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Melissa Shanahan

#158: Pay Attention to the Words You Say

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Did you know that what comes out of your mouth is one of the best indicators of what’s really going on in your brain? If you’re a regular listener here, you’re far from average. You have a deep interest in understanding yourself better to achieve the things that matter most to you. And becoming conscious of the words you say is key to getting a closer look at what might be hiding in the corners of your brain.

Too often, the declarations we make are in opposition to what we really want. Whether it sounds like, “I have too much to do and I’m so behind,” or, “I’m not good at focusing,” the truth is these statements are working against you. So this week, Melissa is offering a process to help you stop these words from coming out of your worth, so you can give yourself a moment to hit pause on the thought process and rewire it for something a little more useful.

Join Melissa on the podcast this week to discover how to be awake to the words you speak, and where those words aren’t in alignment with where you’re trying to go. You’ll learn why examining what you say is so important, and how to start making small, nuanced shifts to transform the trajectory of your success.

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with me. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. The enrollment window for Mastery Group is open right now, so click here to join us!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• Why how you speak is a great indicator of what’s really going on in your brain.

• How you might be speaking in opposition to what you truly want.

• What happens when you don’t pay attention to the thoughts your brain regularly serves up.

• How your thoughts are always optional.

• The power of exercising control over what goes through your mind.

• How to be onto your brain so you can evolve and improve how you think.

Full Episode Transcript:

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I'm Melissa Shanahan and this is the Velocity Work. podcast Episode #158.

This podcast is for attorneys who are running their own firms. We explore tactics, tools, and stories related to pushing past simply lawyering well and into building a successful firm. Working in your firm and working on your business are two very different things. This podcast focuses on the latter.

Hey, everyone, welcome to this week's episode. I'm so glad you're here.

Today, we are talking about when, we each do this, when we speak in opposition to what we want. And the reason I'm going to talk about this is because what comes out of your mouth is indicative of what's going on in your brain.

In order for us to be very conscious about what we're creating, what we're building, what we're trying to do here, we need to be on to ourselves, in terms of what is happening in our brain; our brain will serve up some crazy stuff. And, if we just roll with it, and we don't put it in check, and we don't do the work of shifting how we think, then we will stay and keep repeating. We will stay in the cycles and keep repeating the cycles that we're always in.

Now, if you've listened to the episodes where I go into the results cycle, they were early 2022. I go into this a bit. There's also a podcast about; does your self-image match the firm you're trying to build, or trying to create. Those go hand-in-hand with what we're talking about, but I am noticing this more and more in conversations I'm having, and I'm always trying to pay attention to this for myself.

So, it's worth just having a convo, for a moment, about how you speak. Because how you speak is such a good signal to you, about what's really going on. What you'll find likely, is that what comes out of your mouth, and when you have a look at what that means you're thinking, in order for those things to be coming out of your mouth, you'll want to change it immediately.

Now, sometimes I have luck doing this. And other times, I don't. And it takes a bit. There's some hard wiring there, it's the reason that what's coming out of my mouth, is coming out of my mouth. And so, I want to encourage each of you, that as you start to look at this for yourselves, don't get discouraged or be in a hurry to shift anything. Because if you're just sitting in the awareness of all of this, it will likely start to shift because you'll be very conscious about it.

And you don't need to be in a hurry. So, I thought I would say that before we dig in. Why is this important? Why am I doing an entire episode on this? Well, if you listen to this podcast, you're not average. Average people don't enjoy this kind of conversation that we have, on this podcast.

So, I know I'm talking to a group of people in this audience, that are interested in understanding themselves more, and they are interested in self-development. They're interested in achieving the things that matter to them, and tuning in to what comes out of your mouth, is such an easy way to have a look at some things that may be hiding in the corners of your brain; the cobwebs of the brain that you're not awake to.

That's why we're digging into this. Because the more that you can be awake to that, the more that you can understand yourself, and your brain, and what happens, and how to react to what is served up by what your brain tells you. Then, you can start to take more control; you'll have more control because you are awake to it.

The more control you exercise with what is going through your mind, and what you choose to give merit to, and what you choose to place meaning to, with the thoughts that run through your head, then you streamline your experience towards wherever it is that you're trying to go. If you don't pay attention to this, then you will inevitably experience cycles that will create frustration and slow you down along the way.

It just holds you back. It's like stalling out before you can really get to where you want to go. It's puttering your way there, instead of driving your way there. So, that's why we're doing this podcast.

A few things: The reason I am doing this podcast is because I have had to pay so much more attention to the words that are coming out of my mouth. Because it is access to what is going on in my brain, when I'm doing this health challenge that I'm in right now, which is called, 75 Hard. I do not want to do the things that are required to do this health challenge.

As I'm working through it, I am paying close attention to what is going on in my brain, because I want to understand myself. I want to understand, why it's such a big deal to put your tennis shoes on and go, when you don't feel like it? Why it's such a big deal to grab the book and read the pages that you're supposed to read?

Like, it doesn't need to be a big deal, but my brain is like dragging my feet to do things sometimes. Not every day and not every time. But when those times happen, I am very conscious and I want to pay close attention to why; what is the problem here? And the more I can understand that, then the more it allows me to move in the direction, regardless of how I'm feeling, instead of letting it stop me.

Another reason I can do this podcast right now, because I've been so deep in this work, is because I'm noticing there are areas that I think I'm at a disadvantage. And my mindset has been, it almost seems like it should be positive, it's positive thinking, because it's like, “Well, I have this disadvantage, but I'm going to do it anyway. I have this disadvantage, and let's go.” But actually, what I'm learning is that my thinking, that I have a disadvantage, is a choice. I don't have to believe that. I don't have to think that.

And even if I could prove it true, it doesn't serve me to think that; to come from that place, or that stance of, “I have a disadvantage, and…” This is advanced work; I will tell you guys. I mean, to get to the place where, for so long, I worked to get to the place where I had that ease; easier… But you know, over time. To think, “Oh, I'm at a disadvantage. And I'm not allowing that to stop me. And let's go.”

That has served me for so long. That has been such a ticket for me, to overcome certain things, and to build what I've built, in my personal life and my work life. And now, what I'm realizing, is that it's sort of the next level of thinking, is that even thinking that I'm at a disadvantage, puts me at a disadvantage. That isn't helpful.

And so, instead, dropping that part of it, it's almost like the everything before the “but,” right? Like, “…, but I'm gonna do it anyway. …, but she's really nice. …, but…”  Everything before the “but” just needs to go. It just needs to go.

As I'm doing this work, and I'm realizing that the areas where I think I'm at a disadvantage, it's optional. That is totally an optional point of view. I'm going to share that here, today, with you. I think talking through some of this, I'm hoping, will help you guys next-level your thinking; whatever, wherever you are on your journey, in terms of mindset and self-development, and improving or evolving, I guess, how you think.

Alright, so, going back to this idea that having a look at the words that come out of your mouth. How do you speak in opposition to what you really want? What are all the ways that you do that? Asking yourself the question and writing out those answers. What do I say, what comes out of my mouth that is in opposition to what I want? It isn't in alignment with what I want.

There doesn't need to be blame. You don't need to beat yourself up for it. We all do it. It's part of the deal, it’s being human. But have an awareness about it, just have a look at it. Just notice it. And just by noticing it, a lot of times, you'll drop some of the things that are holding you back. Others will require practice, real practice, to drop that point of view, so to speak, so that it doesn't just come out of your mouth.

But stopping it from coming out of your mouth, forces you to just stop the thought process, and give yourself a moment to rewire. But if you just let the stuff come out of your mouth, then it's just like a thought, speak it; a thought, speak it; a thought, speak it.

This is one way to do a pattern interrupt on what is going on in your brain, that doesn't serve you anymore. Maybe it did. And now it's not. Maybe it never did.

But how can you start to be on to yourself? Let's go through some examples. One thing that I hear come out of people's mouth is, “I just can't stay focused for that long, so…” fill in the blank. Okay, pay attention to that. That is in direct opposition of what you're trying to create. And I know that, because we were working together. So, if we're working together, and you're trying to create something that's going to require focus, period.

So, that sentence doesn't serve you. It is in direct opposition for what you want. “I just can't focus that long.” Now, some of you will say, “Well, that doesn't seem so bad. At least if you know that, then you could set up your schedule well.” Fine. You could set up your schedule any way you want to. But that sentence doesn't serve you.

Instead, you could think, “I do really well with short bursts.” That is different than, “I can't focus for that long.” You're basically saying what you can't do; how about let's say what you can do. “I can focus in short bursts. Let's go. Let's plan our schedule that way. Let's align ourselves where we really want to go, with short bursts. But I can focus.”  That's something that's different. It's a spin, but it's different. It's so subtle. It's so nuanced. But this is the stuff that will make the difference between streamlined and stop-starty.

When I think of progress, for me, I always try to create the experience that feels like a conveyor belt. This conveyor belt is smooth, and it just keeps going. Where I feel… I can always tell, in my life, where I feel a little stop-starty with things. It does not feel like progress, even if it's slow.

But smooth… I can always tell and identify very quickly, where my life or my progress in work or life is stop-starty. This is an example, even though it seems so subtle, it seems like it wouldn't make that much of a difference, but if you tell yourself, “I just can't focus for that long,” that's a stalling statement. That is a shutdown kind of statement that your brain is serving up to you.

And, it's probably habitual. It's probably something you've been trained to think; by society, by those around you, by maybe doctors telling you that that's true for you.

Alright. Now, let's work to flip so that it's wired differently. That you can have a different perspective that slightly more, positive isn't the right word, but productive and useful. That's the word, it's useful. What will be more useful to you to think instead of, “I can't focus for that long?” “I can focus really well in short bursts. I can focus really well for this amount of timeframe. And so, that's what I build myself on.” That is different.

If you can see, in terms of a conveyor belt, that is the thing that keeps a conveyor belt moving. If you say, “I can focus in short bursts,” it keeps the train moving, instead of, “I can't focus for that long,” that stops the train.

Another one, “I just don't have enough time in the day. I need more hours in the day.” Okay, not helpful. How about instead something like, “These are the number of hours that I have in a day. Planning well is going to be really important. Let's go.”

Okay, another tip that I have, that you can be on to yourself, if you are speaking in opposition to what you really want. Or, like the conveyor belt, if you're getting a little stop-starty, pay attention to when you're you are using dramatic language. For example, if you use the word “so” in a sentence, “I have so much to do,” instead of, “I have things to do.” “My goals are so big. My employee is so slow. I am so behind.”

Can you hear the drama, that our brain will serve this up? And I don't know what your “so’s” are, what your brain is being dramatic about, but many of us do this. And that's what naturally will come to mind.

This is important; where you can stop yourself. Because I think you guys can see, where this stalls out. Okay, what are you going to do with that? Now what? Instead of saying, “My employee is so slow,” it's, “My employee is slow.” Hmm. Now what? Like, what do you need to do? Take some responsibility here and change the situation, instead of just complaining with some drama attached to it. It doesn't make any sense.

“I am so behind.” “I am behind, now what? Okay, so what am I going to do now?” Instead of just saying it to say it. It slows everything down, it's not useful to you, it doesn't help you pivot into something that would actually be good. It's just a statement that's dramatic and keeps you stuck.

Another one that's very similar to “so,” is “really.” “I'm really tired. She's really slow. I'm really behind.” Okay, all of that is just unnecessary commentary, that doesn't align you with where you want to go. The words that come out of your mouth; the more that you can make them aligned with the thing that you're creating, aligned with where you want to go, the less crap you will deal with on the way to what you're building.

Now, you will have crap to deal with along the way. This doesn't mean that it's just going to make it easy-breezy. But you will create a scenario where you’re removing the unnecessary trip-ups, the unnecessary stop-starty part of the conveyor belt. Listen, sometimes your conveyor belt might break down, and it may stall out, and it may whatever, but if you can remove your contribution to that, the unnecessary, very small stop-starty kind of things, then you are better off.

And here's the thing about this, it's not just about your experience. And it's not just about the amount of time it takes you to get to your thing. And so, you don't want to delay yourself, getting to the thing that you're trying to build. It's not just about that.

What it's about, is learning the skill so that whatever you go after, you get better and better and better at creating that stuff. Because you are not holding yourself back, like the average person does. That stays asleep at the wheel. This is you waking up to the very small things.

I think a lot of times, we imagine that self-development is these big levers that we pull. Like, “Oh, I'm gonna do this to develop myself. And I'm going to take a leap towards where I'm going.” Sometimes that happens, but truthfully, self-development, and you growing you, is small. One tiny step after the next. That's how you grow. That's how you develop yourself.

It goes back to that quote, that Kris Plachy says, “The best way to grow a business is to grow the person who's running it,” and I could not agree more. You know how to grow the person who's running it? You know how to grow you?

Is one tiny thing at a time. Just awake; wake up even more, and then wake up more. Become more conscious, and make a small choice that’s different from what you made yesterday. It is the small, the smallest of the small, things that adds up to some of the biggest results that you could possibly create.

That's why this conversation, I'm choosing to have it, and I'm listening to myself, as I'm recording this podcast, and I'm thinking, “Is this podcast streamlined enough? I hope that they understand what I'm trying to say,” because it's so clear, in my mind. It's actually very difficult to articulate. But what comes out of your mouth, will show you where you are thinking in a way that doesn't align with what you're trying to create.

Dramatic language is one of them. But then also, just blatant statements that feel like maybe they're useful, but really, when you look at them, they aren't. It's creating a little “Errt” on your conveyor belt. That's exactly what it's doing. So, how can you stop those things? How can you remove those from your language?

By removing it from your language, removing it as something that comes out of your mouth, it's going to start to shift how you think. It may not be overnight; it may take a while to get into a new habit of reframing what's happening in your brain. But that is important work. It's very important work.

Here's something crazy; this is the way I think about it. This work is so worth it. And it's because I don't want to create and build the things I'm creating and building, and get there and still have a brain that is producing limitations. I don't want that, because I want my internal to match the external that I'm creating.

I want to create in my business and in my family, and in other areas of my personal life. I want to create space. I want to create freedom. I want to create strength. I want to create generosity. I want to create and come from a place of love. And to do those things, it's almost like, if I want to create that, I need to make sure that my brain is producing the kind of thinking that will create that.

Because otherwise, results that I create external, with a brain that is not operating in that way, that is not aligned with strength, and space, and freedom, and love, and generosity, then I'm going to get whatever. I might be able to create something, which means I could get it, but it's slippery. I can't actually create a result, and have the experience of that result that I want, because my brain is back here unattended to, undeveloped, and having the same narrative it always had.

Just watch what happens. I mean, you guys probably have experienced this, I definitely have experienced this, where your results will come back, it'll like snap back to where your brain really is. Your results will harmonize with your brain. And so, if your brain has not caught up, if your brain has not been attended to and developed in a way… Pruned, right? If your brain hasn't been pruned, then the next level that you do create will be fleeting, because your results are going to bounce back to where you really are.

Okay, let's go back to disadvantages, for a moment. I really want you to think through what you think all of your disadvantages are; small or great. What are all of your disadvantages? It can be personal life, and it can be professional life. So, one of the disadvantages that comes up or came up for me a lot was, my whole family is overweight; like I'm gonna have a battle in front of me. That's kind of what I was thinking in my mind.

I didn't have an example of anyone in my family, before my generation, that was healthy and trim, just their natural weight. And for a long time, my default thought was something like, “My whole family is so overweight. But that's not going to be me. But I'm going to be healthy.” That was the full thought, that was the full sentence. When I say that, I can hear that “My whole family was overweight,” is kind of like the conveyor belt slowing down. “But that's not gonna be me.” Okay, maybe we're speeding up a little bit.

But that's like, how can you just forget the part that slows you down? The tiniest, little things that actually slow down and hold you back, and are not useful to the journey that you're on. And so, I learned to just decide who am I. It doesn't matter; anything before the “but” doesn't matter.

So, who am I? I am a person who takes care of myself. I'm a person who's healthy. I'm a person who cares about my energy, those kinds of things. And those sentences, without everything before any sort of “but,” keeps the conveyor belt moving smoothly. “I don't have a ton of experience with X, but…” Meaning X like, hiring, or the firm finances, or KPIs.

“I don't have a lot of experience with hiring, but…” Okay, what? Can you just drop everything before that? “I'm going to hire a great person. I'm going to hire a great team member,” period. You don't need to slow down, speed up, slow down, speed up, you just need the thing that's going to keep the conveyor belt smooth.

And the conveyor belt is your experience on the way towards what you're building. “I don't have a lot of experience with firm finances, but my firm finances are very well taken care of.” That's a sentence in, and of itself, that doesn't need anything else. “My firm finances are taken care of very well.” That is something that keeps the conveyor belt moving. It helps you take the right action. It helps you keep going in ways that are healthy for the finances of the firm.

“I don't have a lot of experience with KPIs.” We think that's a disadvantage, it's not. But what? How would you finish that? What declaration comes after the “but?” Maybe something like, “I don't have a lot of experience with KPIs, but I'm taking one small step to get organized in that area.” That's the only part of the sentence you need. “I'm gonna take one small step to get organized in terms of KPIs.” Decide what that small step is, and go do it.

“I'm really good at making plans. I'm just not very good at following through.” The number of times I hear this. And I get it, I do. I truly understand that that is truth for some of you, but you're gonna have to adjust your truth. So, if you think this is a disadvantage for you, what are you going to do in order to change that truth? What are you going to do to make a different reality for yourself?

This disadvantage is not worth speaking about. It's not worth giving any more thought to. What is the thought you can think that will keep the conveyor belt moving, instead of the thought that will make it stop or slow the conveyor belt down? That thought is so common, “I'm pretty good at making plans I'm just not very good at follow through.” That is so un-useful.

I don't care if you have evidence for it. I don't care how much you can show me all the great plans you've had, and how little execution you've had. It doesn't matter, it is not a useful thought. So, what are you going to do to create a thought that is in alignment with where you want to go? What are you going to do to be able to speak a sentence that is in alignment with where you want to go? That could sound something like, “I'm going to do what it takes to figure this out, so that I execute as well as I plan.”

I think that's why so many law firm owners, when they come to velocity work., them enrolling in mastery group, for instance, is a declaration that they are done with how they've been identifying up and to this point. Now they are stepping into a new version of themselves. They're making that declaration. And they know that through the work of planning, and then there's accountability, and coaching, with honoring their plan.

It's just them saying like, “Yep, this is what I'm doing. This is who I am. This is what I'm going to create for myself.” It's so powerful. It's a declaration, and it's getting rid of everything that they think about themselves, the disadvantages, the assumptions that they have about themselves, the dramatic thinking that keeps them stuck. It's like scrapping all of that.

I invite each of you there, listening to this, to wake up and start paying attention to the words that you speak, and where the words that you speak are not in alignment with where you are trying to go. You need to have a look at it. Because it is the small nuanced shifts; mentally, the cognitive shifts that will change the trajectory of your success, even by maybe just one degree, which matters, and the speed at which you will create those results.

It's not about being in a hurry. It's just about not delaying, having these unnecessary delays along the way, because you had an unexamined mind. One easy way to examine what's going on in your mind, is to examine the words that are coming out of your mouth.

Alright everyone, that's it for this week. I hope something from this podcast landed, because this is the work that matters. We do a lot of work, a lot of work over here at my company, with law firm owners on; numbers and math and KPIs, facts not feelings, knowing what you're aiming for, making really strong plan to get there. But truly, this work right here determines your results more than anything else.

Have a wonderful rest of your week. I'll see you here next Tuesday.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process that I teach called, Monday Map / Friday Wrap. If you go to, it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans, so that week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to to get your free copy.

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