What do you want to be when you grow up? Have you ever asked that question amongst your friends when you were kids? What answer did you give? When I was really young, under five I think, I wanted to be a cowboy. Then when I got a little older, I wanted to be a baseball player. I only made it until I was cut from the junior high school baseball team. Then in high school, I wanted to be a nuclear physicist.
How about you, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did it change?
Have you ever heard that song, “don’t worry, be happy?” Catchy tune, isn’t it? Wouldn’t that be easy if you could always be happy?
How about when there was that girl or guy you wanted to talk to, but you felt a little shy or uncertain. Did you ask your friends for advice? What did they say?
“Be confident!” orÂ “be relaxed!”
How about the advice that all parents tell their kids when they ask how to meet a special someone?
“Just be yourself!” Do you think that is good advice?
How about making friends in general? Have you ever heard the seemingly sound advice, “if you want to make a friend, be a friend?”
These all sound like good, honest truisms that might appear to help us to focus on what we want, don’t they?Â
There is something, though, that I’d like to call your attention to. It is a simple shift in thinking that can help you to free your mind from unnecessarily conflict, giving you more energy to focus on what you want to achieve in life.
Be. Is. Are. Am. These are the so called “be” verbs of the English language. Linguistically, they are the same as an equals sign. So when you say “1 + 1 = 2”, you can either say “one plus one equals two,” or just as truthfully, you can say “one and one is two.”Â Sounds harmless, right? But when you look under the surface just a little bit, you can see it is not as simple as it appears.
For example, lets take the simple statement “I am happy.” Sound good? Sound like something that you’d like to say, and believe? When you think of it as a mathematical equation, which is how the brain interprets it, it becomes a little bit more complicated. What else do you equate with “happy?” What do you think when you complete sentence “happiness is…”.Â Whatever you come up with to complete that sentence, you are also saying that about yourself, in your mind, whenever you say “I am happy.” What if you equate some things with being happy that doesn’t really mesh well with what you personally want to feel like? For example, what if you are an athlete, and you think one day that ‘happiness is victory.’ Which means in order to be happy, somebody else has to lose. So when you say
“I am happy”
you are saying, in a sense, that
“I am making people lose.”
It might not seem like it, but whenever you use one of the “be” verbs, your mind puts all the things on the one side of the “be” equation into the category of “same”Â in your brain, equating all of it to the other side of the ‘be’ verb.
What if one of your goals in life is to “be happy?”Â When you tell yourself “I want to be happy,” do you really mean it? Do you want to be happy when you come across an accident victim needing help? Do you want to be happy when you break your arm?
If this sounds strange and nonsensical, it is only because most people don’t take a critical view of the words that we use on a daily basis. Our language is largely unconscious, and sometimes we speak in a manner that isn’t totally supportive of ourselves.
The brain acts like a powerful computer, much more powerful that we’ll probably ever understand. And it also operates extremely fast.Â As a consequence, it takesÂ huge amountsÂ of incoming data, thoughts, images, sounds, textile feelings, andÂ sorts them into categories as quickly as possible. WhenÂ we use ‘be’ verbs,Â weÂ basically tell our brain which categories toÂ use.
How do we get around this simple yet powerful concept? Stop using the ‘be’ verbs as much as possible. When you think about it, all that you see, trees, people, buildings, are changing processes. Nothing is static.Â All is undergoing flux, all the time. So nothing, in reality, ever “is.” Nothing is ever frozen in time.Â People grow,Â people change, thoughts change endlessly, one into the next.
Instead ofÂ saying “I am happy,” try saying “I feel happy.” Instead of making it your life purpose to “be happy,” try making it your life purpose to “feel happy when appropriate.”Â Â Instead of saying “Be yourself,” try saying “behave in a manner thatÂ honestly representsÂ both your desires and what you can offer others.”
Instead of saying “I’m so stupid,” when you make a mistake, simply say “IÂ made aÂ mistake.” Take whatever statement you want to make, and exchange the ‘be’ verb for a more appropriateÂ action verb.
If thisÂ sounds like a trivial semantic argument,Â try this for a few days, andÂ you’ll really notice a change. When you start to understandÂ yourselfÂ as anÂ ever changing, never static process, life can become much more satisfying. Always growing, always changing, always improving.