No, this isn’t going to be a post about English grammar and punctuation. Of course, as an English teacher, that is a topic near and dear to me. But chances are it isn’t for you.
Besides, if it was going to be about grammar and punctuation, then why the heck would I be telling you not to end your sentences with periods?!? That would be pure blasphemy.
No, this post is about a technique for reframing the negative self-talk you have in your mind that is keeping you from becoming the best that you’re capable of becoming… no matter what realm you are trying to become your best in.
I just finished listening to a book called You Are Awesome by Neil Pasricha. Thanks to my wife for giving that to me as a gift. (Not sure if she was telling me I’m awesome or if she’s telling me I better learn how to be awesome. I think I’ll take the first one and be happy about it!)
It was an entertaining and insightful listen, and it offered all kinds of ideas and advice on how to be more resilient and become a better version of myself. I love these kinds of books, and my audiobook downloads and my Kindle library are filled with books created to help me in these areas. I always pick up either tidbits or huge chunks of information and ideas from these kinds of books, and I try to apply some of the things in them to my life.
As Pasricha says, “This book is all about resilience. It is a series of nine researched-backed secrets, shared through personal stories, on how we can move from change-resistant to change-ready, from failure-prone to failure-proof, from thin-skinned to thick-skinned, and of course, from anxious to awesome!”
Pasricha talks about the power of self-talk. He explains how so often, we let our self-talk be negative and steer us in directions where we believe that whatever bad thing, loss, or negative outcome has happened to us in the past dictates for us how we believe things will then continue for us in the future.
. . .
He then talks about the punctuation mark the ellipsis. The ellipsis is the series of three dots you will often see at the end, middle, or beginning of a sentence.
These three little dots … indicate that something is missing or that something more is about to come. According to GrammarBook.com, “Ellipses can express hesitation, changes of mood, suspense, or thoughts trailing off. Writers also use ellipses to indicate a pause or wavering in an otherwise straightforward sentence.”
They are oftentimes the pause at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence that says, “Hey, I just skipped over something here that you didn’t really need to waste your time with.”
However, they are also the trailing off at the end of the sentence that says, “Hmmmm. I’m not really sure where I’m going or what I’m thinking or how I want to complete that thought,” or “I want to leave you hanging a bit because there is so much there for you to think about, so I’m just going to let you wonder right along with me.”
Changing a Life… through Punctuation!
It’s that second concept of the ellipsis that Pasricha focuses on in Secret #1 of his book. He uses his mom’s life as the example for it.
She grew up an east Indian girl in Nairobi, Kenya. As a young Indian girl in British, white, and male-ruled Kenya, she had very little say in her world. Everything in her life was controlled by others — especially by men.
Pasricha says his mom described it as a “fatalist feeling of closure and finality over everything. ‘My life was set out,’ she told me, ‘it was decided.’ … Her life seemed like a sentence, something pre-ordained and punishing. There was no sense of possibilities, no options, no dot, dot, dot. Just the end — a full STOP.”
But here was a young woman with her own mind, her own thoughts, her own dreams and goals about what she wanted. She didn’t want to be controlled by external forces. She wanted to be able to live the life she wanted.
So rather than ending the sentences of her life with a period — a full stop indicating ‘that’s the end of that’ — she started ending her sentences with the ellipsis. “She just added a dot, dot, dot to find a way to keep going,” Pasricha says.
One way she did this was by educating herself, studying math and other subjects, completely by herself and on her own, something none of the other girls in her family ever did.
She began living by the concept that ‘just because this thing I’m dealing with now is the way it is…
it doesn’t have to be that way…
it doesn’t have to end that way…
I can work to create a different ending…‘
And so, living by the promise of the ellipsis instead of the finality of the period became her new way of life.
But she didn’t stop there.
After pushing through periods at the ends of her sentences, things often got tough again, and she often felt like just going back. She felt struggles occurring over and over again. And all too often she was confronted with more periods, more ends of sentences for her life.
But then she added one other tool to her tool bag of pushing past the periods and keeping her options open.
She added one short, simple word right after the ellipsis…
Consider all the implications of the word yet, all the potential following the word yet.
Put it together with the ellipsis at the end of a sentence, and it opens a whole new world of possibilities.
“I’m not good at dribbling with my left hand… yet.”
“I don’t have the abs I want… yet.”
“I’m not assertive enough to talk to that cute girl… yet.”
“I can’t get that promotion… yet.”
Notice all the negative self-talk at the beginning of each of those sentences. Notice the mindset that they come from and the mindset they then create and foster.
But then notice the complete 180-degree turn you get by adding “… yet.”
It’s magical. It’s empowering.
Whatever is holding you back doesn’t have to hold you back anymore. By adding “… yet” to the end of your sentences, you are allowing yourself the freedom to say, “Okay, I may not be this thing I want to be at the moment. But if I do certain things that I know I need to do, I can become that thing in the future.”
And that, my friends, is the first step towards success. Creating the mindset that says, “I can be successful at this. I can do what I want to do. I am not limited by my beliefs.”
Many self-help, productivity, and leadership gurus talk about similar ideas on how to deal with our limiting beliefs and mindsets. One of the best books I’ve ever read, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential, by Dr. Carol S. Dweck, talked about this concept and its effect on us. (That is a book I also highly recommend you read.)
But what I loved about Pasricha’s story is just that… the story.
He tells a powerful story about his mom and what she went through and how she flipped the script of the life that had been laid out for her, simply by refusing to end her sentences with a period, but instead, ending them with a … and then adding yet to the end of it.
What About You?
Think about your own life, your own quest to be the best version of yourself that you can be.
What limiting beliefs are you carrying around that are holding you back from reaching your potential?
What negative self-talk do you tell yourself on a fairly consistent basis that is keeping you from becoming all that you can be?
What sentences do you say to yourself that if you simply replaced the period at the end of them with an ellipsis and then added the word yet, it could have a profound effect on your future?
Earlier, I used the word “magical.” But there really is no magic about it. It’s merely a reframing of your mindset by saying to yourself, “This thing I want just hasn’t happened yet. I just need to keep focused on doing what I need to do to achieve it, and it will happen… eventually.”
“Eventually”… another great word to use following the ellipsis.
Stay the course, keep your head down, keep working towards the things you want in life, and you will achieve them… eventually.
Just stop ending the sentences of your life with periods…
and live by the power of “… yet.”