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These two phrases are making you less successful



“Why aren’t you more successful?” you ask yourself. Is it your personality? Your social skills or work ethic? Your CV?

Probably, yes. But it’s not just that: according to Stanford University professor Bernard Roth, there are two phrases holding you back and changing the way you think about your own success. Making an effort to change them can, he says, help you achieve more.

Roth suggests we all use ‘design thinking’ – a way of problem solving largely based on building creative strategies. As the name suggests, it’s often used during product design – but Roth believes that applying design thinking to personal problems and obstacles can be a way of creatively changing your life. And one way of applying design thinking? Replacing these two pesky phrases.


“I have to”
First things first: stop saying “I have to”. According to Roth, talking about things on your to do list this way makes them “seem like a chore”. Replacing “I have to…” with “I want to” means “people can better understand that even the things they don’t enjoy doing are a result of choices they’ve made”. So: “I have to do my laundry” becomes “I want to do my laundry”. You are now successful.

“But” vs “And”
Replacing “but” with “and” can also be a way to get around mental roadblocks. Roth uses the example of wanting to hit the gym after work – you want to go, but you have an important meeting in the morning you need to prepare for. Using “but” makes it feel like an either/or: “and” makes you look for a way around it: instead of doing a full session at the gym you might do half an hour or go for a quick jog.

Experimenting with language isn’t going to guarantee your success, obviously – you still have to work hard. But it can encourage creative ways round common problems – and the more you practice, Roth says, the stronger your ‘achievement muscle’ will get, and the more likely you are to achieve your goals.

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