Ban these phrases to get ahead in your career

I was sitting in a café waiting for a meeting the other day and overheard a mother and her young daughter sitting at the next table. The little girl was doing her homework and exclaimed, "It's too hard. I can't do it." Her mum replied, "Don't say that, your brain cells will hear you." Whilst I'm not sure if this was the most accurate science lesson, I did agree with her sentiment in terms of how what we say can have a dramatic impact on our chances of succeeding.

There are endless articles written about how good bosses should speak to their employees – how to be firm but fair, constructive but not critical, and how to encourage them without mothering them. But do you pay as much attention to how your speech affects your own psyche? Are you sabotaging yourself with your speech patterns?

There are certain phrases that, over 14 years in business, I've learnt do not put me in the right headspace and so I've actively banned from from my internal and external monologues. Are there phrases that jar with you? Then don't use them! Successful people don't talk the talk, so they can walk the walk. Here is a list of my vetoed vocab, and I urge you to make your own.

They're my idol

I have many "idols" in business but I would never use that word to describe them. To me, an idol is someone on another level – above you. They are unreachable, unrelatable and therefore not really motivational. Instead I prefer the phrase 'role model', or just 'friend' if I am lucky enough to meet them. Don't put your role model too high on a pedestal.

I wish I could

If there is something you want that's in your reach, rather than wishing for it, put a productive plan in place to achieve it. If it's really not within your reach there's no point wishing for it and your mental energy is better used elsewhere. Sadly, Peter Pan is unlikely to hear your wish and grant it.

They're so lucky

I love the quote by Coleman Cox, "I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have." That's why I try never to put success – whether it's mine or someone else's – down to luck, as it belittles the slog put into achieving it.


I want to be rich

Whilst I am a great believer in setting goals, I've learnt that statements which are this general have no real strength to them. Be specific! How much do you want to earn by what date and how are you going to achieve it? If you're going to draw a treasure map, make it as clear as possible.


When I noticed this hashtag on Twitter I wanted to reach out to every user retweeting it and stop them. I know that we should all hate Mondays – it's a mental habit we learnt as schoolchildren – but should we keep perpetuating it as adults? I love Mondays – and I'm happy to admit it! It's a fresh start, a new week and I think we should celebrate it.

What are some of the no-go phrases you actively ban from your workday vocab? Let us know in the comments below.

The founder and editor-in-chief of The Collective, a monthly business and lifestyle magazine, Lisa Messenger has become a leading authority on the business world, specialising in entrepreneurship and disruption. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and three times been a finalist in the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year awards.