3 steps you and yourself can follow
Your mindset largely depends on how you talk to yourself. And the reason it’s so important is because your inner dialogue is the only conversation you can’t walk away from. What’s more, it affects everything you do. As Marcus Aurelius said:
“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”
Simply, positive self-talk leads to a positive mindset, while negative self-talk leads to a negative mindset. I know how it is.
When I was younger, I used to be a harsh coach. Not when I was coaching the kids in my sports club, but when I was coaching myself.
I used to put myself under immense pressure, motivate myself with anger, and criticize myself when I made simple mistakes. While it fueled my performance — to some degree, sometimes — it caused trouble for my overall mindset in life. I wasn’t that happy.
I think it’s a common pattern. Towards others, we’re supportive, kind, and positive. Towards ourselves, we’re often our own worst critic (or worse). And while it isn’t necessarily dameaging once in a while, doing it repeatedly can have serious consequences.
Curiously, however, the negative views we form of ourselves are seldom warranted. As the clinician Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. observed in his practice:
“In general… the level of self-loathing never matches the true qualities of the person before me, or the way the person’s friends and family view the individual.”
The question is, how can we see ourselves in the same light? How can we go from our own worst critic to becoming the best coach we ever had? Well, based on my own experience and the helpful advice of professionals, I’ve come to some ideas:
If you want to develop a positive mindset, you need to have better conversations with yourself. And you can do that by applying these 3 steps:
#1 Cultivate Awareness
The first step in creating better self-talk is to become more aware of your inner dialogue. For some people, simply deciding to be more aware does the trick. While for others, deliberate practice is what’s needed. And usually there’s a combination.
One way to practice is by doing a little meditation. When you sit down with your eyes closed, not focusing on anything special, but allowing your thoughts to flow freely, you can start to notice their contents.
Doing this regularly (for 5 to 10 minutes is often enough) allows you to transfer your awareness to situations beyond the meditation.
Another way, is to tune in to your thoughts in stressful situations. That’s when your self-talk is really challenged and most vulnerable to becoming negative.
However, that also makes it one of the best moments to practice it. Using the stress as a cue, get mindful of your inner dialogue and steer it into something positive.
Personally, implementing both these practices helped me. I especially remember using the second practice when I was working in a grocery store. I had a tendency to get overly stressed at times, and I didn’t like the effects it had on me.
Then when I learned to use the stress as a cue to tune in, I discovered what set my stress off and the way I talked to myself about it. From there, I learned how to manage it more efficiently, and my shifts became significantly more pleasurable.
#2 Select Better Input
Alongside a heightened awareness, selecting better input will make your self-talk better. In general, the things outside of you affect the things inside of you. People, places, music, art, etc., influences the way you think.
So, instead of being open to random inputs, start to be selective and find what works for you. Drowning yourself with positive input makes you self-talk more positive, and in turn, you develop a more positive mindset.
An easy way to do this, is to read powerful books or listen to inspirational podcasts. Although having positive friends or colleagues are powerful inputs as well, they’re usually not that controllable. Start with the easy stuff.
Not that long ago, I felt stuck in my personal development. And I realized one of the causes was because I had reduced my positive inputs. Then, when I started to listen to podcasts more regularly, I felt the positive affects it had on me. I felt revitalized.
#3 Continue to Iterate
The final step is to iterate on your inner dialogue — to work at it, shape it, and turn it into something you’re proud of having with you. Realize that a mindset isn’t built in a few days, but that it’s a continual practice to get better at.
One of the best ways to iterate your self-talk, is not by talking at all. It’s by having a dialogue, yes, but it’s by writing it down on paper.
Doing this allows you to have more control of what you think, as trying to keep an overview in your mind can be difficult. On paper, you can see things more clearly.
When it comes to specifics, you can try to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. When a negative train of though comes by, write it down, then see if you can put a positive spin on it.
For example, it’s possible to turn “I’m a freak that don’t fit in anywhere,” into “I’m different, and accepting that will attract like-minded people.”
Another specific is to pre-write a script for when you find yourself in a stressful situation. In addition to using the stress as a cue to be more aware, you can use it to trigger a positive dialogue in your head. This enables you to coach yourself through the situation.
Positive self-talk is one of the best ways to develop a positive mindset, because it’s always with you and it colors everything you do.
You can’t walk away, so what will you talk about?
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