Why Tweaking Your Career Vocabulary Can Radically Improve Your Life

Reimagining the words we use to define work—and ourselves—is a powerful exercise.

Words are powerful. The language we use influences how we think, feel, act, and interact with the world. That’s why I propose a new kind of dictionary. One founded on the belief that we do not have to live how the world expects us to.

Why? Because far too often I hear people say "yes" for the wrong reasons. I hear people say "I should" instead of "I want" and "I'll try" versus "I will." I hear people putting themselves down for "procrastinating" when they don’t understand the underlying reasons. I watch people approach "work" as if it’s a 9-to-5 job and "passion" like it’s a hobby that can never be taken seriously. I hear people say "I can’t" because of self-imposed "limitations" that inevitably lead to "boredom," "anxiety" and the fear of "failure."

Here are the first 12 words in what I call my "Unconventional Dictionary," a guide to living on your own terms and rewriting the story that guides your life.

yes. adverb.
1. a word only to be used when it reflects your true desires.
2. an expression used when you experience an overwhelming feeling of "Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yes!"

work. noun.
1. your individual contribution to the world.
2. activities that exist beyond the hours of 9 to 5.
3. the intersection of our talents, desires, and what the world needs.

passion. noun.
1. a powerful driving force existing inside every human being that, once unleashed, can make any vision and dream a reality.
2. something that fulfills you beyond the money you make.

limitation. noun.
1. outmoded beliefs that prevent you from taking action.

fear. noun.
1. an indication you are heading in the right direction.
2. the gateway to personal growth.

pain. noun.
1. a catalyst for inner strength.
2. a sensation that manifests itself as evidence of progress.

boredom. noun.
1. the antithesis of happiness.
2. a lack of inner purpose and fulfillment.
3. an emotional state leading to the formation of negative habits.

anxiety. noun.
1. experiencing failure in advance.

procrastination. noun.
1. your body’s way of rebelling against what your mind says you "should be doing."
2. an indication you are working on the wrong thing.

conflict. noun.
1. an opportunity for vulnerability, intimacy and depth in relationships.
2. the chance to check your ego and pride, and observe the emotions driving your reactions.

failure. noun.
1. proof of movement.
2. an opportunity to experiment and create a stronger and smarter solution to a problem.

success. noun.
1. a way of being, living, feeling and achieving that is defined by you.

What words would you add to this list—and which expressions do you need to redefine for yourself? Tell us about it in the comments below.

—Amber Rae is founder & CEO of The Bold Academy, a 10-day experience in San Francisco designed to accelerate your performance. If you're ready to take your game to the next level, two spots are available for the February program. Learn more and apply now. For more on Amber, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user jDevaun]

Add New Comment


  • Lynne Constantine-Johns

    Change - verb

    1. a regular force that is experienced by everyone, but to differing degrees (depending on the situation) that, in essence, creates a new status quo.
    2. A period of time that requires an individual or group to make choices or change existing behaviors , processes and procedures.
    3. An opportunity for self-evaluation and reflection
  • susan addy

    I love this, My free time can often be spent reading the dictionary and understanding words. This article is the best I have seen in a long time!

    Thank you

  • veezmoe

    The content though good, is not a great reflection of what the title indicates. The title is an impressive one, for a different article with more depth on career and vocabulary.The content is agreeable only as a self-help/motivational essay on how to change perspectives. Am going to steal the title sometime :) 

  • Jason

    wow - lot of haters out here. Go on hating, haters - see what it gets you. 

    Fuck 'em - this article was great, and the author's heart is in the right place. 

  • Alana

    LIKABILITY - The new Buzz word - short for "Do unto others as you would do unto yourself"

  • ari9999

    mission: what you're on when (a) passionately pushing your brand of goods or gods; (b) talking without listening

  • Reviewer

    Anxiety is also anticipation and being a step ahead.  The biggest successes I know are anxious people.  This is an FC FAIL. 

  • Uncle Popo

    i go with Dave Chappelle, this is exactly what we have to tell the poor and hungry!! then the world will be a better place..

  • Esther

     you know, once we have the english words sorted, the world will be a better place,,,

  • Arlon Jay Staggs

    Risk - taking a chance on something that was never going to happen in the first place.

  • Arlon Jay Staggs

    Risk - taking a chance on something that was never going to happen in the first place.

  • Vicky Heinlein

    Random thoughts:

    - Motivation: the drive to achieve a goal

    - Drive: the desire to make something happen

    - Desire: the feeling of wanting something (or achievement)

    Desire fuels Motivation, Motivation encourages Drive, Drive powers by Desire

  • Robbin

    risk, noun, to take a jump off the cliff into the unknown, faith that it will come together.