Why Are Words Important? The Power of Words

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Image of girl in bed reading Harry Potter, with the caption "The Hidden Power Of Words & How You Can Use Them To Win The Game Of Life"

We all know words are important, but it’s easy to forget why. 

In this post, we’re going to unveil the hidden power of words. Using insights from ancient history, wisdom gleaned from some of the world’s greatest minds, and just a touch of alchemist magic, I’ll show you:

  • How undeniably important words are
  • What words are capable of
  • How you can use them to win the game we call life

Here’s the big picture. In many ways, words create reality. 

Your reality. My reality. Everyone’s.

Words cause life, words cause death. 

Words – spoken and internal – create your destiny. Whoa. Deep…

But wait, what exactly does that mean?

Before we take the deep dive into how words bend the very fabric of reality and shape each person’s destiny, let’s grab a quick bite of truth from some of the world’s greatest minds.

Words Invoke Emotion & Compel to Action

“Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.” 

—Sigmund Freud

Words Are Important Because They’re How We Think

“By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life.”

—Jean Baptiste Girard

Words Are Important Because They Pass On Wisdom From Age to Age

“Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.”

—Edward Thorndike

Words Are Important Because They’re How We Do Good (or Evil)

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

—Luke 6:45

Wise Words Are Priceless

“The teachings of elegant sayings should be collected when one can. For the supreme gift of words of wisdom, any price will be paid.”

—Siddha Nagarjuna

Words Are Vessels & Creators Of That Which They Contain

“Words are the most powerful thing in the universe… Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind.”

—Charles Capps

Unspoken Words Can Be Just as Impactful As Spoken Words

“As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.”

—Benjamin Franklin

Words Show Us the Contents Of Our Subconscious

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.”

—Kahlil Gibran (from “Sand and Foam”)

Words Can Be Sustenance & Also Poison

“Be careful of the words you say,

Keep them short and sweet.

You never know, from day to day,

Which ones you’ll have to eat.”

—Anonymous

Words Can Inspire Change & Help Make A Person Whole

“For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience.”

—Ingrid Bengis

Words – For Example, A Good Question – Can Be Worth Millions, While Costing Little

“Good words are worth much, and cost little.”

—George Herbert

Your Wyrd = Your Fate: Word Wisdom From The Ancients

We get our English “word” from the Norse “wyrd.” Wyrd meant personal destiny or fate.

Ok. So where’s the connection here? Well, turns out the Norse believed, much like their ancestors and virtually every ancient civilization, that the words in a person’s mind and the words they spoke determined that person’s destiny. 

Which makes good sense if you think about it. Whether you believe words are simply idea-vessels and sound waves or that they’re reality-bending metaphysical mana magnets doesn’t matter. The concept rings true whether you’re a die-hard rationalist, the special kind of spiritual zealot or somewhere in between.

The Wyrd belief system is the lifeblood of this ancient Chinese proverb:

Watch your thoughts because they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny. – Lao Tzu

And speaking of Proverbs, how about this one:

From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

And there you have it. 

Words are important because they shape your destiny and help shape other’s destinies.

Words are important because the moment they roll off your tongue they carry life, or death. Or both is probably most accurate, like the proverb says; giving life to something and death to its opposite simultaneously. (Example: Say you’re angry with someone and speak bitterly about them. In that case, you’re giving life to your bitterness, and death to your inner peace.)

Words are important because they’re vessels of thoughts, ideas, emotions and more.

For those who think the power of words goes deeper than sound waves and the transmission of ideas, this next section is for you.

Words Are Magic? The Invisible Power of Words

Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing, and even today words retain much of their magical power. – Sigmund Freud

I don’t believe in magic by most people’s definition. But most will agree (I think) that words have an invisible power that can’t be measured or explained by science.

There’s nothing physical about the ideas we send out from our minds using the vessels of words, using invisible vibrations emanating from our vocal cords and shaped by our tongues and lips.

So it’s difficult to show much about the power of words scientifically, although some have tried. 

There’s something beyond science that we can’t explain. It falls into the category of the unexplained, the mysterious, abstract unknowable. 

It feels like magic. And maybe it is. But maybe it only feels like magic because of the current limitations of science. 

Maybe someday the miracles, unexplainable events and even the metaphysical power of words will be clearly observed and defined by science. But until then, all we can do is watch the effect words have on our lives, like watching the wind blow through the branches, and make our best educated guess.

To describe the invisible power of words, we have to rely on metaphors and symbolic language. 

Let’s dive right into it. Words have power. That much is clear to all. But words are magic? That’s a tough pill to swallow. But bear with me for a moment and let’s see if we can’t try on a new belief system – see how it fits.

Words Are Invisible Vessels That Carry Ideas, Emotions, Beliefs

Let’s travel back in time to the earliest age in human history – dating back to before 3000 BC. History tells us that in the Indo-European tradition, words were magical in nature, and powerful – to be chosen wisely. Word magic was dangerous. For example, spelling “wolf” in the Proto Indo-European daughter languages, the consonants are arranged in the root in an awkward, strange way.

Come to find this is because the speakers were concerned that if they spoke the name of the wolf, the animal would magically appear. This is the foundation of the concept of “curse words,” the idea that using specific words can conjure forms of evil or danger, including the possibility of cursing people or yourself.

If you ask me, words are the most inexhaustible source of magic that each of us possess. Words can cause irreparable damage, and just as easily fix what was damaged. (I think JK Rowling said something like that in Harry Potter).

Consider writers for a moment, or political leaders or comedians – anyone who wields the power of the spoken or written word. They’re as close as it gets to true magicians. Armed with nothing but their words, they fling their spells across the expanse of the earth in a matter of seconds (thanks internet), spells that change the way people think, feel, and act.

We pay them billions every year to project invisible ideas from their mouths, through the air and into our minds. Ideas that live inside words traveling on the backs of the sound waves.

It’s crazy.

As writers, speakers, and storytellers, this is undoubtedly the greatest asset we hold. Think about it. We can heavily impact people – thousands, millions, gajillions – with a simple string of well-placed words.

Well chosen words don’t just convince, cajole, spark imagination and inspire action – they incite revolutions, overthrow governments, feed millions of starving people, save millions of orphaned children – and that’s just the start of it.

Think of the power of a word. Just one word, all on its lonesome. One magical word can change a person’s entire belief system

How a Single Word “Magically” Altered People’s Beliefs

1974 – the experiment was to show 2 groups of people the same video. They instructed people to do their best to remember what they saw in a video of a car crash.

A few were asked whether they saw the broken headlight, while others were questioned whether they saw a broken headlight. In the first group,  people were 3x more likely to have witnessed it when compared to the second group.

Interestingly enough, there was no broken headlight in the video.

Just one word, a handful of letters, managed to conjure out of nothing, a false memory! They believed they saw something that did not exist. If that’s not some kind of magic, I don’t know what is.

How To Use the Power of Your Your Words to Win at Life

If your words can shape your destiny, then it’s time to put them to work, to build the future you want.

1. Use the Words in Your Mind to Level up – Self-Talk, Affirmations, Etc it Works.

Don’t knock it until you try it. Trust me on this one – self talk, affirmations – they work. In a big way. Here’s one way to do it. Use positive affirmations as much as possible, rarely negative.

Example: Instead of “I can and will hit $100k by the end of the year because I refuse to be lazy and undisciplined…”, say something like, “I can and will hit $100k by the end of the year because I love to work and build my business with uncommon diligence and discipline…”

Attach your “I can/I will” statements to emotions as much as you can, and follow through with a visualization of yourself achieving what you’re want, or getting what you’re trying to get.

To properly use emotions, do your best to tap into each of your emotions – they are all powerful and the full spectrum can be used in a healthy way. Remember the happiest moments of your life along with the most embarrassing moments, or the saddest. And use them with your affirmation. Example (what should probably be a rare focus on the negative side of emotion):

“I can and will hit $100k by the end of the year because I remember how embarrassing it was to eat lunch with an old friend who was 2x more successful than I was – it showed, and we both knew it… It felt humiliating, made me feel sad, like I was the slow kid in class, wasn’t good enough… I remember that moment and how it felt, and I will never feel that way ever again, because I will work harder, work more, work more efficiently and more effectively than my competitors.”

I usually like following up the negative emotions with the positive outcome to balance things out. But different things work for different people – YMMV as they say, your mileage may vary.

To harness the power of words for your benefit, start with the ones you’re using – both in your thoughts and spoken.

Make every word in your mind serve you and your highest cause, let’s say. Once you do that internally, the spoken words should follow suit. (Like the proverb says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”)

When it comes to building self-belief, courage, confidence etc – it’s crucial to engage in positive self-talk, which is an incredibly effective tactic that truly makes a difference. Renowned athletes across the globe leverage positive self-talk to achieve their greatest goals. But you don’t need to be a professional athlete to leverage this strategy. Every person can use it, and should in my opinion.

It’s very common to engage in negative conversations about yourself, and you don’t really notice it or how often you do it. What’s uncommon is to diligently observe the thoughts in your mind, block out the negative, and replace them with all the words that will build you up.

Try to use the next 24 hours to consciously monitor your thoughts and the words (and pictures) you use to talk about yourself. What’s your internal dialogue? Are you actually speaking these things out loud, or is it all internal? What conscious thoughts are you observing, and what “illness” of the subconscious do those symptoms reveal?

Roughly half the battle is identifying the problem. Once you identify the problem, fill your mind with the polar opposite. If you’re displaying symptoms of social anxiety, read books and watch videos on how to overcome it. Practice those tactics you learn in your mind and in real life scenarios hen you can. Use your self talk like a professional athlete to flip the script. If you do this diligently and often enough (taking small, manageable steps in the beginning), your social anxiety will melt away, slowly but surely.

2. Shut Your Inner Critic Up.

Each person is doing their best based on the consciousness they can work with, which includes you. Always remain kind and be empathetic to yourself, just like you are compassionate with others. 

Monitor how often your inner critic comes out. When you do this, you can also initiate the process of stopping this habit. (A habit by the way, that tears you down and keeps you from some of the very best things in life, like peace, confidence, and fulfillment.) 

Sometimes, your inner critic speaks truth that you should pay attention to. And the truth sometimes hurts. But sometimes, it can rage out of control and act in a destructive manner.

Remember, you have a fragile inner child, and in these cases, you should treat your mind like you would a child.

If you (in the form of the unhealthy inner critic) speak harshly to yourself, ask these questions:

  • Would I talk to my child or someone else’s child in this way?
  • Would I ever say the same things to my best friend? My mom? My dad?
  • Is it possible to fix the situation affecting me in this way? 
  • Am I proactively taking the steps I need to take to feel better? (By the way, doing things for others is usually the best way to go about feeling happy, but oftentimes, fixing yourself is just as necessary.)
  • What was the outcome of speaking negatively to myself? Was it good? Bad?

Monitor your mind – how you talk to yourself. Sometimes you’ll find that your inner critic is loud, in charge and destructive. When this happens, focus on shutting it up.

Instead of staying silent as it tears you down, take control of the thoughts and speak the opposite. The Truth will set you free – don’t be afraid to deliver the truth, even if it is initially negative in nature. But deliver the whole truth in a way that flips the script.

Example: If your mind is saying you’re fat and disgusting, cut it off before it hits full stride – interrupt that thought and deliver the whole truth: First, shut your mouth. Second – Sure, I have a little extra chub on me, but guess what? I can watch what I eat and that extra fat will melt away over a few weeks. You know what – I’ll do exactly that. Then guess what? I’ll be fit, healthy, attractive. And by the way, I already am. But I’ll be more fit, and more attractive. I can do that, and I will. Suck it inner critic.

With negative self-talk, your self-esteem is affected along with your perspective on life, energy levels, relationships, and health.

3. Specifically – Put an End to Self-Deprecation.

If you want to take words extra seriously (I definitely do), never joke about your body, accomplishments, or other aspects of your life, in a way that tears yourself down. Words are very powerful, so use them wisely. 

4. Refrain From Gossiping.

This is pretty much the same as the point above, but for others. Your words can hurt others, and that can turn and bite you when you least expect it.

5. Cut Unproductive Words From The Conversation – Gratitude’s The Attitude

Saying “that meal was terrible” may be true, but what good does it produce? What if you say something like “eh, I’ve had better, but you know what – it was much better than nothing. In a world in which nearly 700 million people go hungry, guess what. I’ll take that meal and be happy about it. ”

That way, you communicate what you want to, but flip what could’ve been pessimism into gratitude. Gratitude is infinitely more productive than pessimism.

Using your words to be grateful each day (I try to every morning and right before I go to bed) makes a massive difference in levels of happiness. I know this from personal experience, and reading about other peoples’ experiences.

6. Leverage Your Words’ Positive Power.

Another tactic to try out – don’t just say the concert was “pretty good” if you really enjoyed it. Boost the positive (and psychologically beneficial) “energy” with words like “love, amazing, awesome, or fantastic.”

Life’s too short to NOT boost that dopamine, serotonin and other happy chemicals whenever you get the chance. While it feels better to leverage words like this, it also helps create a stronger state of mind. 

7. Eliminate Negative People Along With Your Inner Critic.

In case your life is filled with pessimistic, negative people, it is time to get better friends or decrease the time you spend with them. Negative words demonstrate adverse effects and can encompass everything around them. Try to avoid them as much as you can. 

8. Enjoy the Magic of Positive, Uplifting Words.

In your house, place affirmations on sticky notes, which use positive words to describe you, your family, as well as your professional life. Don clothes with positive wordings, as wearing positive phrases throughout the day will attract positivity. By doing all this, you are utilizing the power of repetition optimally to your advantage. You can alter your world, and the easiest way to do this is by altering the energy that is permitted into your life.

9. Put Your Words To Work – Transmute Words Into Gold

Life is filled with transferring one form of energy into another. Money is a form of energy. Making money is no different from, say, making muscles or physical health. You have to “transmute” the energy stored in your body (which was transmuted from the eggs and bacon you ate this morning), into hitting those weights, or running that 5k.

In that process, you’re basically spending physical energy (potential and then kinetic energy) on new muscles, cardiovascular strength, mental endurance, etc. And you do the same with money.

Like an alchemist of old, you can “transmute” your words into gold. Now, we’re obviously not talking about magical spells or the elixir of life or the philosopher’s stone. Not literally anyway. No, we’re talking about spending mental energy to create words, which can then be exchanged for money.

It’s the Alchemist magic of Transmutation. In this case, transmuting words into gold – here’s a few examples:

  • Write fiction and sell it. 
  • Write nonfiction and sell it. 
  • Use words that compel the search engine bots, charm the algorithm, and simultaneously speak to the hearts of humans, AKA SEO and content marketing.
  • Use words to create text ads that convert traffic into revenue, AKA PPC.

10. Write out Those Goals!

Your goals written out, are your goals on metaphysical steroids. 

Use Your Words to Earn 10x More (Strategy Based on Harvard Study)

Your goals written out, are your goals on metaphysical steroids. Here’s one you may have heard of, and maybe a lot – but even if that’s the case, it’s still a brilliant reminder:

Harvard did a 10-year experiment with their students. They asked a class of MBA students: “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”

These were the initial results of the survey:

  • 84% had no goals whatsoever
  • 3% had goals and plans written down
  • 13% had goals, but they were unwritten

10 years later, they followed up with each student, and this was the outcome:

  • The 3% of the students who wrote their goals had a higher net worth than the other 97% combined
  • The 13% with goals (unwritten) earned 2x as much as the 84% with no goals.
  • The 3% with written goals/plans for their future earned 10x the rest of the class – put together.

So here’s my question. Why not you? There’s no reason you can’t apply the same secret power of words and out-earn everyone by 10x, by writing down your goals.

And as my digital mentor Jim Rohn says, write them out and read them every day in the morning (I think he might say in the evening too, but I just do the morning and it’s been working great – one step at a time!).

11. Take Responsibility for Your Words

Understand that your words are extremely powerful in a positive and negative way. Whatever is expressed verbally can impact and alter the lives of your loved ones. You can choose to use words that positively affect others. Remember that words cannot be erased after they are said. 

12. Aim With Your Words

In the Al Anbar province of Iraq, one of my favorite young Marines committed the cardinal sin of aiming his weapon incorrectly. He was accidentally aiming toward another platoon of Marines on the other side of the range. And his weapon? A fully automatic grenade launcher – the Mk-19. That beautiful black, belt-fed, blowback-operated, air-cooled, crew-served, fully-automatic weapon eagerly fired the second he casually leaned back onto the trigger.

A single grenade can shred through and kill a group of people with horrifying ease. In this case, the 5-meter kill radius had, thankfully, no one in it.

But you can see the problem with poor aim. And it’s a perfect example why it’s so important to keep your aim true at all times.

To achieve your goals, aim at them. Not just every month. Every day. Every hour. Every moment. Because each of those moments is a brick in the foundation of your destiny. And those moments are decided by your words – internal and spoken – which produce your actions.

The word “Sin” means “to miss the mark.” Aiming properly with your words – internal and external – is everything. This is why speaking the truth and only the truth is a key to success. And why “live your truth” is a great life motto, cliché or not.

13. Leverage Your Words to Leverage Your Environment

They say the lion is the king of the jungle. It’s not. It’s the king of the savanna, sure. But throw it into the middle of a watering hole teeming with crocodiles and you’ll see a different animal – a cautious and probably terrified cat that knows it just nosedived into the bottom of the food chain.

Or give it a hang glider and chuck it off a cliff to soar amongst the eagles. How long do you think it’ll rule the sky?

This is my point. Environment dictates kingship. For the Lion, he can only be king in his own domain, the savanna (and wherever else lions reign supreme). But the good news is this. For humans? Well, we have the ability to choose our environment, and with relative ease.

That means, we all have the ability to create Blue Oceans. In the air, there are no apex predators higher on the food chain than hawks and eagles. They have a Blue Ocean. In the world of the human, we can select an environment that fits our skills, or we can create a new one entirely.

This is done by using your thoughts and your words to formulate a strategy, and take action on it.

14. A Final Word: Use Your Words to Complete Your Hero’s Journey

Competence hierarchies exist whether we like it or not, and the higher you are in those hierarchies (there are many), the more likely you are to be confident, secure, and fulfilled.

Take action – create a hierarchy you can be at the top of, or join one you know you can climb to the top of. It’ll help you improve your leadership (and we are all leaders in some way shape or form). It’ll boost your belief system; your confidence, assertiveness, inner strength and peace.

But for the most important things in life that you want to grow in – whether it’s your career, skills, passions etc – make sure you plant yourself at the bottom of those hierarchies too, so you can grow. Because if you find yourself sitting on top all the time, as a big fish in a little pond, you’ll never get the chance to look up, move forward and improve. The top of the hierarchy can become a place of stagnation, a plateau.

Create your own Hero’s Journey with your words. Take a journey outside – beyond the grasp of society, far from any tribe or authority. Seek out your greatest foe – like King Arthur’s knights in search of the holy grail, enter that part of the forest which looks darkest to you.

In other words, aim at the best thing you can imagine – the highest state of being/state of mind – for yourself, and for others. Face the most intimidating goal you can bring yourself to face, because behind that dragon is the gold.

When you win and lay claim to that gold, return to your village to share with those who are in need. And don’t forget to teach them the truth – you won with the power of your words in action.

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