The Challenge of Language
I have to. I must. You must. I have to meet this deadline. I must meet this deadline. You must meet this deadline. I have to meet this deadline to get organized or I’ll be embarrassed when my friends come over for the party. I must meet this deadline and then I’ll have a more comfortable house. You must finish getting organized or I, your friend, won’t come to the party.
It’s common to use “have to” and “must” interchangeably. But ponder the tremendous difference when they are used correctly – and if The British Council isn’t The Source for right proper English, no agency is! The challenge and joy of language is its power, to demoralize, teach, frighten, motivate, punish, reward…
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. is a chaired Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She studies motivation. In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential, she concludes, after decades of experimentation, that motivation is derived from language: we can be taught, and we can teach ourselves, to be motivated.
Dr. Dweck believes people view the world with only two fundamental vantage points: “fixed” or “growth.” Those with a fixed mentality believe we are born as we are born, and there is no changing that: IQ and “natural talent” dictate all accomplishment. Those with a growth orientation believe we can always learn, always rise above our challenges, always try again and gain something in the process. Dr. Dweck is persuasive that a growth mindset is healthier and more community-oriented. A fixed mindset can be circumvented and re-directed to grow, at any age. Simple, consistent changes in our use of praise are an excellent foundation. If we praise efforts rather than results; if we acknowledge that failure teaches; if we decide that we can always learn a little more, we’re doing well in fostering a growth mindset. Honesty is critical: “I know you tried, but this time you didn’t succeed. You can try again.”
I have to. I must. You must. But, instead, “I want to;” “I appreciate that…”
My friend Tomoyuki “Tomo” Uehara taught me the “have” “must” distinction today, for which I’m grateful, and which inspired this post. I love living in a world where a native Okinawan who taught English as a Second Language teaches grammar to a Bryn Mawr College English major.
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Thank you so much for all the help that you’ve provided for me. You are simply awesome!
You are very welcome! Lauren
Praise efforts rather than results… thank you for reminding me to stay in the growth mindset!
You are very welcome. I found Dr. Dweck’s arguments so compelling I am trying to make a habit of using “correct” language. It’s harder than it seems!