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It’s that time of the year when most of us become ultra-conscious of all the things we have been doing wrong in our lives and vow to fix them, beginning January 1st – or January 15th, depending on whether or not your resolution involves procrastination. Some of us will try to be more punctual; some will try to quit smoking. Most will strive to lose weight or get into better shape.

Even though most churches don’t buy into setting New Year’s resolutions for their parishioners, many ushered in 2011 with prayers of a more healthful, prosperous and productive year. I know of many congregations that implement a church-wide fast that kicks off in January – for a nice cleansing of the body and soul.

This is also the time of year when we see the best and worst lists. One list that circulated a couple of weeks ago was the most irritating word or phrase of the year. “Whatever” topped the list, with “like” and “you know what I mean” coming in second and third. Added from an informal poll around our office were “really?” “hello!” and “it’s all good.”

Trust me, I get annoyed as much as most people when I hear someone use the word “like” 10 times in one sentence: “I was like … and he was like, and then, I’m like …” Seriously? (And that’s getting old too.)

But the words that I’d like to most shed from our vocabulary as we start a new year are those that speak negativity into our lives and the lives of others. It’s surprising how often we say things subconsciously that have an impact on how we think, act or feel – and we do it to others too. If you think back to your childhood, you can probably think of some words used about you or someone you love that have been difficult to shake, even into adulthood. Ugly, stupid, nappy, black, fat – those are just a few that typically come up when negative words are discussed.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a writer, and I love words. I’m totally enamored with how the same group of words can be put together by five different people and mean five entirely different things.

Now, while I don’t think there are any “bad” words, I do know that words have power, and we can use them for good or evil. Okay, maybe that’s being a little dramatic, but the truth of the matter is words can motivate, and words can disintegrate – not only other people’s dreams, but your own. The church even teaches that God has given you the ability to speak life and death into your situation and circumstance; for the Bible says that there is life and death in the power of the tongue.

The words “ugly, stupid, nappy, black and fat” are the most obvious ones that we use, but what about the more subtle ones? Words like “Can’t, won’t and don’t?”

Of course, we all have limitations that require us to say what we can’t, won’t or don’t do. But sometimes we use these words to shield us or excuse ourselves from tasks or opportunities that await us. And sometimes we use them to keep us from forgiving and moving forward.

Words create our reality, and every negative one – spoken or not – draws a like experience. Instead of listing the things that you or someone else can’t or shouldn’t do, make a list of things that can and should be done, and watch the ripple effect the positivity has in your life.

The reality is we can find the time to work out and take better care of our bodies. We will meet new people and find better employment if we make the effort to get out of our comfort zones. And we certainly do have the power to forgive.

Ask your friends and loved ones to help you be accountable. Tell them you want to eliminate negative words and actions that hinder you, and I promise, they’ll remind you when you fall short. They’ll do it because they care about you and, more importantly, because you’re a lot more fun to be around when you’re speaking positivity, energy and light into your life – and theirs too.

Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.