It’s one of the most popular words today. It has a range of implications and valid contexts for usage.
Indeed, every decade has a pattern of events, issues, and revolutions. We tend to use certain words to indicate the challenges and emotional climate we’re living under.
When overused, these words can lose their intent.
They become so entrenched in our lingo that we can’t help but sputter them frequently – even when we don’t ‘mean’ them.
While you might take another jab at sounding ‘hip,’ you need a careful and nuanced approach to do justice to these words.
Here are the undertones of 15 abused phrases along with possible substitutes. The replacements I suggest will have traces of my beliefs and philosophies (that’s why you’re here reading an article written by me, aye?)
I am going to hang around in the comments, looking out for your suggestions.
Here we go.
Social media and newspapers have increasingly gotten us obsessed with fame, material wealth, and authority.
That’s what most people understand as ‘success.’ Going by that – success has a definite shape and same characteristics for all of us.
Until a couple of years ago, I sniffed off ambitionless creatures.
I felt that if you’re not aiming for the stars, then you’re probably not worthwhile to exist. So, I passively consumed inspirational stories, articles, and movies (how ironic?)
Why do smart people fall into such loop of passive reading?
The adrenaline rush.
It can alone feed ambitious people and make them believe that seeking peace, stability, and quiet life is for pussies.
That is until you realize that –
- Worldly success is not for every individual (it’s subjective),
- Success doesn’t share a linear relationship with hard work (that’s not a romantic idea, but it’s closer to the reality).
Why do you need to stop throwing around the word ‘successful’ or the over-used derivatives of the word?
Because there are many factors beyond your control in determining the result.
You can modify the usage with a more nuanced word –
Isn’t that practically what you’re ‘doing’?
When you start working on a new project, you’re trying out.
What if you want to acknowledge the positive result of the experiment?
In such cases, you might make do with –
And what about the adjective usage: ‘successful?’
Maybe lady luck shined upon the person, and he/she doesn’t deserve all the credit.
By default, maybe, we don’t need to hold people with material wealth to a higher standard?
In such cases, go with:
In most cases, it will do justice to appreciate the effort of the person on the other side.
To indicate accumulated wealth, you can use affluence.
Subtly, you shifted a loose narrative from taking ‘external factors’ like luck to a specific place supporting the person’s effort.
Another option is mentioning the specifics of the ‘successful’ person. For a wealthy person, mention that he/she’s a billionaire and what he/she did to get there.
By pointing out to their accomplishments, you convey relevant information about the person and let your audience decide if the person is ‘successful’ in their world-view.
Conversations around passion today tend to have an undercurrent of spiritualism. a particular
But the practitioners of the mantra tend not to bother mixing practicality with the advice.
Passion isn’t some rare blonde penguin found only in the white deserts of Antarctica.
It’s more like brown rats – it’s present almost everywhere humans live (and like rats, it needs constant gnawing).
That’s why it kills my ears when people tell me ‘too few people get to follow their passion!’
Few of these people go on to tell me that they command my decision to ‘go after my calling’ and not to take the traditional route.
From my experience, you don’t need to try to find one true passion and let it overtake your life. You can exercise discretion in choosing how you want to design your life.
Take the pressure off and find the marketable skills that you have a natural bend towards. If you have no clue, then begin with the broader industries whose functioning fascinates you.
Like digital media? Event management?
With a few Google searches along the lines of “jobs in [your industry name],” you have a starting point of skills relevant to your choice of domain.
Whatever job you choose, you’ll always get appreciated for showing diligence (got your replacement for ‘passion,’ aye?)
Also, always consider there’s something at stake and remain conscientious towards your role.
There, I suggested two replacements.
Now, let’s move on from the overzealous word.
We have been made to believe that each one of us can go down in history books.
The individualistic culture promotes reaching a vibrant place consisting of a tangible outcome. That means you need to thrust into your domain with sky-high goals.
It’s inevitable for ambitious folks like you to want to climb illustrious ladders in their disciplines.
And how can you not?
You’ll dissolve into obscurity if you don’t ‘achieve.’
The issue with such a one-dimensional, non-differentiating yardstick is the disregard for the inherent competition in different domains.
Let me expand:
Wanting to become the top brass in the field of acting is a highly challenging endeavor. Much more than joining the league of the most esteemed bloggers in the world.
Moreover, every field has a different set of niches and available spots at the top.
For example – A blogger can choose a narrow niche (like gardening for teenagers) and thrive with a unique voice and stance in his content.
An actor will tend to have more limited choices in which he can make a sustainable living; let alone reach the top.
But people starting out in both domains will want to ‘achieve’ the highest status.
Instead of recognizing the result, maybe we can thrust upon what’s within our locus of control: creation.
Either you consume. Else, you create.
You let your humble creation touch the lives of a group of people. If they find it valuable/entertaining, then they pass it on.
What’s amusing is creating takes the stress off longing for a particular kind of result. Instead, you focus on the process.
Got a legit replacement?
‘Impact’ is another phrase we have integrated overly in our lexicon (to probably suit the capitalistic climate of the world?)
Increasingly, I see many educational programs and startups claiming to have impacted millions of lives.
The ‘forceful contact’ connotation of the word (physics lovers here?) supports the aggressive ‘10x’ sentiment echoed by the business culture.
But let’s nail down the intention of taking such action steps, shall we?
It’s having a positive effect.
If you want to keep it casual, Mr. Robert Cialdini has a replacement for you: ‘influence.’ It represents the same quality, but with a hint of persuasion.
I am guilty of overusing this one due to the calm dude Andy from Headspace (God, I love his soothing voice).
With Silicon Valley taking a supportive stance towards meditation, ‘mindfulness’ has found a comfy place in our lives.
Almost as if it’s the panacea for stress, conflicts, and confronting negative emotions. Only that recent research found that it’s not.
There’s a dark side to not judging your actions, especially, when you’re a murderer and have “criminal thinking patterns.”
The word we can employ when “be mindful” is overkill, is age-old:
Mindfulness calls forth bringing your attention to the present moment and detaching yourself from your emotions, feelings, and thoughts.
Curiosity, on the other hand, is a WANT to learn.
Indeed, mindfulness is essentially applying a healthy dose of curiosity to your life.
The next time you face a problem, instead of being mindful, simply approach it ‘curiously.’ It employs the same eagerness while using a tad bit of judgment.
Anyway, meditation and mindfulness aren’t for everyone. They have a narrow relevance. But ‘curiosity’ is preached from ages to open unexplored doors.
The long withstanding definition of productivity from the industrial period has been appearing ‘busy.’
As Cal Newport mentions in his book people focus on “doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”
Even today, in many corporate offices, a person is recognized solely for putting in more time.
Yes, ideally, you need to concentrate on the process – because results of your effort are not necessarily predictable.
What most people forget, though, in a romantic marriage with hard work, is a course correction.
See, with a certain degree of variance, all kinds of tasks you do as a knowledge worker have a degree of knowingness.
If you have clarity on your expected outcome, then you prioritize the tasks that have high influence, and first, execute them.
For instance – As an online writer, you’ll want to reach a maximum number of people possible. Now, either you can write on whatever subject comes to your mind and take the ‘write every day’ postulate to heart.
Another method is strategically looking at the data on what’s the most searched in Google alongside the article ideas you have.
Which method is smarter?
A similar overused phrase is ‘getting more done.’ People around us want to squeeze their energies to the last drop and do all of it ‘efficiently.’
You should replace that with being ‘effective.’
In my article on productivity, I discussed Pareto’s principle that you should continuously fall back to.
You have to find the high-order tasks that matter and spend time on them first.
Soul-enriching-life-fulfilling-angel would like you to find out your ‘purpose’ of existence.
- Why are you on this heavenly abode called ‘earth?’
- What’s the meaningful activity that your spiritual seeking to quench its thirst?
Well, maybe, you don’t need to find out.
The world has always consisted of two kinds of people :
- The kind that died to try finding a purpose (and feeling useless).
- And the ones that sandcastle a ‘purpose’ amid wading through the randomness of life. They likely had to narrate their stories to the world (you know, when they were invited to conferences, wrote their biographies, and the like).
Most people are the second kind.
Humans love finding patterns. We like to assign a ‘purpose’ to everyone for systematization and making sense of the actions of a person.
The underlying baggage this phrase brings is daunting.
Instead of first defining a purpose:
You can reverse the process and live a focused life of experimentation (remember?) within a discipline of your choice.
Or maybe not even do that. It’s up to you.
Nevertheless, it’s good practice to once in a while, take a cold beer, chai, whatever floats your float.
Then, sit down and try to make sense of where you’re at and what you’re trying to get.
Remember though, living an extraordinary life will require an ample number of sacrifices and elimination of low-order activities. You can compete with the best only with a superlative ‘focus.’
I am all for alone time and solo-trips.
Yet, the individualistic culture is occasionally too much for me.
For instance: When, in the name of self-love, people overlook their privileges.
I hate being the one to tell you about your indulgence. But my god, are people detached from the world!
Shunning yourself from politics, staying within the bounds of your rooms (Netflix and chill?), and just celebrating “being you.”
The individualistic culture stalls your ‘individuality’ into a static entity.
Community, volunteering, and socializing – are all proven to improve the quality of your life. Get the fuck out of your house, please.
You know a better attitude?
It calls for being honest instead of being nice all the time.
You don’t treat yourself like shit. But you don’t indulge in your “flaws” either.
When you operate from a place of awareness and curiosity(not mindfulness, remember?):
It’s liberating and will help you grow.
If you like reading articles on life planning, then you might have come across a concept called as ‘The Four Burners Theory.’
It dictates that you can’t have it all.
Your life consists of four major components (burners): family, friends, health, and work.
And if you to become hugely successful, then you have to whiff off two burners.
Here’s an illustration of the theory.
It makes sense as time is a limited commodity.
But all along, we’ve been told that you need to strike a balance in life.
That you need to achieve a state that’s a fine assortment of delicacies like profession, relationships, and health.
As if life’s a chemical equation composed of different elements that need a proper allocation of moles.
There’s ONE life.
It’s a spectrum of various aspects.
Want a better approach to life?
Then, say hello to seasons.
It’s how entrepreneurs and digital nomads thrive.
During important work commitments, like a product launch, they temporarily turn off a couple of burners. And go all-in.
Once the professional life is off-loaded, they dedicate time towards relationships and health.
You can have three months of intense work sessions, followed by spending three months close to your family and friends. And so on.
In many domains, it’s how life and work practically function.
I can understand the limitations for certain kinds of extensive professions where ‘seasons’ won’t work.
In such cases, I would recommend falling back to Jeff Bezos.
Sitting at the helm of the biggest retailer company in the world would mean tremendous commitments at work.
Hence, he prefers the phrase work-life harmony over work-life ‘balance.’ It’s representative of the one life we lead and blending everything you pursue into a fine arrangement.
No, that lime tart you had in Florida was not ‘awesome.’
You might manage to fool some with shiny filters on Instagram, but I know your weekend would have been average (at best).
Don’t label it ‘awe-inspiring.’
You see, the incessant usage of this adjective in everyday language has effectively diluted its meaning. Else, people have substantially lowered their standards?
While I believe the second argument is true, I’ll show you around a few gentler phrases you can use to shower your feelings of likeness.
Generally, all of our days are fine. We sail through them peacefully and without making any impact.
Most events, materialistic possessions, and art are decent. They are definitely not ‘amazing.’
And it’s alright.
If all life were extraordinary, then none of it will lead to ecstasy.
Let only a few aspects of life and a handful of days give you overwhelming joy.
Use your admiration occasionally and wisely.
Shit, I said it.
So this is another phrase we occasionally throw as a substitute for ‘awesome.’
Put this in-style word has seen a consistent rise in usage. It has wide-ranging applications. Here’s how the Urban Dictionary defines it (you’ll get a few possible alternatives in the list below).
If you’re a ‘cool’ person, that means you don’t try too hard. You have an inherent attractive quality. You stay calm in extraordinary circumstances. And, you’re resourceful.
People are persuaded to inculcate the above qualities and become an admirable person.
But to deal with the crisis, we need more empathy; not coolness.
We can ascribe to become great.
That’s what most people become after crossing the threshold of average, aye?
How as human beings can we love hollowness and fillers?
Basically is a waste. It’s wandering around the agenda.
It’s not hard to nail down why.
Getting directly to the point is painful. Our fear encapsulates us to waste a few words and slide by our argument.
Generally (ah, another clutch), the word represents the chief-most/essential/fundamental aspects of the situation in discussion.
Why not directly get to these aspects and eliminate this filler altogether?
Your audience will make out if they are ‘basic.’
With our different belief systems and inflated egos, we monkeys are a fragile lot.
Worldly wisdom dictates a well-behaved and cultured outlook. You’re also advocated to use caution when speaking – you can’t hurt people’s sentiments.
Watching your words and playing ‘nice’ is the peaceful way to lead life.
You know, what, though? It’s also vanilla.
Why blend with the world and lose your authenticity?
Stay genuine. Honest.
Of course, mix a tad bit of empathy with it.
But don’t waste time mincing words and laying yourself on the side of the majority. Take a stand.
Instead of saying ‘nice’ to continue conversations, embrace silence.
Else, listen intently and contribute to the conversation.
(Unless, the person is being a dick – in which case, you should have practiced the expression below).
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When you want to point out the ‘niceness’ of an object, you can make do with ultra-fine.
And yeah, don’t quit being a ‘nice guy.’ Don’t feel entitled to it.
“What are your new year goals?”, he said.
“To stop using this shallow, annoying, and insensible term,” she said.
A goal is a static entity you set years/months in advance and anticipate its completion (while secretly hoping nothing goes off plan).
In the real world, it’s a challenge to predict what your life will look like a couple of years down the road.
That does not mean you should abolish planning altogether and go “with the flow.”
Jeff Bezos has the perfect advice for such scenarios: “Focus on things that don’t change.”
(Do I need to tell you how much I love this guy?)
You embrace the dynamism of real world by aligning your life in a particular direction. Then, find out the variables that would remain relevant for the next decade or so.
Next, put in the work with discipline. Trust the process.
When you don’t have pre-set expectations, it doesn’t mean you won’t progress. You’ll save the emotional pain of failure, and still make strides towards your intended effect.
Further, you can even make modifications to your process and evolve, if need be.
15. Fast, Quickly, Now
Three of the most common words you’ll see copywriters use.
It keeps the reader on the toes and gets them to click and engage.
For instance, look at the usage of these words in this article at Backlinko.
Urgency is useful and important.
It will push you out of the procrastination loop and pursue what you WANT in life.
But always consider the context and relevance of these terms in articles you read.
In all likeliness, they are serving a money-making agenda of the author/website owners.
Where does that leave you?
Apply some selfishness and find out if a piece of content serves you.
Anything worth having takes effort, sacrifice, and time.
Here’s what you need to use in life.
Instead of ‘now’:
Most ideas need to gestate.
Don’t discard a philosophy because it doesn’t appeal to your world-view currently. They might make profound sense later.
While you might want to achieve massive success fast, always have room for serendipity.
Often events don’t make sense in isolation. Let them pan out. Maybe, your efforts are compounding. And your growth rate will increase over time.
Once you hit the trigger point:
Won’t you like to sit and relish the unexpected result of your efforts?
Uhmm, and as for the word ‘fuck,’ you can explore the art series suggesting 100 alternatives at Mashable.