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Language is the Key to Your Success in Your Career

Now that the holidays are in your rear view mirror, you focus your attention towards your daily activities and perhaps your short-term goals. In fact, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals are a great way to achieve this. Another thing to take into consideration when trying to reach your career goals is not only how you set your goals, but how you describe them. In other words, the language that you use to set your goals can either lead you to great success or towards anything short of that. My interns and students know the word I use to describe this all too well. I refer to the words that we use to describe our reality as the tyranny of language.

I did not create the term. I learned it from my graduate studies when I was working towards my masters in marriage and family therapy. The term comes from the Milan systemic approach to therapy which they refer to as the tyranny of linguistics. Basically, according to the Milan approach, language is a linear construct, but our realities are much more complex and are circular constructs. What this means is that the language that we use cannot fully describe our reality, yet we do just that. In other words we get trapped in a reality that we create with the way we describe things.

To illustrate this concept, let us imagine for the moment that you are a freshly graduated college student. You have your bachelor’s degree and are ready to start your career. You apply to several jobs and are interviewed twice. Both times, the hiring manager said that they are looking for someone that is more experienced.

You go home and start to feel frustrated. You tell yourself, “I am not experienced enough!”

With those words, you have already created a reality for yourself that you can get stuck in. By saying to yourself that you are not experienced enough, you frame it in a way that makes it a characteristic. Characteristics can be hard to change.

The question is: What can I do about it?

Instead of framing your challenges or goals using verbs in the to be category, use words in the to seem, to show, or the to act categories. For example, instead of saying that you are not experienced enough, say that it seems as though you need more experience. This frames the challenge that you are experiencing as a behavior rather than a characteristic. Behaviors, as most therapists may tell you, are easier to change than behaviors.

Next time you work on your career goals, be sure to frame your S.M.A.R.T. goals or any other kind of goals using language that promotes change instead of hindering it.

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Gilbert Franco

Gilbert Franco works and volunteers his time as an independent HR and business consultant. He is a clinical supervisor at the McAlister institute where he supervises master's level interns and trainees. He is also the author of Chronicles of Essencia: My Lost Wing and has completed his dissertation on "Productivity standards, marriage and family therapist job satisfaction and turnover intent." For further questions, email Gilbert at