How do you find the ‘right’ words?

An exercise on finding the ‘right’ words by looking back on past words…


Now that the season of autumn has arrived, the summer sunshine starts to fade and people’s active lives start to turn more inward.  Fall is actually one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the changing colors of the leaves, the tranquility in the air, the rainfall, and the harvest still arriving on the table.  Fall is a time of reflection, as we prepare for winter, and it gives us a chance to look back at the past year.  We can review all that we accomplished (or didn’t), what happened to us, what didn’t happen, the joys, sadness or grieves we felt, who we met, who we lost, etc.

Sometimes it’s hard to find just the ‘right’ words to describe what you’re feeling, seeing, or hearing.  Sometimes no words or saying nothing can be even more powerful.  What I’ve noticed recently is the more I listen to songs and read books, the more I realize how hard it is to transcribe exactly what you are trying to say in under 4 minutes, 120 characters or less, or within a constraint of a bound hard copy.  People say that the possibilities are limitless, which is awesome, but when you think about it… that sounds actually quite overwhelming!  There has to be a limit.  You have to end the story, the song, the book, the point, the lesson, the day, the night.  It can’t go on forever. Otherwise you can get lost in a rabbit hole, potentially never come out, and then nothing will ever be finished.  So when do you know when it’s time to end something?  When do you finally walk away from that relationship that’s going ‘nowhere?’  When do you end that job that doesn’t provide you any meaning?   When do you decide that your project or ‘masterpiece’ is finally complete?

Recently in trying to find the ‘right’ words, I decided to look back on past words.  I looked back on many of the books I’ve read and traced back the history of my reading habits to what I’m reading (and writing) now.  It was actually quite interesting.  I also traced back how I found certain books and who gave them to me.  Most of the books that made an impact were given to me at key pivotal times by a friend or mentor.  I invite you to try this exercise.

‘Tracing Past Words’ Exercise

  • Think about the areas of life that are important to you.  It can be work, personal or family related, but most importantly they have to be things you are passionate about.
  • Then look at a few major books you’ve read in each area that have made a significant impact on you.  Don’t think too hard about it. These books should automatically pop up in your mind.
  • How did you acquire each book?  Did you find it yourself?  Did a friend give it to you?  If someone gave you a book to read, who are they in relation to you now?
  • What are you reading now?  Are the books you are reading now sharing a common theme from books from your past or are you on a whole new path? Trace your reading history.  You might be pleasantly surprised at your growth and development over the years.  Or perhaps you haven’t read a book in a long time, or there is a gap in reading habits.  Don’t worry.  It’s never too late to pick up a book (or a paper and pencil to start writing your own story).

Here’s the result of my exercise:
The important areas I’m passionate about are Food/Nutrition, Psychology/Personal Growth, and Spirituality.  Under each one of these categories, I’ve listed out a few books, the impact it’s had, and who gave me each book.  Bear in mind, this is a short list of core books (listing everything I’ve ever read would be a waste of time and probably impossible).

Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford

Staying Healthy with the Seasons, Elson Haas

These books were on the required reading list at an acupuncture school I worked at for five years and attended for one.  These books helped open my world to whole, nourishing foods, nutrition, how food can heal ailments, and the importance of having a balanced, seasonal lifestyle, which I’m still passionate about today.

Psychology/Personal Growth
Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
Given to me by a psychologist and former mentor.   This book was intense and taught me that you can find meaning under any circumstance, no matter how unbearable.

The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
Given to me by a psychologist and musician.  This book opened the path for me to find my inner artist and creative talents.  I recommend this book to all artists, or anyone trying to define how art plays a role in their life.

The Alchemist, Paulo Coehlo
Found this myself.  This is about a boy named Santiago who partakes on a travel pilgrimage in order to discover his “personal legend.”  I read this book about 10 years ago, and this year I recently went on a travel pilgrimage in Spain, called the El Camino de Santiago, which carried a similar personal theme to the book.

The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
Given to me by a personal trainer, friend, and Korean soul sister.  I received this book during the peak height of my “new age” studies and “positive thinking” stage of life.  Although I am no longer on the new age path, I still try and “stay positive” daily, however, I know now that sometimes this is not the answer to all our problems.  There is actually a much deeper layer beyond that.

The Healing Path: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You to a More Abundant Life, Dan Allender
Found this myself.  The author of this book is the president and head faculty of my graduate school. This book really helped me during a transitional phase of my life, and taught me the importance of embracing difficulty versus running away or avoiding it.

Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
Given to me by a music educator, friend and mentor.  I received this book during the peak height of my personal self-discovery through Eastern and meditation studies.  Although I am no longer on an Eastern path, this book was a stepping-stone for further exploration of my spirituality, beliefs, and finding where I belong on the spiritual spectrum.

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Given to me by a Christian pastor.  This book was given to me when I first landed back in the doors of a church.   After years of turmoil, hitting “rock bottom” with my career and questioning everything I was involved in, I received this book and began to look over to another side of life that I had forgotten existed.

The Bondage Breaker, Neil Anderson
Given to me by a Christian friend.  This book gave me the official kick in the butt I needed to change my life and cut away from all the previous bondages I was associated with.  Although the tone is intense, sometimes you need a good slap or wake up call to get started in another direction.

Currently exploring..
The Bible

If you ever feel like you can’t find the ‘right’ words, try this reflection exercise and see where you land. Or if you don’t like to read, you can listen to this song about words instead..

by Kristin Bach
Copyright 2013


One thought on “How do you find the ‘right’ words?

  1. It’s interesting to see how your perspectives and journey evolved, from holistic and naturalistic philosophies, to psychology, to Christianity. It’s awesome to be able to look back on our histories and remember who we were, look at who we have become, and wonder who we will be.

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