A few years back, I was having an informal coffee with, by all accounts, a very successful man. He had built a local car dealership empire and had now passed it along to his children. It’s an inspiring story of hard work, self-discipline, and personal growth.

As we sat there, I was describing my current path, dreams, and challenges. At some point, he interrupted me and said, “Stop using weak words!”

“Ok. I uh, what do you mean?”

He went on to explain how using words like “if” communicate weakness of resolve. As in, “if I accomplish…” gives people the sense that I’m not committed.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. So, why was I using “weak words”? Why was I not saying, “WHEN I accomplish…”?

At the time I would have said I was being pragmatic.

After years of trying to understand myself better through the habit of using Define My Day and catching myself saying “if” in certain situations, I think I’ve figured it out… I’m protecting myself from naysayers.

I’m protecting myself from other people’s negativity and doubt.

If you’ve ever tried reaching for a big goal, you know how hard it can be. You need to gather all the energy you can to keep going forward.

You also know what it’s like when someone craps on your goal or idea. They call the goal unrealistic or, even worse, that it’s not realistic for YOU. As if it maybe possible for someone else, just not you.

Why even start?

Other people come up with so many reasons how you could fail. Usually, you’ve already thought of them. When it comes from someone else’s mouth, it seems much more real.

That can be crushing.

This man I was sitting with had 30 years of success behind him. Of course, he could say, “when” or “I will” all the time. He had a track record of success that made everyone around believe he could do whatever he set his mind to accomplishing. Even if not, who would tell him he couldn’t?

A lot of people don’t have that luxury. A positive life change can be a delicate journey, especially at the start.

People around you “protect you” by helping you “set realistic expectations”. Other people cannot imagine doing it themselves, so how could you?

It can cause hard feelings and even damage relationships.

So, I protect myself by quietly going about my business as I gain small wins and momentum. I only speak about my big goals with people that support me.

If you’ve truly decided on a big change, make sure that IF you share your big dreams with anyone, it’s someone that will encourage you. Hopefully, it’s someone who will offer help and advice to get there faster and not offer up realistic advice.

In the meantime, I say keep using weak words. Protect your baby of a goal. When you share it with people that may not be 100% behind you, keep using “if” all that you need to. “When” it happens, they’ll still be able to share in your success.