More Change-Talk Strategies
In the last module, we started to explore the relationship between self-talk and self-confidence. I cover this in much more detail on the Confidence Programme, however, you can start to see how what you say to yourself will impact on both how you feel and what you do.
Let’s start this module with a quote from an elite athlete who said.
“What athletes think or say is critical to performance. Unfortunately, the conscious mind is not always an ally. We all spend vast amounts of time talking to ourselves. Much of the time we are not aware of this internal dialogue, much less its content.
Nevertheless, thoughts directly affect feelings and ultimately actions.
Inappropriate or misguided thinking usually leads to negative feelings and poor performance just as appropriate or positive thinking leads to enabling feelings and good performance”
This quote summarises six key ideas about self-talk
- What you say is critical to the outcomes you get
- You’re not always aware of the dialogue
- Your subconscious is not always an ally – so your self-talk is often not useful
- Your thoughts affect your feelings and your actions.
- Misguided thinking usually leads to negative feelings and poor performances and finally, and crucially
- Appropriate or positive thinking leads to empowering and improved performances
It’s the purpose of this MYND programme to teach you how to control your self-talk, and consequently help you achieve higher levels of performance and of general well-being.
The inner voice – choose the channel
Your self-talk, that ‘little voice’ inside your head is rarely neutral – and is probably disproportionately and irrationally negative.
It’s often said that a performers’ confidence is the sum of all the thoughts he has about himself as a performer –
we’ve mentioned challenging your thoughts and changing the channel when thinking in a negative way, in earlier modules. For now, if your confidence comes from the sum of your thoughts – make those thoughts more productive and positive
One strategy that some performers effectively use is.
Acting ‘as if’
The mind-body link is often represented as;
Thoughts or self-talk lead to feelings which lead to behaviours.
So how you think influences how you feel, which in turn influences how you behave or what you do.
It often helps performers who are not yet highly confident in a certain task to ‘act as if’ they can already successfully do that task – whether it’s giving a presentation or competing at a higher level than normal.
By acting, we mean considering your approach to that task in terms of your attitude, body language and self-talk.
You’ve heard the saying ‘fake it till you make it’ – there’s a lot of justification of following this approach when looking at your performance.
As an exercise the next time you do something challenging, or if the task is something quite new to you, in the days preceding the event, take some time to imagine what it would be like if you could already do whatever it is you need to do,
visualise yourself being successful –
and by the way, I highly recommend listening to the visualization programme which has some great guidance in helping you to visualise success.
You might also visualise someone you admire and respect doing the same thing, and then see yourself doing it. Add some keywords or phrases to the successful image and repeat those to yourself over the days preceding the event.
You might surprise yourself with the outcome.
Let’s also look at what happens when you overthink something.
The more I don’t want to do it the more it happens.
It’s worth mentioning here a concept called what we call ‘ironic process’.
Ironic process shows that trying not to perform a specific action can inadvertently trigger its occurrence. Simply put, thinking of what you don’t want to happen might actually trigger it to happen.
So merely thinking about something in our mind could have an influence on judgment and behaviour.
For a tennis player, for example, trying not to think of double faulting keeps that thought in their mind – likewise, many performers will use the self-talk starting “don’t do x….” which ironically gives them the best chance of “doing x …
It’s the same when trying to reduce anxiety. The more we think about being anxious or what we can do to reduce our anxiety, the more it remains or worsens.
The lesson here is to talk about what you want rather than what you don’t want – the essence of one of my favourite and most effective approaches called Solution Focused Therapy.
So the tennis player who double faults would do themselves a favour by focussing on the ball toss and racket swing, and where they want the ball to go, rather than wasting time on not ‘double faulting’ thinking.
The anxious performer, giving a business presentation, for example, should focus on everything they want –– going over the information, the lines, the delivery, their stance and voice projection- rather than wasting time thinking of what they don’t want to happen!
There’s so much to think about that can enhance your delivery why waste any time thinking about something you don’t want.
So to Summarise
In this module, we’ve looked at ‘acting-as-if’ as a strategy to fake-it-till-you-make-it to help you over that transition period whilst learning something new.
We also looked at the ironic process whereby simply thinking of something might act like a self-fulfilling prophecy – particularly if you’re thinking of something you don’t want to happen;
and we saw how much better it is to think of what you want, rather than what you don’t.
There is an accompanying programme to this self-talk programme – it’s called thinking errors and I would suggest you next listen to that if you haven’t done so already
Your MYND Activity today
Remember the ironic process the next time you tell yourself to avoid something, or you focus on what you don’t want – change your talk to something more directive towards what you do want.
It’s more effective, leads to improved results and makes you feel better.