Your most powerful friend or foe is your self-talk.
One human ability is the foundation for every idea and thought, for every success and failure. This one ability has been pondered since the beginning of recorded history. Self-talk is the literal manifestation of human consciousness.
I searched for a logical foundation for the thoughts and beliefs that influence everything we do. The answer has always been obvious, but not recognized as the primary origin for transforming thoughts into outcomes.
Here are my observations for why self-talk is the one skill to master. If you can change your self-talk, you can then change everything else you want.
Change your thoughts, change your life is a familiar cliché. But it's true.
The conversations we have with ourselves are a natural, universal ability that we cannot escape. We can control our thoughts and subsequent choices and actions if we learn the nature of our self-talk and how to control its content.
What is self-talk?
Let's start with conventional descriptions of self-talk. (I use the term self-talk to represent all the labels for our internal conversations.)
o “An internal monologue, also called self-talk, inner speech, inner discourse, or internal discourse, is a person's inner voice that provides a running verbal monologue of thoughts while they are conscious. It is usually tied to a person's sense of self. It is particularly important in planning, problem-solving, self-reflection, self-image, critical thinking, emotions, and subvocalization (reading in one's head)… It may reflect both conscious and subconscious beliefs.”- Wikipedia
o “Self-talk is your internal dialogue. It's influenced by your subconscious mind, and it reveals your thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas. Self-talk can be both negative and positive. It can be encouraging, and it can be distressing. Much of your self-talk depends on your personality. If you're an optimist, your self-talk may be more hopeful and positive. The opposite is generally true if you tend to be a pessimist.” - Healthline
Self-talk is a fact-of-life
Everyone does it all the time, non-stop. All self-talk is a mix of positive, negative, hope, expectations, uncertainty, fears and doubt.
Most people, at some time, have little or no control over their predominantly negative thinking, which will likely have a negative impact on their decisions. Although negative self-talk is universal, its negative consequences are not equally universal.
Some people realize that negative self-talk is a natural aspect of all thought processes, and they deal with it effectively. Some people are born with a naturally positive personality, and some are taught or mentored in the skill of positivity. But for too many people, negative self-talk is a stubborn obstacle, but they can learn how to change it. ( See my post about the three types of manifesters). Here's a link to a short, informative discussion about self-talk.
My simple success positivity guide:
Manage your self-talk, master your life's choices, manifest your goals.
What is my interest in self-talk?
I wanted to find the most basic, influential factor in transforming my thoughts and ideas into successful outcomes.
After retirement I had my new goals. I relied on my life and work experience, but it was not working out as I expected. I had changed. The world changed. I encountered new obstacles and new doubts. I read the popular and professional success advice, but I felt something critical was missing, at least for me. So I applied my professional research expertise to look for logical, believable guidance for how to achieve my goals.
Too much information, too little satisfaction
I found thousands of tips and techniques for changing my negative thoughts and self-talk. But none satisfied my need to know how and why they worked. And if I don't understand even a little bit about why something works, it's harder to for me to believe in it.
But this essay is not a review or critique of the existing self-talk advice. In fact, most of the available advice had helpful ideas about how to try to manage self-talk. But the conventional ideas did not really show me how I could shift my often-negative thinking into a higher level of positive thinking.
I want to make the case that self-talk represents the foundation of virtually everything humans do consciously, and often subconsciously.
Self-talk can be your best friend or your worst enemy - and it typically starts as the enemy.
Since humans began to create written records they had many observations about the most miraculous human ability of all — we are aware of and can control our thinking.
Every idea, thought, emotion or physical experience is a manifestation of your self-talk — your inner dialogue, the conversations you have with yourself.
Self-talk is widely recognized in popular and professional psychological literature. But I think it's been largely relegated to a secondary description of personality and behavioral characteristics rather than established as the most important manager of all of our thoughts, choices, and actions.
There is a lot of expert advice. What's been missing?
Recognition and training in the most basic human skill - how and what we think, every second of every day. Thus, self-talk should be promoted to the highest level of importance, and there should be basic training for how to use our inherent thought/self-talk capabilities more effectively.
Think about this.
We instill basic, beneficial habits such as handwashing, brushing teeth, shaking hands with people, etc., at a very young age. In contrast, there is virtually no formal education or training in managing our self-talk capabilities. Virtually all self-talk advice and counseling are the after-the-fact treatments for emotional, behavioral, socialization or other personal issues.
And what does all the advice eventually tell us to do? Change the way we think!
You are what you tell yourself - you are your self-talk.
Everything I encountered in pop and professional psychology and success strategies were techniques to help manage my self-talk. I found all the advice to "do this," "don't do that," but it was not persuasive.
I tried practices to be more positive, control bad habits, embrace spiritual energies, live a healthier lifestyle. I could meditate, recite affirmations, do visualization, keep a journal, listen to 32 CDs, and on and on. Professional counselors try to help us with positive psychology, cognitive therapies, and similar change strategies. I do believe the current advice is honest but incomplete.
The conventional wisdom told me to do many things without really explaining why and how they would work. No one could tell me how to learn what I was thinking and how much I had to change it.
Negative self-talk is a powerful pattern and cycle of thinking. Break the pattern, form a new one, change your life.
One of the universal teachings is that "you are what you think." If you have negative thoughts, your attitudes and feelings will be negative. If you have positive images and expectations, then you will be more likely to accomplish the positive goals, or at least you will not be as miserable in the process.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, "each NOW moment is the result of the thought you just had."
Thus, if you are not happy with your thoughts and their effect on you, you must find a way to alter or stop the incessant thinking that puts your stomach in turmoil. Although teachers tell you to stop having negative thoughts, it's easier said than done. Humans already have a recognized negative bias as a survival instinct.
Our primal negativity instinct has not evolved enough to handle our modern lives.
Think about your thoughts.
It's not just random thoughts you have; it's the conversation you have with yourself about what you want, what you believe, your confidence and much more.
A thought is NOT a cartoon cloud without any context, emotions or beliefs.
Your thoughts, your self-talk can be an instantaneous and complete short story you create about the issue. And you do this hundred, thousands of times a day.
Which stories drive your choices and actions?
· "I hate this; I'm never going to do it again."
"Where am I going to find the money to buy that house, or go on a family vacation ?"
The self-conversation statements generate your self-talk answers.
· Self-talk question: "Where am I going to find the money for the trip?"
· Self-talk answers: "I knew I shouldn't have turned down that job." "I'm an idiot; what was I thinking?"
We know and play all the parts in our self-talk play with unlimited acts:
· The thoughts and feelings you want to stop have been practiced and perfected for most of your life. You are an expert at it.
· You know all the dialogue and can play all the parts.
· You can answer any questions you raise and explain why the negative is the right answer.
· It's automatic; you do not have to push a button for the negative state; it is on autopilot. The slightest encounter can be a trigger to start the negatives.
· Negative self-talk is not comfortable or helpful, but it is easy.
· But it's also destructive.
I found my universal formula. I already had the content, the ideas; I just needed a way to organize what I was already doing to know what I was doing!
In my personal quest to find "The Manifestation Formula," I eventually identified the single thing I had to master: to manage the inevitable conflicts between my positive and negative thoughts and increase my level of positive thoughts.
But looking at the positive versus negative battle was like watching a football game from the stands.
Which side was winning? Which thoughts would be the most influential?
I realized I could not manage my thoughts from the third-person perspective, but only from the first person.
I had to learn to participate in my conversations, not just watch a contest between positivity and negativity, waiting to see which side won and what I would do. The work to shift my self-talk was not easy, but once I started, it not nearly as hard as I expected because I made a simple game of the work, complete with a scorecard.
Positive thoughts and negative thoughts are the opposing teams. Self-talk is the playing field.
Self-talk is pervasive, and it interferes with every step of your process because you are always judging what you are doing, and your traditional inclination is to the dark side.
My solution was The Manifestation Formula and the tool that kept me engaged, The Thoughts Scorecard.
Every conventional self-talk, success or positivity technique told me to change my thoughts, be positive most of the time, visualize my goals daily, and dozens of other practices.
But nothing I read ever told me the three things I most needed to know:
1. What was I actually thinking? How much of my thoughts were positive, how much was negative?
2. I agreed that I should be positive more, and most of the time, if possible. What is "most of the time"?
3. How would I know if I was changing my thoughts to be more positive, more effective and successful? Did I have to wait until I was a multimillionaire or publish my first book to know that my thoughts were manifesting successfully?
I needed a constant and immediate way to measure my thoughts, track them and get feedback about my progress in changing my thoughts.
I created my simple personal thoughts scorecard to keep track of my thoughts on a regular basis.
I identified a universal target goal to be positive most of the time, which was 68%. And I had a form to record my scores and chart my positive versus negative thoughts.
It's time to recognize that self-talk is an all-encompassing ability. We experience every concept, idea, emotion, and physical action through our senses, and our self-talk is the universal interpreter of all the information, good or bad.
It seems so simple that the most powerful conscious tool we have has been neglected as a necessary skill.
I believe every person is fully capable of learning more about their self-talk activity and can learn to shift excessive negativity into a higher level of positivity.
Self-talk is a natural ability, but for most of us, it has to be nurtured and learned as one of our life skills.
As noted, there are plenty of tips and techniques for how to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts in your mind. But no prayer, visualization, journal, or meditation by itself can change your positivity personality or tell you how successful you are in changing the nature of your thinking.
We have the ability to create any type of self-talk we want, including the outcomes we want to achieve.
Your self-talk can be a sentence, a poem, a short story or a full-length movie. But self-talk should have a beginning and middle and an end, just like every life story.