Me, Only Better: 6 Weeks to a Better Me

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Week 2: Stop Swearing

Not all the items on my self-improvement task list were self-assigned. "You have one of the biggest potty-mouths of anyone I know," Rob announced (and this is someone who's been in the military for 15 years). We decided, for incentive, that I'd pay him $1 for every swear word I uttered for a week.

Forty-seven dollars later, I discovered that I swear not so much in frustration or anger but in illustration -- especially, it turns out, while telling stories to Rob. According to Tim Jay, PhD, author of Why We Curse, this "social swearing" is fundamentally different from "aggressive swearing" and is something people do to build camaraderie. "That explains why people who cuss regularly in front of friends or coworkers manage to control themselves in front of the boss," says Jay.

I admit: I had trouble letting go of my juicy, four-color descriptions. Sometimes I'd even catch myself in time -- then decide the $1 toll was worth it. A deeply religious friend who looks pained every time someone takes the Lord's name in vain advised me to replace cuss words one by one with innocuous ones, but "sugar" and "fudge" just didn't cut it for me. Meanwhile, Jay was something of a crusader for cussing, which didn't help my resolve. "It intensifies emotion in a way other language just can't," he said.

Chances for Long-Term Success: Low
Especially with an expert giving me permission to swear away!

Continued on page 3:  Week 3: Curb My Spending


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