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“Our intention creates our reality.” ~Wayne Dyer
What if you only had one thing you needed to accomplish today? One over-arching objective that encapsulates the multiple items on your to-do list or the meetings on your calendar? One word that you set in the morning and carry throughout the day to stay in focus and on purpose?
Actors know that in order to convey a story well, they have to play an action versus an emotion. There has to be a verb involved in order to act. This might include something like provoke, seduce, destroy, or flatter, versus trying to portray an adjective such as humble, confident, or sad, which read neither truthful nor clear on stage or film.
Simple action words, kept at the forefront of thought, can be powerful allies in keeping our thoughts, intentions, and actions clear as we move throughout the day.
If you have a morning meditation, study, or stillness practice, the action word can come out of inspiration gained there and can be targeted to what the need of the day is calling for. Words might include focus, bless, or harmonize to name a few.
What matters is that the word sits as an overlay atop the to-dos and the schedule for the day so that it infuses all of those seemingly disparate actions with a unified purpose, intent, and energy.
If you hold a verb like harmonize at the top of your mind as you go about the activities of your day, you’ll see how the action of that verb seeps through in your tone, what you say, and how you treat people.
I have seen action words come in handy when working with public speakers and executives giving presentations because they help to focus the energy, the intention, and the message.
Most people don’t get up in front of others just to hear themselves speak. Most have an objective that is often obscured by data or too many slides. Identifying an action word at the outset of content creation, and keeping it top of mind as the story develops, is a simple and powerful way to keep a talk on track and achieve the objective the talk wants to achieve.
Examples might include: motivate them to make their number, inspire them to serve in their community, or educate them on the hazards of too much sitting.
I remember a time pre-Covid, where holding one word simply helped me to breathe through a perfect storm week of overwhelm and over-scheduling.
I was in the middle of a tight-turnaround project with a grueling Fortune 10 client that demanded late nights. I was in tech week for a play opening in Silicon Valley. I was preparing a talk for an L.A. entertainment company, which required air travel, and I was trying to be present for a much-needed (and non-refundable) workshop getaway with my husband.
While all of these commitments were of my choosing and were essentially positive when viewed separately, they were crashing and colliding in my mind. I couldn’t find the hours or the space that each seemed to need.
My habitual physical reaction to such overwhelm is to lie awake in bed consecutive nights ruminating, catastrophizing, and fixing. And we all know that fixing anything in the middle of the night or during a day following a night of no sleep is about as effective as pouring hot water into a chocolate teapot.
The word I leaned on? Surrender. I had to surrender the outcomes I wanted, or believed I needed, in order to relax and breathe.
A wise mentor once used a golfing analogy to say that all we can do is execute the perfect swing and let the ball go where it will. By surrendering, I was allowing the balls to go where they would. I would show up and do the best I could do with each piece one by one as the demands arose and release the outcomes. The word surrender is also a powerful antidote to cortisol surges of stress. And it’s a great word to hold before bed if sleep stress is an issue.
Holding an action word in mind can be applied to problems and demands as they crop up during the day. Try applying a word like release to traffic jams, cranky customers, or impatient bosses. Calling up the word to the forefront of thought can re-focus how you want to show up in the world. Or the moment. Scribble it on a post-it note and stick it to your monitor, workspace, or dashboard where you can prominently see it to be reminded throughout the day.
In our distracted, hyper-connected world, sometimes the simplicity of one little word can help to cut through the mental static.
Simple in form, powerful in practice. Choose a word and lean on it for a full month. Or pick three verbs that define your year. Or change your mind at lunchtime and come up with a new verb for the second half of your day. The only rules are to choose something, keep it alive in your thinking, and ensure it is a verb so that it’s actionable.
My favorite three verbs right now? Connect. Release. Love.
What are yours?
About Kristin Brownstone
Kristin is a certified life coach and speaking coach, journalist and stage actor who works with professionals looking to find their voice, their story, and their path. For 25 years she has worked in corporate/executive communications in executive coaching, narrative development, and onstage/video storytelling. She has published in Fast Company, Thrive Global, Medium, Theatre Bay Area. You can follow her other writing here and can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.