Self-talk can be huge for helping us to achieve personal victories. Dig in to find out what it is and how to apply it.
Through many years of working in the health care field, I have learned that educating people on their poor lifestyle choices doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because health education often is given in a way that makes the person being educated feel criticized or stupid. Most of us already criticize ourselves. Someone who has a degree telling us we suck is just icing on the cake that we will eat tonight because we already ate Sonic for lunch.
Self-criticism doesn’t work to help to motivate us to change. However, it can be our autopilot setting. Highly self-critical people have feelings of inferiority, guilt, and worthlessness. They have been measured by themselves, and they don’t measure up to standards. People that continue to ride the autopilot of self-criticism are at a higher risk for depression. The more you judge yourself, the more likely you will continue to make that rut you are stuck in bigger and deeper. Changing behaviors is not easy, but there is a way to make your path easier—Self-Talk.
Sports psychologists use Self-Talk regularly to help athletes mentally prepare for an event. There can be a keyword or phrase that helps athletes mentally shift into a different place during a grueling part of their race. Self-talk can also be used by the people more likely to watch the race on TV instead of participating. Self-talk is a strategy to improve focus and attention to a task when the going gets tough. A time when you may want to throw in the towel for a habit you are trying to remake. While we don’t think about it, all athletes get to a point where they want to stop working so hard and give in. But those that make it learn how to bolster their fatiguing willpower. You can use the same tactics. Here’s how you can start to apply self-talk to gain some mental toughness that will get you through the urge to quit.
Interestingly mental toughness has been studied and is described as a key set of attributes for optimizing performance. Athletes improve their performance by having personal resources that allow them to maintain effort and motivation. This personal resource is the use of self-talk to improve their mental toughness. What they do is physically stressful. Self-talk used by athletes are individualized statements that cue the athlete to combat the competing thoughts, which are probably along the lines of “this sucks” or “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” In a study of three 800-meter runners’ use of self talk, one of the runners used “Smooth & Fast,” “There you are!” and “You got this” as her coached phrases for pushing herself and improving her personal record.
You can also use self-talk to pre-battle your struggles and decrease the mental fatigue it takes to continue pushing yourself for a lifestyle change. Let’s take cutting down on extra sugar as an example. You sit down at a business meeting and what is put out for food is donuts, or maybe you get lunch with a friend, and they are getting a dessert. What are you going to do? Have you visualized that situation and thought about how you will respond? This approach only works if you do it full-ass versus half-ass, meaning kind of sort of thinking your way through it will not work. Outloud ask yourself, “What should (your name) do in this situation?” Talk to yourself like you would if your friend asked you for advice. What do you want her/him to do when this problem comes up? Find the phrase that will trigger you to push through.
In the absence of pre-planning with self-talk, you will eventually run into a situation or time when you don’t have the willpower to sustain the change you want. You do better when you have leadership from the person who knows why you want that change. You. Grab the self-leadership microphone for your current challenge and self-talk your way to a better way to achieve your goals.
Action Steps: Go full ass. What goal are you struggling with? Maybe it is scheduling daily meditation or getting in your steps. Talk out loud to yourself and find a phrase you can use to shift your mindset when you feel your willpower giving out. Want help? Check out local counselors to do a deep dive into getting some specific self-talk for your goals.