Say This (instead of that)

The story goes: Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn was on the mound in a tie game when legendary power hitter Jimmie Foxx was coming to bat. Spahn’s coach called timeout came to the mound and told Spahn “don’t throw it high and outside, he’ll hit it out of the park.”

Spahn threw the next pitch high and outside and Foxx hit a homer.

Spahn said later “All I could think of was ‘high and outside.’ Why would anyone try to motivate someone else with the reverse of the idea?” And my question is “why do we try to motivate ourselves with the reverse of the idea?

Hall of fame slugger, Jimmie Foxx.
Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn.

I first heard that story told by Dr. Denis Waitley. Waitley’s advice? Tell yourself and others “what to do” rather than “what not to do.” Move in the positive direction through words and actions. This idea is likely centuries old, but like bad eating habits, many of us don’t choose the way that’s better for us.

When we’re having dinner with children, we’ll tell them “don’t spill your milk.” In other words, don’t throw a pitch high and outside. Instead, the positive comment would be “keep your milk on the table.”  Sound simple? Remember, change is a process. Be patient with yourself. You’ll find that, over time, there is outrageous power in how you talk and tell stories. Especially about yourself.

Dear People, WHY try using the positive side, the actual idea, to inspire and motivate yourself and others? Your goals are important – make the path to them as clear as possible. The words we use to describe the situation or ourselves are critically important to our personal brand and a higher level of achievement. Whether you’re a leader or you’re talking to yourself or a friend, check your words. Look at some examples and consider the positive side.

  • Instead of saying “I don’t know what to do” say “I know what to do, I’ll work on figuring it out.”
  • Instead of “Don’t forget your keys” say “Remember your keys.”
  • Instead of “I’ll never finish this” say “I can finish this if I get some help.”  Or “I can finish this, I just need to keep at it.”
  • Instead of “Are you sure you want to do that?” say “What will success look like when you’re done?”
  • Instead of “That’s the way I am. I’m wired that way” say “I’ve always done it the same way, it’s time to change and make it better.”
  • Instead of “I’m scared, it’s very risky” say “I’m confident. I’ve done my research.”
  • Instead of “I don’t know” say “I’m looking for an answer and will find it soon.”
  • Instead of “I don’t know what God wants me to do” say “God wants the best for me. I’ll keep going” OR “Come what may, I’ll continue to love God and love people.”
  • Instead of “I’m weary, I hate getting up in the morning” say “it’s time for a career change, I’m working on a plan.”
  • Instead of “I’m always late and everyone expects it” say “I’ve changed my values and I’m working on my discipline, and I like me better.
  • Instead of “Don’t forget…” say “Remember…”

Notice how Steven Curtis Chapman, the most awarded singer ever, uses words and stories that balance the sadness of the past with a clear path to the future:

Remember To Remember

And now I’m looking out at the road that’s waiting

But my eyes can only see so far out ahead of me

As sure as the sun will shine there’ll be more mountains I will climb

And more deep dark shadowlands where desperate faith is all I have

Until I’m home, I’m resting all my hope and trust

In the only One whose name is: God with us

Remember the way He led us up to the top of the highest mountain

Remember the way He carried us through the deepest dark

Remember His promises for every step on the road ahead

Look where we’ve been and where we’re going

And remember to remember ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman
Me with Steven Curtis Chapman – August 2018

Years ago, decades after several bad childhood experiences, I still had a deep dislike of dogs, Wendy began teaching me. She used phrases like “You can…” and “You’ll find…” and “It’s better…” I knew I had the capacity to change my heart and mind so I decided to tell myself that dogs are nice. That I can live peacefully with dogs. I began the process and made it my goal to lose my unhealthy attitude. It was better to be free of the resentment and fear. Instead of the language, I carried for 42 years,  “Dogs are dumb and their owners are dumber” I began greeting dog owners with a smile and a wave, counting myself as a friend of dogs and using words like “loyal, fun, loving, some are anxious.” It took a year. Breakthrough, setback, breakthrough, setback. But I stayed with it and changed the words. And along came a change of heart. Today, I love dogs and enjoy sharing stories with other dog lovers.

Today, Rudy and Rosie are among my best friends. They help me deliberate over life’s mysteries. I had to change my words and stories about dogs to tear down that 42-year-old wall.

How do you want your story to go? How do you want to be perceived? How do you want to feel about yourself? What are your goals? I’m no Earl Nightingale, but he would remind us that all of this is free. It doesn’t cost money to make a positive change in your mind and heart.

Let’s tell ourselves and others what to do instead of what not to do. Instead of “Don’t throw the ball high and outside” say “You can do this. Throw your best stuff. Trust your catcher!”


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