THE BLOG

Make Sure There Is Sunshine in Your Word Cloud

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Word Cloud Courtesy of Tagul.com

"Dumb me." I have a lovely, intelligent friend who used to have a habit of referring to herself that way.

She was usually laughing or rolling her eyes when she said it, her intent less than serious. But even casually self-deprecation has a way of echoing in our heads, bouncing around destructively. I was pleased and proud of her when she decided to drop the phrase.

The occasion made me think about word clouds. I love word clouds.

In case you're unfamiliar with them: Word clouds are designs that a computer can generate from more traditional compositions. The starting point can be a paragraph or single blog post, or it can be more complicated -- perhaps all of the words on a website or in a book or database.

The result is an artsy jumble that shows the words that appeared most often in the source material as the largest or the most boldly colored. The least common words come out in the design in the faintest or the smallest type.

I think the beauty in word clouds lies in their element of surprise. And the way they make you think about priorities.

You might think you know the theme or emphasis of something you've written, but a word cloud can paint a different picture by revealing what you've repeated most. Repetition is obviously not always the ultimate measure of a word's power or importance, but it does matter -- perhaps even more with words that are spoken.

What if you poured every word you've ever said to your children into a word-cloud generator? I imagine it would alarm you as a parent if affirming phrases like "I love you" came out small and faint.

And what about your self-talk? We're often much less careful and caring with the words or phrases we use when talking to or thinking about ourselves.

When I was younger, negative messages ran like MP3s in my head: "not good enough," "not pretty enough," "not smart enough," "not rich enough." Now that I am in midlife I still hear those messages sometimes, but I have a better sense of self and of all that I have to be grateful for and proud of.

When I look in the mirror, if I find my self-talk focusing on my flaws -- wrinkles under my eyes, flab around the middle -- I do what I advise my lifestyle-coaching clients to do. I shift my attention. I change the conversation.

The effect is amazing. Flaws don't disappear, but they fade from view -- because my focus shifts. I see my pretty blue eyes, my long legs, my warm smile. And I give those things the energy of my thoughts, the power of my words.

Today I'm hoping that you, too, can see all that is right and wonderful about yourself, and that you can choose the words you think and say accordingly. With love. Build a beautiful word cloud. I promise it will help to build an even more beautiful you.