Garbage Words In – Garbage Thinking Out

“At birth, a baby’s brain contains 100 billion neurons, roughly as many nerve cells as there are stars in the Milky Way” according to an article in Time magazine.

My first reaction? “Wow, we get all that power and hardware with no owner’s manual or instruction booklet.”

Just imagine what we could do if we understood a tenth of what our brains are capable of.

Now, I certainly don’t presume to offer an owner’s manual, but I can offer a few suggestions about what and what not to put into our brains.

The power of the words we use and how they affect what we think has been grossly underestimated.

You’ve probably heard someone say, usually while losing an argument, “Well, that’s just semantics.” I’ve learned that, when it comes to managing our brains, it is all semantics.

This is because the brain is simply a computer that takes in what we give it, whether it is in our best interest or not.

For example, there are words I call garbage words.

A garbage word is a word that, if you allow your brain to use it on a regular basis, will lead to garbage thinking. Garbage thinking leads to garbage feelings and garbage actions, all of which can keep us from living the kind of lives we want to live.

Garbage Words & Phrases

“I have to”

There are very few things in life we have to do. There are very many things in life we choose to do.

Constantly saying “I have to” diminishes our power of choice. Replacing “I have to” with “I choose to” or “I get to” allows us to choose and bypasses the brain’s natural resistance to being forced.


This is one of the most powerful garbage words in common usage. For example, try to pick up your computer mouse. You either pick it up or you don’t. Those are the only two outcomes.

In the words of Yoda in the Star Wars:  “Do or do not. There is no ‘try.”‘


This garbage word convinces our brains not to do something. It’s an excuse for fear and/or laziness. Saying something is hard does not make it any easier to accomplish. Remember, though, that some things are difficult. But difficult things are still doable.

“I can’t”

This one usually means “I won’t” or “I choose not to.” A good replacement is “If I could, what would I do?”

“Losing weight”

I love this one. Consider how many times you or someone you know has said he or she wants to lose weight. Now consider what the brain hears.

What have we conditioned our brains to do when we “lose” something? We find it and get it back. Instead of “losing weight,” we really want to “get rid of” weight.

“Yes, but …”

Our brains automatically disregard everything that comes before the word “but.” That’s because when you hear the word “but,” you think, “Ah, ha. Here comes the truth.”

Instead of saying “but,” use the word “and” (as in, “You did a good job with this, and you could also do that”).

Is what I’m suggesting just a form of positive thinking?

Not really.

While positive thinking can be good, it’s not enough all by itself. If you are walking in the rain during a thunderstorm saying, “It’s not raining, it’s not raining,” you still are going to get wet.

What this is about is using words to operate your brain properly.

Here’s a suggestion: Try replacing – oops! – I mean, replace garbage words with these replacement words, at the rate of one a week.

Eventually, you will eliminate the garbage words from your vocabulary, and get better results.

About The Author

Jeff Herring

Discover 5 simple steps for 6 figure success online with content marketing.


  • Jeff Herring

    Reply Reply

    Which one do you do the most? For me it’s “I have to” – so fun to reframe those into “I get to’s”

    ~ Jeff

    • Jenise Brown

      Reply Reply

      Thanks Jeff.

      I recently had a conversation about “I have to” and was adamant about it being okay to say it as long as I know I am choosing. I completely forgot the power of suggestion in that moment.(probably the result of saying ” I have to remember the power of suggestion”)


  • Liz Aperauch

    Reply Reply

    I totally agree! In fact, I’ll take it further and say we have a physiological change that occurs with negative or positive thoughts. Negative thoughts weaken us, deplete our energy and filter the world around us so we see only the negative. Positives, on the other hand, strengthen us, point our minds in the direction we want to go and filter our world for the positive. So, to lose weight try focusing, oops!, focus instead on making healthy eating and action choices one day at time.

  • So true Jeff – we defeat ourselves in our minds and with our words and then we’re frustrated because we don’t achieve success. I know I’m my own worst enemy! Thanks for the fun article and simple changes we can make to change our mindset.

  • This is a great post, Jeff. I never really thought about it like that. I like the one about losing weight – you don’t want to find it again! Good point.

    I remember hearing about a mom who wouldn’t let her kids use the word “try.” That may be a bit extreme, but she was probably thinking the same way you are.

    Thanks for sharing:-)

  • Great advice. I’m also eliminating “I should have . . .”

  • Kinda weird ’cause I was talking about the same thing… only in a different context today–spirituality that affects everything else in our lives. And it all starts with what comes out of our mouths.

    Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your expertise in such a generous, positive manner!

    Chana K.
    Santa Clarita, CA

  • Melanie Davis

    Reply Reply

    Words to live by, with a healthy dose of words not live by. Thanks for sharing and provoking thought.

  • Jeff,
    This is a great reminder about how “our brain is only as smart as we let it be.” In my practice I use this phrase a lot. I too believe in the power of words, especially, the ones we use to self-talk. I often remind clients that “I will try” is a phrase that can be used to not do something while “I will do my best” is a commitment.

  • I appreciate the power of these phrases and especially the greater power of replacing them.
    In a similar vein, base or foul language also clutters the mind, degrades effective expression, and shows poor demeanor.

  • Love the “I have to” one! Most of us use this one frequently. Perhaps by habit, or by unconscious design, we say it to downplay and reduce the value of the thing we say we “have to” do. For example, “I have to go to work today”, we say to our children. What negative imprints are we unwittingly leaving on our most precious impressionables?

    We use this wholly inadequate and erroneous short cut phrase, when what we really mean is: “I’d rather stay here and play with you” and “I need to go do things to earn money for our family”. The message we’d like to send our children is “I hope one day that, like me, you will have the joy of doing work that you love that helps people and earns you a comfortable living.”

    Thanks for these gentle reminders, Jeff!

  • “I think” is overused. Just say what you want to say with out this qualifier. It diminishes thwe statement that follows. It implies “I’m not sure.”

  • As a brain trainer I say, “Excellent, Jeff!”

  • Antoinette

    Reply Reply

    Thank you for this insight. Changing our mindset is one of the hardest things we can do for the rest of our lives. Thank God there are messengers like you to keep us informed. Keep up the fabulous work, Jeff.

  • Love it, Jeff! I’m glad that I stumbled across this article this morning because it is giving me something to anchor my Monday to. I am very aware of the power of our language and actually teach it myself but sometimes negative things sneak up on you. Your article woke me up! 🙂 Thanks and have a great day!

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