“Positive self-talk is to emotional pain as pain pill is to physical pain.” ― Edmond Mbiaka
There is a legendary Cherokee story known as the tale of the two wolves. Once, a grandfather was explaining to his young warrior grandson that within all of us there lives two wolves constantly fighting for control over us. One is good and positive, while the other is plagued by negativity and destruction. The young warrior questioned which wolf would win? The grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”
This classic story perfectly typifies the self-talk battle that rages inside us all every day. This inner voice that judges everything we do. It plays a big part in defining who we are and greatly impacts our actions and how we feel about ourselves. This reality was highlighted by Henry Ford, when he said , “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t- you are right!” Our confidence, motivation and belief in our ability stem from the self-talk we have with ourselves every day. Whether you are an athlete striving for glory or a corporate executive getting ready for a big presentation adopting a positive self-talk mindset is the key to allowing yourself the opportunity to perform and achieve success.
Over the years, research has shown that self-talk can boost productivity, motivation and confidence, and even help regulate emotions, therefore it is important we start to feed the good wolf and not the bad.
The first step in the right direction is by increasing our awareness of the nature of our self-talk we engage in. When we make mistakes do we criticise ourselves negatively or choose a more positive approach? This process allows us the opportunity to re-evaluate the language we use and change the dialogue towards positive motivating self-talk to help us improve our performance. Mentally beating yourself up serves no purpose and will not improve the outcome. We need to gain clear control of our thinking.
Typically, we could engage self-talk to prompt and remind us what needs to happen in the given moment. We might need to slow things down, move in a certain manner or we might need to use the breath to calm us down. These approaches to positive self-talk can help us focus our attention and boost our confidence especially when facing adversity or a challenging task.
Next time you walk into practice or a competition, a classroom, your office, the boardroom, or the stage for that matter, think about what you will say to yourself to put yourself in the best possible situation for success.
For self-talk to be beneficial and improve performance there needs to be an emphasis on short, sharp trigger phrases to guide actions focusing on positive words. Rather than saying to yourself, “don’t get upset” it is more advantageous to say “stay cool”.
Developing and applying the technique of positive self-talk is a skill that needs to be consistently practiced to become effective. If your goal is to improve performance the following key strategies will help fine tune what works for you: Pinpoint what you want to achieve.
Match self-talks to your needs.
Rehearse different self-talk cues with consistency.
Establish which cues work best for you.
Build specific self-talk tactics.
Practice self-talk tactics to perfection.
Eliminating all negative thoughts will always be a challenge, but it’s important to remember the next time your bad wolf raises its ugly head you always have a choice.