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Stuck In the Nouns?

How your word choices change your decisions.

This is a hammer.”

The man I was helping reorganize a storage area was having difficulty getting into the usual organizing rhythm of identifying an object and then choosing to keep it or pass it along to someone else that could use it.

Usually once someone gets started they develop decision-making momentum, but that wasn’t happening today. He continued to stare at the hammer in his hand. Minutes passed.

I asked him to tell me about the hammer’s history. He remembered the fun family project he needed it for and the great store where bought it. When he finished his reverie, I asked him where he thought the best storage place for it might be. “The tool bench.”

I moved it and handed him the next item.

That,” he said, “was a notebook I used for a while.”

Again, minutes passed.

I finally asked him if he felt it deserved storage space; he said no. After we went for like this for a while, I highlighted his pattern of naming an object but not deciding what should happen to it.

He was stuck in nouns and we needed verbs.

He brightened when he understood the difference and immediately picked up his pace of name and decide, name and decide. He also realized that saying “is” and “was” clued him to his already-settled internal decisions. ‘Is’ meant staying and ‘was’ meant he had little attachment or use for it.

When we name things that we possess, we often forget that many of the items, the papers, and the tasks we deal with are transient. Keeping them indefinitely creates disorganization as well as mental and spacial clutter.

The next time you’re stuck on how to proceed with a project, or what to do with an item, listen to your words.

Are you stuck in the nouns or are you using decisions-making verbs?


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