Reading time: 90 seconds.

Try this: place a pen in the extended palm of one hand. Now, with your other hand try to pick it up. If you picked it up, put it back down and try again. I said “Try to pick it up,” I didn’t say “Pick it up.” If you actually hovered over the pen with trembling fingers and failed to pick it up, bravo, you already know that when it comes to motivating yourself the word “try” actually means “try in vain.” There is all the difference in the world between, “Try to pick up the pen,” and “Pick up the pen.” One is an instruction to fail, the other to succeed.

When you tell yourself I’m going to try to get a date, or I’ll try to give up smoking, what you’re actually saying is, “I’ll give it a shot – but don’t count on it.” When you say I’m going to try to lose 20 pounds, or I’ll try to build a bookcase, what you’re telling yourself is, “Hey, maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Whatever!” At work, when your boss says we’re going to try to beat last year’s numbers, what she just told you is, “What can I say? Succeed? Fail? Who knows!” If the Captain of your flight comes on the PA and says, “Hello passengers we’re going to try to get you to your destination on time today,” what he just said is, “Don’t count on it but hey, cross your fingers folks you never know.” The next time you hear the word “try” coming from your lips pay attention. Either change it to “do,” or simply drop what you’re trying and move on to something more worthwhile.

I know this seems like a tiny, picky distinction but the quality of your self talk is paramount as a motivator, not just to your conscious mind but to your unconscious mind.