Episode 343 – Creating Better Self-Talk

Written by Jonathan

Last episode was a must read episode Atomic Habits by James Clear, a book that I definitely recommend and if you’re new to the show you may want to circle back and listen to that episode first, but the gist of it is about how small habit changes are linked together and compound over time exponentially to make massive changes in the future. It’s a great book, but there are two areas that I feel weren’t covered enough, the area of self-talk, the things you say to yourself, especially when things aren’t going your way and the requirement and labelling of the growth mindset. Change is not going to be easy, you’re going to fail, but how you deal with that failure can make all the difference in the world. I’ve already covered a Growth or Be Better Mindset mindset back in Episode 84 – How to punch failure in the face today we’re going to focus on self-talk, with some growth mindset strategies intertwined.

When we start working with a client we often get a look into their mindset and self-talk. Of course they think we’re there to give them exercises, which we are, but if they want to change how they’re eating or start exercising on their own, we have to listen to how they talk to themselves and adjust our approach accordingly. Usually when we start working with someone they say things to themselves like:

I’m fat
I’m lazy
I’m weak

Of course you have to acknowledge that there is a problem, but labelling it like that probably isn’t very effective, I mean if you say to a coworker ‘You’re fat’ do they magically start doing things to make themselves less fat? No, they probably feel uneasy, nervous, terrible about themselves and less likely to do anything about it, which you intuitively know and is why you would never say it to another person, even if it wasn’t rude, so why are you saying it to yourself over and over again? On top of this, you don’t have any control over your fat, all you can control are actions that are likely to make you more or less fat. Shifting your language to something as simple as ‘I need to eat differently’ or ‘I need to lift weights’ puts the focus on the actions you have control over. This in itself won’t help you change, but it at least moves you in the right direction. When it comes to self talk this is the first thing you can proactively do, start focusing your language around what you can control, instead of negatively defining yourself with what you can’t.

In true Atomic Habits form, I would recommend focussing on this first. What you’re going to find is that it’s really challenging and you’re going to succeed, but most the time you’re going to fail and revert back to old habits and say things like:

I’m incompetent
I’m useless
I’m slow

As you probably noticed this is a repackaged, I’m fat, I’m lazy, I’m weak, but instead of identity you’re criticizing your ability and you know what, fair enough, maybe you are a bit incompetent and useless in some ways, but once you label it you don’t have to say it over and over again, detach yourself a little bit. You’re not useless, sometimes you do useless things. You’re not incompetent, sometimes you do incompetent things, which now makes the questions:

How can I stop doing incompetent things?
How can I start being more competent?

This takes the focus, off you and puts it on your actions and as you get better at focussing on your actions and taking better actions you start to make progress and taking on your new identity. Which leads to better and more usefull self talk, which leads to progress.

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