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We’ve all probably heard of (and listened to) those little (or obnoxious) voices in our heads that tell us stuff about ourselves. In my experiences with leadership development, training and coaching (not to mention five years with Weight Watchers), much of the time, those voices are not saying very nice or helpful stuff.

What brought this subject to my attention recently was that I was complaining to my mate about my frustration with not losing a few pounds. I rattled through all the typical (for me) complaints:

“I simply can not drink all that water every single day!”

“I’m exercising three or four days a week – and it isn’t working!”

“I am physically incapable of sitting on the couch to watch a movie or TV show without eating my way through half the pantry!”

And on and on… I won’t bore you with more details. Chances are, you’ve either made similar rants yourself, or have listened to them from someone else.

The trouble with these ‘harmless’ statements is that they aren’t so harmless after all.

According to Dr. Sham Helmstetter, author of many books, including “What to say when you talk to yourself”, every time we say anything negative to ourselves out loud, or even think it, we are reinforcing what our subconscious mind will in fact do.

So by saying that I am struggling to drink all of my water every day, I am guaranteeing that I will continue to struggle with it. No wonder I’ve been having a hard time with it all these years – I keep training myself to have a hard time with it!

Having reviewed some examples of self-talk in Dr. Helmstetter’s book, and the steps for creating my own, I have been trying it out for the past several days.

I’ve been saying out loud at random moments during the day, “I love drinking water! It makes me feel healthy and alive. I always drink 64 oz of water each day.” A little corny, perhaps, but worth trying. Seriously, what do I have to lose?

This, of course, extends into every nook and cranny of our lives. And it begs the question – what else am I speaking into reality when I declare my faults and shortcomings out loud? We usually do this to help us feel excused from some behavior that we feel is inadequate or less than desirable. Do any of these ever come out of your mouth, or even wander across your mind?

“I’m never going to understand this/him/her.”

“I am just not a doer/thinker/go-getter/etc.”

“I am lousy at giving presentations. I mess them up every time, and I feel so nervous that I get nauseous.”

“I never remember dates/names/birthdays/etc.”

STOP!!!

The first thing to do is to recognize how destructive this behavior is to your success. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” –Henry Ford. People have understood the power of our thoughts over our ability to be successful for a very long time.

Here are a few simple steps for you to follow in order to try this out yourself:

  1. Identify one or two things that you consistently say out loud or to yourself that are negative. Feel free to borrow any of the examples I’ve laid out here.
  2. Think of something positive with which you could replace that negative statement. It should be a statement of what you want your outcome to be. Dr. Helmstetter recommends stating it in the present tense – a ‘speak it into being’ approach.
  3. Repeat these positive statements to yourself a few times each day.

I have noticed that I’m drinking a lot more water without much thought to it or struggle. I’ve extended this practice into a couple of other areas, and am finding that I just feel better about them. I’m in a better mood overall, and that’s something we could all benefit from, especially in the areas of the world where winter has us in her tight grip right now.

So give it a try! Thanks to all this positive stuff floating around, I am having a great week! And I hope you are, too. If you’re not, it is completely within your control to change it.

Ellen Patnaude
Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.

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