Become More Successful by Stop Saying These Two Words, Says Stanford Professor

February 6, 2016 Updated: February 7, 2016

Can tweaking small parts of your speech habits make you more successful? Based on his life experiences, Bernard Roth, a professor of engineering at Stanford University and the director of its design institute, thinks that it can.

In his new book, “The Achievement Habit,” Roth, offers two verbal shifts that can shift how you think about the world, and thereby improve your life.

Instead of Saying ‘but’ Say ‘and’

When you sandwich the word “but” between two activities, you’re holding them as mutually exclusive, and therefore preemptively shutting down the possibility of doing both a the same time. Roth gives the example of someone who says that they want to go to the movies, “but” they have work that day.

“Existentially, movies and work are not in opposition. The word ‘but’ is okay in common usage, and it does not reflect the true situation,” Roth wrote. “When you use the word ‘but,’ you create a conflict (and sometimes a reason) for yourself that does not really exist. With the word ‘and,’ there is no issue.”

However, Roth doesn’t recommend that you swap out “but” for “and” in all of your conversations, and sometimes the former is needed to not sound weird in a conversation. He tried it himself for a whole weekend and it didn’t go very well, but (and?) still recommends that people make the change whenever it’s possible.

Change ‘Have to’ to ‘Want to’

This is an old trick that Roth has often practiced on his students to get them to open up their minds and take charge of their lives. He has one person say a series of statements that begins with “I have to,” then their partner repeats the same statements beginning with “I want to” instead.

“To get the flavor of this, change ‘have’ into ‘want’ in your mind the next few times you say ‘I have to.’ Do this silently, simply repeating to yourself the sentence that you just said out loud, with just the one word changed.” Roth writes. “This exercise is very effective in getting people to realize that what they do in their lives—even the things they find unpleasant—is in fact what they have chosen.”