Dont Sweat it - The Power of Words

Don’t Sweat it – The Power of Words

Language shapes how we see, interpret, and understand ourselves, others, and situations. This article explores the power of words in an everyday situation.

 Have you ever found yourself answering a question, whilst at the same time thinking:

‘What’s going on?’ Why am I answering the question this way?’

A colleague asked me one of those really challenging questions:

  ‘What’s your biggest fear Greg?’

She was asking in relation to my new Coaching Venture. The answer came out almost before I could think:

 ‘Failing. I’m worried that my new coaching business won’t work, won’t succeed.’ 

I could literally feel the anxiety and tension within me as I said it. 

As I said the word, the questions to myself began:

  • ‘What’s going on Greg?’ ‘Why are you so worried about failing?’
  • ‘You’ve faced numerous challenges before and been fine.’
  • ‘You know all the rhetoric about failure. Act on it.’

It was true, I did know the rhetoric about failure. I’d spouted the rhetoric to students.

Yet somehow the rhetoric didn’t cut it for me. I was scared.

My colleague pushed me further, inviting me to see what lay beneath my words – beneath my fear of failure.

 And then it hit me. THAT WORD!!!  

Don't sweat it - the power of words

Image: Massimo Barbieri

I remembered a podcast from a seemingly unrelated field, Online Content Marketing. (Thanks Fizzle). One word jumped out at me. 

‘The power of words’, as they say, was graphically illustrated to me in this moment.



 had the power, as I later found out, to:

  • dramatically change and broaden my perspective on failure;
  • positively affect how I saw myself – my skills – and my sense of agency;
  • positively impact on how I related to the words, ‘fail’ or ‘failure’.

THE WORD? Iteration. Yes I know, who would have guessed ‘iteration’ would have been the word.

As we dug deeper into this word, I recalled the podcast that first stirred my thinking. I began to apply the word ‘iteration’ in relation to failing.

Through chatting, I was making sense of it all, it was becoming clearer. So here’s my take. I’d be interested to hear yours too – in the comments box below.

As a teacher, we’re constantly iterating – adjusting, re-shaping, changing, dropping & discarding aspects, extending & building on – our curricula and teaching practices.

We try out numerous things each day – some hit, some miss, some work for particular students, some not so much. Then just when you think, you’ve got it – the situation changes.

In a sense we fail throughout our teaching day (just as we succeed). But that’s doesn’t have to be the end of the story – the ‘oh woh is me’, ‘I’m so hopeless’, ‘when will I get it right?’ moment. 

We get on with it – We get better by iterating.

We recognise that there isn’t just one static, unchanging version of this curriculum or teaching practice.

It’s an ongoing, dynamic entity. We adjust, re-work, alter, add onto, delete  – a gazillion times a day – in response to what we see, hear, feel – in response to feedback.

At any point of time, we can just say:

‘Don’t freak it (insert your name here). It’s just one iteration. The next version is coming soon.’

As this realisation started to dawn on me, in my conversation with my colleague, I could literally feel the pressure and tension ease. My new venture seemed manageable, feasible.

‘Don’t sweat it Greg. It’s just one iteration. The next version is on its way. And it’s a DOOZY!’

How about you? Ever had one of those lightbulb moments, an aha, when just one word made a huge difference?

  • What was the word – that made a big difference in how you saw a situation?
  • What word – or even experience shifted how you viewed yourself – others – or a situation? AND
  • How did you make the ‘power of words’ work to your advantage?

Share your ‘aha’ moments in the comments box below. It will definitely make a difference to another teacher or two…or….. out there.


  1. Amra Pajalic May 3, 2014
    • Greg Curran May 3, 2014