No matter what you are doing, your inner voices are going to have something to say about it. Sometimes they are helpful, reminding us to defrost the chicken and get gas in the car. Other times, they are even encouraging. “You got this,” they’ll say before the big presentation. “You know what you are talking about.”
When that inner chatter is positive, studies show it actually boosts are performance. But what about when it’s not? What about when it’s snarky or demeaning or downright rude? Then, our inner voices can keep us from being our best and make us feel bad about ourselves to boot.
So how do we keep that negative self-talk at bay and replace it with the self-talk that can help us succeed?
First, notice what those inner voices are saying. We’ve all got’em, but pay attention to what yours sound like. Then, interrupt the inner talk that is anything less than helpful and replace it with something better.
Here are some ways to do it:
1. Keep it constructive. Arm your inner voice with encouraging and helpful phrases and ideas that fire up your abilities by remembering other times you’ve been successful. Rather than listening to repetitive self-talk that says, “I’m not sure I’m ready for this” choose more constructive language like “You are capable and now is your time to do this.”
I often say to myself, “OK, I can figure this out, I’ve got this” especially, when I’m feeling self-doubt. Simply by hearing those words I’m reminded that I can learn what I need to know to handle the situation and the phrase makes me feel a whole lot better.
2. Choose the words you use. Phrases like “I don’t” have a much different impact on your self-control and your decision-making than phrases such as “I can’t.” I don’t is empowering. I can’t, feels constrictive and limiting. The words we choose determine how we feel and act. Using negative or hostile words and phrases such as “I’ve got to deal with this mess” or “I need to attack this project on my desk” tend to put you in an adversarial or defensive mindset. That can make it tough to access the best of your abilities. “I got this” or “I’m going to focus and work through this” will help you perform better.
3. Keep it encouraging. Use your self-talk to fire you up, get you excited. So many times, when I’m sitting alone struggling and miserable over a piece of writing I’ll say to myself “isn’t it awesome that I get to do the work I’ve always wanted to do?” The sentence reminds me that I made this choice and even when it’s hard I’m still choosing to do it.
Other encouraging phrases: “I’ve done this before, I can do it again.”
“Do your best and have fun.”
“This is your moment.”
4. Use it for focus. Use your inner voices to keep you on track and help you focus on the mechanics of the performance.
“Just take one item at a time.”
“Pay attention to what you are doing.”
“Just put the ball in play.”
“Go through your process.”
Or, “Win the Day” as Philedelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is fond of saying.
Encouraging self-talk can help us perform our best. So, replace the discouraging voices with something better. After all you get to write the script.