By Keith Varnum
When I was only 22, I found myself thrust into the job of
managing a bustling natural food store in Boston.
I hadn’t ask for the promotion. I enjoyed my previous job of
produce manger. Fruits and vegetables are easier to mange than
people! And before that job, I was very content unloading
delivery trucks all day. It was good exercise-and bags of rice
are even easier to manage than fruits and vegetables. I liked
my jobs easy, my days flowing. My motto was: “No stress, no
Unfortunately I quickly discovered that the position of store
manager was a vortex of turmoil and tension. The position was
a magnet for stress. Every day, I heard 30 times, “Keith, we
have a problem!” And guess what? … My job was to find a
solution to the problem. Now!
After just a few days on the job, I was overwhelmed and
paralyzed with the back up of problems to solve. I couldn’t
sleep for the nightmares I had of hundreds of people chasing
me down in the store shouting “We have a problem, Keith!”
I prayed for a way to survive the onslaught of problems at the
store. One night my prayers were answered. From deep inside me
came a gentle suggestion: “Banish the word problem! That word
carries such heavy, burdensome connotations for you that you
can’t function well in its energy field.”
This helpful guide reminded me of all the people in my life
who used this word a lot-my father, mother, brother, school
teachers, sports coaches, bosses. I felt the immense morphic
field of that word. The intense seriousness of the energy with
which it is used in our culture.
So, the next morning I instituted an official ban on the word
problem in my store. Employees had to find a substitute for
that word. I suggested the word situation. So, now all day
long I had people addressing me with the words, “Keith, we
I immediately noticed that my reaction to the word situation
was dramatically different form my reaction to the word
problem. I didn’t cringe as much when I heard situation. I
stayed more open. And thus, I was much better able to listen
and hear what being said to me. And thus, I would respond
faster and more effectively than when the energy field of
problem was invoked.
I also noticed that the energy or vibration of the employees
was markedly different when they used the word situation
rather than problem. They were calmer, less tense, less
urgent-less serious. Therefore, the whole interaction was
lighter, more flowing-and more quickly resolved. My employees
and I often even broke into a laugh at the notion that “Oh,
my, God, we have a situation!!!”
The effect of changing just one word in our everyday
communication had an immediate and cumulative effect on the
store. The new playful vibration of situation had a radically
positive effect on the atmosphere of the store. I was more
cheerful and approachable. The employees were more relaxed and
open to customers. The customers were happier. The result of
every employee coming from a light-hearted, flowing space of
situation instead of the serious, rigid energy of problem made
for a radically higher energy, fun space in the store.
At that same time the daily dollar volume in the store
tripled! I was so successful at managing the situations at the
retail store level, I was quickly whisked up to the wholesale
and distribution level of company, becoming a member of the
Board of Directors and Vice President in charge of Product
Procurement, Development and Research. And, boy, did the word
situation come in handy on the level of million dollar
decisions made every day!
This was my first personal experience of the power of words!
Since this time, I constantly experiment with my choice of
words-searching for the most clear and also effective words to
use in every communication with others and myself!
I looked at the word emotion and saw a clue to the meaning of
the word: e-motion = “energy in motion.” I began to use the
words energy, vibration or sensation to represent the meaning
of the word emotion. I now see and feel emotion as “energy in
motion.” And it’s now easier for me to allow emotions to
naturally come up and out of my body, my being and my
I began to substitute the word challenging for hard, tough or
difficult. And now I experience situations being more easy to
shift and change.
Our words create a perceptual filter through which we
experience our world. Our words attract and create the nature
of our experiences.
If you’d like to play with the power of words, ask yourself
these questions the next time you encounter a problem in life:
If I labeled this problem as simply a “situation” or
“challenge” or “experience,” how would I feel?
If I didn’t look at this situation as bad, wrong or negative,
how would I see it?
How would the situation look, if I saw it from a different
point of view?
About the Author:
A vibrant film maker in college, at the tender age of 19, Keith Varnum went totally blind before he could launch out on his own. The prognosis of Western doctors that Keith would be blind for the rest of his life catapulted him into the adventure of his life! On this journey he studied with medicine men, shaman, Hawaii Kahuna and Eastern spiritual masters, regained his eyesight, and discovered the secrets of all healing, transformation and success. Keith has tested these practical secrets in his 35-year career as an author, Certified Matrix Energetics Practitioner, Life Coach, Vision Quest guide, acupuncturist, sound healer, radio host, and vice-president of a multi-million dollar company. When not exploring consciousness in the canyons of Arizona , Keith travels around the world assisting people to open to life’s wonders and surprises in his Dream Workshops.