There are words that have become overused, lack real meaning, and honestly offer little in defining greater understanding of our purposeful direction. One word that I am guilty of over utilizing is PROGRESS. My students will hear me often say phrases such as, “We are making progress!” “Look at all this progress!” Or simply I will look around pleased after a long day saying smugly, “Progress…”
Yet, I’ve been rightfully challenged…what does Progress really mean? Can progress, perceived as better for one person, prove to be a detriment or stumbling block for someone else? Does progress always result in growth or could progress look like retreat? Is there such a thing as “negative” progress or should progress be assumed as automatically positive? These questions come from a stirring and love I have of the written and spoken word… because words carry power in both pen and speech…therefore we must train ourselves in being more cognizant of what our words are truly trying to convey. I’m guilty of saying things out of habit rather than understanding the intent of my actions and then matching my language to that.
So, when I speak of progress, what am I truly trying to convey? In almost all those cases where I use the word progress, I’m describing visible accomplishment; in addition to, a sense of accomplishment. Yet, it is deeper than that too. I’m recognizing that the work is unfinished, something has been done, but not in its entirety or at the highest levels of quality which can be achieved. It is my hope that as I refer to progress it is speaking about improvement and that it can be a catalyst for future improvement. Based on what I wish to convey, the question becomes is ‘progress’ the best word or phrase?
One of my friends shared with me a phrase that has quickly gained traction in my normal day vernacular, FORWARD MOMENTUM. What I find beautiful about this phrase my friend shared is not only its uniqueness, but also the clarity it provides in purposeful language. Forward momentum leaves nothing in doubt about the direction our progress is heading. Often times when we focus on “progress” we are focusing more on what has already been accomplished…rather than what still remains to be done.
The final piece of that phrase, momentum, offers a stunning revelation about intentional progress. The longer, more forward thinking our vision of progress is, there exists greater opportunity to gather other like-minded individuals and prepare resources that will prevent a stalling out of progress. The more movement forward, the more our ideas, our organizations, or our missions will gain traction and build momentum overtime; therefore accelerating the rate of progress.
Simply, this is much more than swapping out words or phrases; here are distilled, three takeaways we can apply from my journey deeper into the words I use:
1. Words and phrases are a result of our heart and mindset-
Actions are the best indicator of our heart and mindset, but those actions are invariably built by the speak and talk that occurs in our heart and mind. Being intentional about thinking of why we say what we say can help identify areas in our lives that can experience growth or need a shift in perspective.
2. Words can advance or cut down…
Social media and the Internet has served as a double-edged sword on this…we act many times like words mean nothing or cannot possibly be harmful in an impersonal dimension as the Internet. We’ve seen exceptional rise in cyberbullying and other hate-filled commentary filling the underbelly of the World Wide Web. Yet, most people are afraid and unwilling to speak so “freely” to someone in-person. This adds a little solace to me because it speaks to the fact we still have some recognition of the power our language and words carry. We need to be purposeful in our respect of language and words used towards both ourselves and others. Let us intentionally choose words that fill, not deplete…that inspire, not destroy.
3. Inventorying our common phrases and words-
How often do we take stock in considering the words or phrases we use commonly? Doing so is a great practice in resetting our language and helping reframe our mindsets for purposeful action. We may be surprised as we listen to ourselves in the words or phrases we use…did I mean what I said and are my actions aligning to that? Our challenge should not be trying to replace our words per se, but gain an understanding of why we use the words and phrases we do.
Thanks for weaving through this dissection of language with me over this post. I promise, if we each take on this challenge of investigating our language in a deeper way, then Forward Momentum for all of us can been achieved [see how I snuck that in 😉 ].
Have a wonderful start of the weekend and thank you again for being a part of this life journey with me, take care my friends!