What To Do With The “E” Word

Jack, Journal Guide

Imagine you just started a new job working for the Boys and Girls Club of America. One of the little boys assigned to you comes up and tearfully says, “Jeff just called me the “E” word.” How would you handle it?

Well, I know someone who faced just such a situation last week. And, I’ll tell you how he handled it. But before I do, let’s talk about the power of words and how we use them.


The power of words

There have been a few times (OK, a lot of times) when I’ve felt that I under performed (OK, failed.) So, there are a number of entries in my older journals that start with words like, “I’m so stupid” or “How could I have been so dumb?” and things like that.

As you already know, some prophecies are self fulfilling. I think about how dumb I am and go ahead to prove it.


Use words powerfully

A while back I discovered the power of dealing with my less than stellar actions or thoughts by thinking and writing in positive terms. No, I don’t mean that I then began writing in my journal, “I’m positively stupid.”

On most days I do some things quite well and other things not so well. By taking time to write about both ends of that spectrum I’ve noticed a positive outcome more often.


The formula is simple

  1. Using your journal write about the one thing you did very well. It can be anything from learning something new to performing a particular task splendidly. Tell what you did and write about the outcome.
  2. Now, use your journal to write about the thing you would have in the past beat yourself up about. Something you did that was not up to your standards, something you are learning but haven’t as yet mastered. And, write about it this way – What I can do to improve is . . .


The formula is simple, but the implementation of it can be a bit harder

You may have to practice a bit until you get into the habit of thinking of your “failures” as things which simply need more work, a change of direction, something to be improved.

Give yourself a while to get used to thinking in terms of words which are meant to help you improve rather than words which are meant to drag you down.


But what about the “E” word?

Oh yeah, I was telling you how my young friend handled the problem of the “E” word. Both youngsters involved were brought together. The first tearful fellow again complained that Jeff had called him the “E” word. Jeff quickly stepped forward and said, “I’m sorry for calling you an idiot.”

“E” word, “I” word, what does it matter? Don’t use the “E” word when you write about yourself. Instead use these words, “What I can do to improve is . . .”

Try this:

Each time you use your journal over the next 30 days use the formula.

  1. Write about what you did well.
  2. Then write about what you can do to improve.

At the end of those 30 days you are well on your way to instilling a habit which you can use regularly to help your business or your personal life grow. You do want to live life with pizazz, right?

As a lover of words, pens, paper and the dictionary I'm a natural for journal writing. But, I wasn't always faithful to the task and had to learn the hard way. Some trial and error as well as input from my journal writing friends helped move me along. I have a burning desire to help people who want to use and get the most out of their journals and diaries. I see journal writing as a self improvement tool and a way to avoid costly mistakes, bad relationships and my stinky-self. Finding my kindly self is part of the journey which keeps me writing. I Journalate and so can you.


  1. Yvonne,
    This is a validating approach to learning from our life experience. It’s great to focus on what we do well and see our accomplishments and take time to celebrate them. But I really love the whole approach of looking at a perceived failure and learn what we can about what went ‘wrong’ so we can progress and do better next time. Journaling is a perfect place and practice to delve into negative and positive, giving us a balanced view of our days.

    I have chosen your post, What to do with the “E” Word, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 9/19/12 for all things journaling on Twitter;
    I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal, my weekly e-journal: http://tinyurl.com/8n7o5oa.

    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST, for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week is Your Journaling: Word Power.

    Thanks again for sharing how we can use our journals to learn about our life experience and make it even better!

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

  2. Thank you, Dawn.

    It truly is a great way to make progress. Many sports coaches use this same formula with their students. It has certainly made a difference in how I see my own actions.

    I appreciate you for sharing in so many ways.


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