We often hear how negative self-talk can keep us from performing our best. How to beat self-talk can be a real puzzle… here’s one method.
We come by negative self-talk easily. Our brains are much more receptive to negative information or threats than to positive information. It’s how the species has survived, by being attuned to potential threat. With so much potential for negativity built-in, we have to hack the system to break that cycle.
Here’s my 4-step process for overcoming negative self-talk. I encourage you to contact me for additional information, or for help implementing this method into your process.
1. Recognize negative self-talk
The first step is to recognize self-talk in your regular internal dialogue. Start by becoming aware of all evaluations, good or bad, and recognizing them as evaluations. Practice seeing things as they are, without attaching a value judgment to them. Revise negative or evaluative statements into non-judgmental observations.
We become so used to negativity, we don’t even recognize it many times. Catch yourself saying things like “That (or I) sucked….. If I’d tried harder….. If I had my act together…. etc.” It’s important to monitor your progress, but work on taking a more journalistic, just-the-facts approach, to take the negativity out of your internal dialogue. “I ran 7:00 miles today. My average is 6:45. I got side-stitch in the second mile.” is a good example of non-judgmental observation. No evaluations, just facts.
This matters because our brains are already hard-wired for negativity and threat. It takes 7 positive comments to balance out 1 negative one. So, every time you say something negative, it digs you into a hole. There’s a pretty good body of research out there to suggest that negative self-talk has a negative impact on performance.It takes 7 positive comments to balance out 1 negative one.Click To Tweet
2. Release it
When you catch yourself in negative self-talk, resist the urge to dig yourself in deeper by criticizing that, too. “Darn it! There I go again! Why can’t I stay positive?” Recognize that negative thoughts are there for a reason. Even though it becomes counter-productive in a performance setting, those threat-based thoughts are there to help you survive a dangerous world.
That negativity is what made the caveman grab a spear every time he heard rustling in the bushes. It might be a tiger, and if he’s going to avoid becoming that tiger’s dinner, he has to be ready for fight or flight. So, we are predisposed to being aware of threat (hint: your brain thinks they’re ALL tigers).
We don’t have to push those thoughts away. Don’t disparage them, because they’re part of you and are there to keep you safe. Still, you can make the choice not to engage them. when you re-focus your attention elsewhere, they will leave your consciousness on their own.
3. Imagine Success
Instead, intentionally re-direct your thoughts to imagining success. Many people call this visualization, and that’s fine, but I think the term imagine offers a much more robust model. Don’t just see the shot. Create a robust experience of making that shot that includes all five senses. Which sounds do you hear? What do you smell? How does it feel like to make that successful shot?
When you can imagine success, you can achieve it. If you truly believe any competition is 80-90% mental, then you can achieve much in your own mind. Musicians has tremendous success with mental practice. Athletes and others can use this technique too.
4. Embody Success
Once you’ve imagined success, the final step is to embody that success. You don’t just do the successful thing, you become it. Choose to make that image a part of who you are in that moment. You’ve already done it in your mind, so now you just need to put that imagery into action.
However, it goes beyond the doing. Since you imagined success so thoroughly, you wat to live into that image with all your might. Don’t just do. Choose to be.
If you want to learn more about how to overcome negative self-talk, contact me for a consultation. I work with optimal performers of all kinds, and my work can help you reach your goals.