Why Self-Talk Is Important To You

image of Darth VaderThere’s a wonderful Eddie Izzard sketch called Death Star Canteen. It involves a conversation between Darth Vader and a catering assistant. You can YouTube it but there is swearing. The catering assistant is trying to be helpful. Vader is being Vader and has said that he can kill the catering assistant with a single thought…

Catering assistant “you’ll need a tray”

Darth Vader “I don’t need a tray to kill you”

Catering assistant “but the food is hot”

Darth Vader “ah, the food is hot, I see. I thought you were challenging me to a fight to the death. I am Vader. Everyone challenges me to a fight to the death.”

Last week I was going on about the scripts that play in our heads and how we are pretty much destined to play out the character that the script defines, just like a character in a play. 

Talking to yourself…

These scripts that run in our heads are known as our self-talk.

Vader’s self-talk is “I am invincible.” But it is also “everyone is out to challenge me.” Which is why he starts a conversation by saying “I can kill you with a single thought.” Not normal.

Millstone…

It’s a sad fact that a lot of people are dragging themselves through life with some unhelpful self-talk that’s weighing them down…

I can’t do this…

…this is not for people like me…

…they’re all so confident…

…I’m just not management material…

…why would they listen to me…?

This negative self-talk is normally quiet, but when under stress it becomes deafeningly loud.

Conversely…

There are some people who have it the other way around. Their self-talk is positive and normally quiet but when under stress (or challenge as they’d see it) their positive self-talk becomes deafeningly loud…

...I know I can do this…

…we are the best at this and that’s why we’ll win…

…I am in control of me…

…I decide what I say, do, think and feel…

Needless to say positive self-talk is better than negative.

This self-talk conditions us. Good or bad. Repetition leads to belief. And you know the cycle after that…beliefs lead to attitudes which lead to emotions which lead to behaviours which lead to results. Different results for different conditioning.

It’s a virtuous or a vicious cycle…

To rid ourselves of negative self-talk, some gurus advocate that we go back in time and identify the point where the negative stuff was put into our head by some evil teacher/parent/friend etc and start the exorcism there.

This is nonsense…

For two reasons. First, you usually cannot get to the point because there is no point – it’s conditioning and the issue has built up through repetition.

Secondly, even if you could get to the critical point what are you going to do about it? Change history? Good luck with that.

Here’s what to do…

…re-condition yourself. Start from right now, because that’s where we are. And you can start from a negative self-talk position or a positive self-talk position. It doesn’t matter where you are. All movement towards the more positive end of the spectrum is good.

Some people I know who are already positive have really grabbed this by the neck.

They have taken the time to …

1. Write out their new, positive self-talk script.

They look at all areas of life – their psychology, financial health, physical health, relationships, career….it goes on. And they write down the self-talk they want to hear.

2. Record it.

They read their self-talk out aloud and record it.

3. Listen to it.

They listen to it every day.

Now these are sensible people…

…they don’t believe in elves. Or lines. Or forces (unlike Darth Vader). Or any other kind of “woo woo” as the nation’s favourite physicist Brian Cox would say.  

What they’re doing is taking something that works (the pep talk some of us give ourselves occasionally when facing an immediate and external challenge) and they’ve codified it into a regular event as part of their personal continuous improvement. It’s simply more of what already works. Why wouldn’t you do that?  

And guess what? Turns out top athletes do this too. Yet again we find positive psychology being mastered in the field of sport rather than business. This is because sports people need to perform at a high level for relatively small periods of time and failure is stark and there’s nowhere to hide whereas the business folk are not so brutally challenged, and there are more places to hide…

Try this stuff – it actually works.

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2 Responses to Why Self-Talk Is Important To You

  1. Margaret O'Sullivan June 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Hi Mark

    Long time no speak.

    This update is a nice pleasant read – simple.

    M

    • Mark Nugent June 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

      Indeed a long time. Thanks for the comment. Hope all is well.

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