Three Innocent Words Reveal Misdirected Power

problemDo you know three little words that when uttered out loud serve as screeching brakes on dreams come true, powerfully reinforcing a reality you don’t want?

Three innocent words that – when you notice you’re using them – can reveal a thought obstacle that prevents forward movement and stymies positive change?

We hear this combination of words regularly, from ourselves and those around us:
“The Problem Is … “

Sound familiar?  I run across them a lot as a coach.

  • “Sure I could get a job that I like better.  The problem is … “
  • “Yeah, I know I should talk to my girlfriend about how differently I see our future.  The problem with that is …”
  • “The doctor wants me to exercise more.  The problem for me is … “

And every time we speak this magical combination of words, we argue for our limitations and cut ourselves off from positive possibilities.  Talk about misdirection of our creative power!

But these words are also a gift, in that they show us where we’re attached to energy and thought patterns that don’t serve us.  They can reveal where we’re grappling for a stronghold in the old, and not allowing in new desires we’ve launched.

These words can show where you’re believing in limits.  They point the way to freedom to experience more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

When these words cross my lips, it’s either as an excuse for something I’m feeling pressure to do:  “Sure, sweetie, I’d love to go grocery shopping, but the problem is I’m expecting a call.”

… or as an excuse for something that feels out of reach: “It would be nice to expand my material and availability to my audience, but the problem is that’s more work than I’m up for.” 

Recognizing the “problem” vibe is my chance to get clean and straight with my energy, and to withdraw power from problems.  It also shows me where I’ve invested belief in obstacles and impossibilities.  That awareness is what allows me to channel creative power toward solutions, possibilities and good times!

The next time you hear yourself saying “the problem is .. ”  I invite you to take notice, smile about it, and set yourself free by either stepping over the obstacles or redirecting toward a more appealing path.

You’re a powerful creator who can have, be and do whatever you choose.  Have fun with it!  🙂

  • January 23, 2009
  • Steve Shaw says:

    Thanks, this is a great article. I am already subscribed to your rss, do post more on body building! 😀

  • Kimberly says:

    It occurred to me after reading this post that I’ve frequently affirmed “I’d rather be alone, than in the wrong relationship.” Suddenly I know why I’ve spent so much time ALONE instead of in a healthy, happy relationship. Because I wasn’t stating to the Universe what I REALLY want. Wow!
    Dearest Universe, I’m ready to be in a healthy, happy, adventurous, long-lasting relationship with the man of my dreams! Thank you!

  • Knowing Vancouver (the rainiest city in Canada acc to many) I wouldn’t be surprised if I stuck my head out the window and saw boatloads of clients flow into the parking lot, up the stairs and in my home office … just 2 seconds before we all float right out the window cos it’s LITERULLEE raining clients, cats and dogs!
    Oh my I’m still laughing and literally have tears running down my legs! HAHA

  • Peregrine John says:

    Tia, now you’re cracking me up! Not too literally, though, as that’d make an awful mess in my office. The cleaning crew just hates that.
    Pondering how that odd, inverted use of “literally” (pronounced “lit-trull-lee”, for those of you who want advanced notice of when the word isn’t going to be used literally, itself) came to be, I arrived at the notion of it being misused to mean, “the following metaphor works perfectly.” Just a guess, really.
    ‘Course, if your clients arrive by rowboat on the river that flows by your back yard, perhaps they literally float into your life after all…

  • “So what’s it going to be?” … goose bumps when I read that, Sherry! What a beautiful segue into the good stuff. 🙂
    Glad you found inspiration here. Thanks for sharing it!
    I was just about to share a quote from Picasso (from Alan Cohen’s newsletter) when I realized it contained these three little words:
    “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
    Oh my. How we saddle ourselves sometimes!!

  • Sherry says:

    Thanks Jeannette, I’m in a segway from my path that I’m referring to as a gestation period. As I am about 6 weeks away from the end of this pause I’m trying to regenerate my vibe and the vibes I’ve been getting from those in my life during this time have been “a challenge”. This is my first time not to have a answer to “what do I want” and the vibeage to match.
    Having personally checked out in a lot of ways over the last few months this blog post was the first thing that has stirred me, and reminded me to acknowledge and start with the language I’ve got and let the momentum come from there.
    I can comfortably say to myself right now that, Yes, this is my reality, and it is so NOT working for me, so what’s it going to be?
    Leaving it open ended to let the good vibes flow…
    Namaste to all.

  • John I just realised i use literally like the British!! Not surprising I suppose since they anglicised India in some ways. I only noticed it yesterday when I was writing “my clients literally float into my life” and life is literally like a box of chocolates etc. OMG how funny! I literally cracked up laughing!! There I go again… bahahha

  • Good point, Sherry. It’s important that we find a way to detach from the reality in order to create (or allow) something new.
    I might use the recognition/awareness of the words “the problem is” or “the challenge is” as a trigger to ask myself the question: “What do I want?” Knowing that that redirection will likely succeed in shifting the vibe.
    If that question doesn’t work, try on something else. In fact, you can INTEND that the perfect habit is revealed to you! (That’ll make it that much easier for you to discover it.)
    Thanks for reading, Sherry. Great question!

  • Sherry says:

    This post and the comments are very poignant and relevant to my life right now, Thank you.
    So after reading I checked in with my inner dialogue and would agree that I have signed up for “the problem is”, so I changed it to “the challenge is” but what keeps coming up for me is, “the reality is”.
    Using challenge didn’t spark a sense of opening up to solutions, since the word “reality” seemed to overrun my wanting to shift.
    My interpretation of both “the problem is” & “the reality is…”, tells me that this is the present and does not move me forward, rather makes me feel heavy, sad and stuck.
    I understand and appreciate that seeking the right semantics to affirm positive is a powerful solution to my present…right now the reality is…I can’t feel the the vibe when I switch the language…Any other suggestions of verbage?

  • Pernille, it sounds like the vibe for the “challenge” word serves you well. If it automatically points you in the direction of solutions, full steam ahead, girlfriend!
    Thanks for reading and especially for commenting. You are a light for everyone around you!

  • Gosh, reading this post was really an “aha” for me.
    I became aware of the problem of using the word problem (ha ha) several years ago and has been using the word challenge in stead ever since.
    And when I think about it the word challenge has felt good – light and easy and open to doing something about it. And it is as if the word challenge immediately triggers my mind to start looking for an answer/action/ solution/….
    It has never crossed my mind that the phrase “the challenge is…” is revealing an obstacle/brake – so thanks a lot, Jeannette, for showing this – I’m looking forward to observe this in myself in the future 🙂

  • Yep, Leslie’s point is a good one for me to keep in mind as well.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Thauna! It’s nice to have your excellent company in this work together! 🙂

  • Thauna says:

    Great post (as always) and great responses. I love this and I’m going to start watching for this phrase so I can change it up and clear out that negative vibe. I love what Leslie said about being careful how you commserate with someone…keep it positive, no pity.
    The opportunity is…that I get to create a new story!

  • Very true, Tom. Another good reason for us to be deliberate about who we hang out with!

  • tom says:

    We are our own worse enemy, because we talk ourselves out of doing things. This is also influenced by society, people are us and even people who are closest to us.

  • Smart friend, huh?!
    You know, I think about that, every time I say “I’m so sorry for you.” I don’t say it a whole lot, but when I do, I realize it’s because I want them to feel that I care and I understand, and I’m POSITIVE there’s a better way to express that than using “sorry” or “poor dear.”
    Brilliant observation on your part, Leslie – with the help of an astute friend, of course!
    I think I’ll follow your lead on going with silence if I can’t find the words that elevate the vibe. Thanks for that!

  • Leslie Richter says:

    My friend had a bunch misfortunes come here way and as I listened I said oh you poor dear. Boy did she give me heck. She certainly didn’t want that energy. I never utter those disempowering words again.
    If I can’t come up with a happier vibe when someone is sharing their misery I just don’t say anthing. Of course that usually makes then happy because a)it looks like I am agreeing with them…sigh, or b) they just appreciate a witness.
    Why speak if you can’t empower, celebrate, laugh or raise the vibe.

  • John, you and Tia and Mary are making me wish I had more international cultural & language influences! lol
    Course, we probably have our own, too, and just don’t see them like someone who hasn’t been immersed in it their whole lives do, huh?
    Nice to hear from you again, my friend!

  • Peregrine John says:

    trying to come up with an example
    Many British people use the word “literally” for emphasis even when it makes no sense. I’ve heard people use the word immediately before using a metaphor, which is confusing as all get out. Not sure that qualifies for what you’re looking for, but as misplaced meanings go, it’s a gem!

  • Very true, Kim, it’s the vibe behind the words that matters most.
    And we all know it when they don’t match up!
    PS – your Apollo reference made me laugh out loud. Thanks for the smile tonight! lol
    PPS – I am entranced by your Spell of Rosette! I SO understand why you told me I would LOVE it!! That’s the understatement of the year! 🙂

  • Kim Falconer says:

    Jeannette, wonderful post. 🙂 Thank you!
    When I was little I went to a summer camp were there were no problems, only situations and opportunities. !!! It took a while to get into the habit of thinking this way. My parents thought it was odd.
    I wonder if it would have had the same impact though, when Apollo 13 radioed in saying Huston, we have an opportunity! 🙂
    The references to language and habitualness is thought provoking. Take the word fine. Have you ever asked a friend if you can borrow something and they say fine but really you can hear they meandon’t touch my stuff? Or you say to your partner you are going out and will miss his parent’s visit and he says fine in a way that you know he means <I want you to stay?
    Listening to both the words the vibes that go with them is the key here.
    Thanks again for this post!
    🙂 Kim

  • Gini Diane Collinson, LCSW says:

    I was fascinated by MaryK’s post. I lived in Belgium for a year, but I didn’t notice it then. If you read this, Mary K., please give us the the phrase as it’s said in French.
    I find the concept of a national consciousness very intriguing; I noticed that Tia Sparkles referenced that is prevalent in Indian culture too.
    I love where all this is going…
    Since words are containers of power, it’s time for me to retire that phrase.
    gini diane

  • Iyabo Asani says:

    The problem is that it is a problem to say the problem is.
    Can you imagine the big shift for me as a lawyer to no longer look for problems just so I can be relevant to another person professionally?
    I love this post and I will check in on those words. Great reminder.

  • Nice reminder, Gini: “words are containers of power.”
    If THAT doesn’t inspire us to be more conscious with our languaging, what will?! lol Hey, did I just do it again? Asking a question that takes us in a direction we don’t want to go?
    Lots of .. opportunity .. here in this .. situation! hee hee
    And Ms Nikki, how lovely that you’ve got a boyfriend who raises the awareness. Sometimes those guys earn their keep, huh? 😉
    Thanks for posting you two! I appreciate how you’re expanding this concept!

  • You’re a hoot, Iyabo!!
    Yes, big shift indeed. Congrats on making it. 😉
    I LOVE that you’re adding to this conversation! Thanks for dropping in!
    (Can’t wait for the commentluv plugin to get added by my VA so all you fab bloggers get links to your work with your comments!)

  • MsNikki says:

    Again! Another oh so timely post! My boyfriend recently pointed this out to me! I am so comfortable looking for problems that don’t even exist instead of focusing on the current situation and the wonderful possibilities. He even brought up wonderful scenarios that I couldn’t even imagine!!
    Hmmm….that’s my problem, I guess!!
    Seriously,it is almost a default response of mine and I wasn’t even aware of the magnitude of it!!

  • Oooh, nice transition with the words, Tia!
    Wouldn’t that be a fun job – vibing out various words, and having like an LOA thesaurus type scale – so we could easily swap out words when we’re not able to find our way to it in the red hot moment? lol
    For some of us it would be just like learning a new language, huh? ha!
    Always a pleasure to hear your opinion, Tia! Thanks for bringing the fun & juicy energy to this blog. 🙂

  • Vicki Flaugher says:

    These three words are very powerful. Even if you change problem to challenge or issue, you’re still putting up a block for receiving. Softer terms don’t make for any softer of a block.
    Thanks for reminding me to always stay open to allow my dreams to manifest rather than put the brakes on them! I love how you suggest that we use our language as guide to help us rather than to view them as a mistake.
    Vicki Flaugher, the original SmartWoman
    @smartwoman on twitter

  • Oh and Mary, I relate to your story. It`s the same in India – people say the problem is even when there is no inkling of a real problem. For eg: going to the movies and the show starts at 7pm. At 6:30 pm someone may say – the problem is, if we don`t leave now we might not get parking. Or the tickets might be sold!
    Haha it makes me laugh now to think grew up with those words and just how discouraging they are. Yikes!

  • OH my, SO true!! In fact this was me growing up. And my dad! Till about 2 years ago when I stopped using word and substituted it with `challenge`.
    When something is a challenge, the mind immediately goes to a solution for me and feels more powerful than facing a `problem`which just seems so tiring!
    I bet it changes our body`s chemical balance by just thinking of the word problem….
    Then I realised even saying `the challenge is`brings up an image of having to overcome something which makes it an effort.
    So now I say `the situation is`! It feels much better to say that cos then my emotions don`t get alerted to the difficulty or attachment to the problem.
    When my dad says the problem is … I immediately stop him and ask, really, a problem is it? He just starts laughing and says ok ok it`s not a problem BUT (haha there`s another post 😉 it is a problem situation.
    And then I say why BUT and he`ll just give up and say OK, the situation is … and asks me goodnaturedly when I grew up and learned so much.
    Teehee. I`m training my family. LOVE IT!

  • Spoken like a true Smart Woman!! So nice to hear from you, Vicki!
    I love how you echoed the ability to release the resistance of the words and let them lead us in a more rewarding direction. That perspective is there in everything, isn’t it?

  • Very true, Alain – I smile every time I hear them because it makes the work so obvious and easy.
    Thanks for joining the conversation! 🙂

  • As a coach, these are powerful indicators to know where we can work to propel our clients forward.

  • Wow, Mary, I wonder if that says something about the prevailing mindset, or if they use the phrase without feeling the vibe of it?
    Boy, I just racked my brain trying to come up with an example myself, but I couldn’t think of even a common phrase that didn’t hold at least a shred of the vibe of the words themselves.
    At any rate, fascinating that that phrase found its way in you through the language so strongly that after a French dream you find yourself speaking the words in English the next day! Kudos to you for the awareness and conscious intention to redirect.
    Thanks for sharing with us, Mary! Much appreciated!

  • MaryK says:

    Hi Jeannette,
    I LOVE this post! Mainly because a few years back I realized how much I said this myself and discovered it was causing me “problems” in creating what I want.
    I lived in Paris for two years following college working as a translator and became fluent in French. And in French, they use the phrase “the problem is” A TON. They use it a lot to start sentences, even when in English it wouldn’t necessarily be required or even fit with the rest of the sentence.
    Anyway, when I returned to the States and started speaking English full-time again I noticed that this little phrase had crept into my English! I was saying it all the time, even when it wasn’t really needed. It’s just a habit I picked up from speaking French, but when I started using it so often in English (when I hadn’t necessarily been using it before) I realized it could be getting in the way of my manifestations and tried to stop saying it.
    For the most part I’ve stopped using this phrase, but every once in awhile I’ll have a dream in French and the next thing you know I start saying “the problem is” in English!! It’s interesting how the mind works that way…
    p.s. I’m not intending any ill feelings towards the French language at all with this post! I absolutely love the French language and always will. 🙂

  • >