exclusively as pace cards. "Oops, there's a pace car up ahead," I'd tell my family, "we better slow down."
The interesting thing is that as I changed what I called them and began to appreciate minivans or pace cars for slowing me down, I found it atypical to be stuck behind one in the passing lane. Today, it's exceedingly rare for me to be slowed by a minivan on my commute, and when I do I give thanks for them.
By changing my mind about minivans and celebrating them as pace cars, I had changed what they were for me and they became a gift rather than a challenge. If you will begin to call the people and events in your life by names that spur positive energy in yourself, you will find that they no longer bother you and in fact can be a real boon for you. Change the words you use and watch your life change. For example:
Instead of... Try...
Have to Get to
I demand I would appreciate
You did this I created this
Give it a try. It may feel awkward as you begin, but watch how it changes your attitude about the person or situation. And as you change your language, the situation with change.