By Katie Marshall
The Global Language Monitor estimates that there are 1,025,109.8 words in the English language as of January 1, 2014. Furthermore, a new word is created approximately every 98 minutes. There are an infinite amount of words to choose from at any given moment, just in the English language alone. So while removing two small words from your vocabulary would be neither painful nor impossible, I believe that it could change your life.
There are two words that I hear often and have said many times in my own life. After researching, I have decided that they are no longer necessary to keep in my word arsenal, and are actually damaging to keep around. My challenge to you is to acknowledge these words for what they are, and decide to stop using them immediately.
Should is defined as the simple past tense of shall, which is a verb explaining what you plan to, intend to, or expect to do in the future or something that you are obliged to do. Both should and shall are “auxiliary” verbs. When something is Auxiliary, it is additional or supplementary, even unnecessary. Which is to say that “should” is an unnecessary word. Yet we use it often, don’t we? We are so comfortably saying what we should have done, what you should have done better, what I should do in the future.
I would posit to you that “should” is more than unnecessary. It is hurtful. It is damaging. It is suffocating. To think about what you should do is to either a) demand that you operate a specific way in the future, which you most likely will not, or b) punish yourself for what you did incorrectly in the past, where you cannot revisit and redo your action better. “Should” lives in a realm of unrealistic expectations with romanticizing someone based on their Facebook profile or sitting in a lion’s den and expecting him not to eat you because you didn’t eat him.
To say that you should do something is to say that you have to do something. But you do not have to do anything. Life is a series of choices that you make for yourself. Free yourself from the demands of “should.” Don’t use it anymore. Instead, replace it with their optimistic counterparts, would and could, both of whom inspire possibilities and create options rather than torture you or someone you care about.
If you are currently interning or working in a place of business or you have ever entered a school in your life, then you are familiar with this word. Strive is often use as a vehicle of inspiration and achievement. Strive for happiness. Strive for wealth. Strive for the absolute best. It provokes a feeling of “Going for the gold” and succeeding.
Here is the dirty secret: no part of the definition of “strive” means to achieve anything. To strive is to exert oneself vigorously or to try hard. It is to contend in opposition, battle, or conflict. It is to struggle vigorously in opposition or resistance. It is not, however, to come out on the other side of that pain victorious.
Strive comes from the Old French word estriver, meaning to quarrel or compete, closely linked to strife, meaning strenuous effort or pain in a losing battle. To strive means to reach, but never succeed. Furthermore, it means to fight the entire way to the loss.
To strive for happiness would mean painfully waging war against yourself in the quest for achieving the unachievable. It is a false narrative. Happiness is absolutely achievable, and it requires calm, peace, and acceptance rather than struggle. To strive for success is to try your absolute hardest and never get there – an unfair and unrealistic idea. Success is attainable. Allow yourself to believe that.
What if our vocabularies reflected a deep understanding that we are valuable, free to choose our own destinies, and able to truly achieve what we wish for? What if the words we used supported our efforts rather than punished us?
Words create reality. Every thought came from symbols that turned into words communicated to others. Each word has an origin story – it’s definition. By learning the definitions of words, we can better understand what to say and how to say it, creating optimistic realities for ourselves.
Remember, there are over a million words out there to choose from. Choose wisely.