Why I Don’t Want to Crush (Kill, Destroy or Slay) My 2020 Goals
3 reasons why destruction metaphors are problematic, and ways to speak life, instead. 4-minute read.
I remember stepping off a stage, several years ago, satisfied and relieved after delivering a speech. Within a minute, my phone lit up with a congratulatory text: “you KILLLLLLED it!” There were enough Ls in kill, to turn the word into a paragraph. Within the hour, several more texts just like it rolled in. “Way to destroy!!” said one person. “You crushed that!” said another. Shrugging, I clicked off my phone to focus on the next speaker—but I couldn’t quite click off my mind, or shrug off the growing question…
Why is a speech that succeeds in bringing life, praised in terms of death? It was then that I began to notice, metaphors of destruction are everywhere in our normal vocabulary. To give a few examples, we are encouraged to punch fear, destroy 5Ks, attack messes, conquer mountains, tackle textbooks, crush projects, dent the universe, blow up business, and perhaps most ear-splitting of all, slay our Tuesdays.
These phrases are tossed around as casually as salads, under the assumption that positive intent makes up for a negative literal meaning. But when you look at it another way, words are important assignments of meaning that have the power to bring life or death. Thus, don’t be deceived by the ubiquity of destructive language. There are several reasons to hold off on slapping “slay” to your goal poster, and here’s why.
# 1 Destructive language oversimplifies your goals
When we use words like “kill” and “destroy” to talk about our goals, we simultaneously reduce the goals down into oversimplified, black, and white boxes. The results are either finished or failed, dead or alive, won or lost, etc. Now, if your goals list consists of basic tasks such as grabbing milk from the store, getting an oil change, or filing for taxes, then simple “punch-the-box” metrics do make sense. But most of our undertakings, are far too complex and nuanced to be categorized and conquered.
Consider a 5-year Ph.D.—where you change the thesis three times—or parenting three kids with wildly different personalities, or a personal transition from self-hatred to radical acceptance. These are ever-evolving endeavors that look more like dancing with a process than destroying a destination.
# 2 Destructive language turns you against your goals
To a large degree, our perception of an experience is shaped by the language we use to tell the stories about it. Speaking with a battle based vocabulary creates an unnecessary experience of stress and strain by automatically positioning you against your goal.
For example, setting out to “conquer” Mount Whitney, implies that it’s you against the mountain. Since success means beating it, you better be ready to fight. What if, instead, you set out to soak in the alpine air, summit safely, and marvel at the gorgeous grandeur of Whitney, while still remaining humbled that the mountain is undeniably bigger than you?
# 3 Destructive language is often contradictory to the heart of the goal itself
The dictionary definition of destruction is “the action or process of causing so much damage to something that it no longer exists or cannot be repaired.”
Now, with that definition in mind, ask yourself if the goals you want to destroy, are truly worthy of damage. If your goals include things like cancer or cockroaches, then your answer is yes. But in many cases, ironically, we slather words of death, all over the same things we want to bring to life!
Our ideas and goals are akin to seeds that require protection, patience, nurturing, and persistence to survive and grow. Thus, if you believe your pursuit is a privilege to steward, don’t kill it, cultivate it.
Ways to Speak Life
The good news is, there are still numerous ways to talk about your goals and ambitions, that don’t involve destruction. Here are a few examples: Instead of slaying your Q1 goals, stick with them. Instead of killing your marathon race, revel in the experience of participating in the most historic running event of all time. Instead of punching your fear, dance with it.
Can you feel the difference between the phrases? Pick your battles before spilling out warrior words. Nurture and protect what is precious by using the right words, and over time, your language will indeed shape your experience.