The self talk cycle shows how our thoughts are directly linked to our behavior and vice versa
1. Our self-talk (thoughts) builds a picture of ourselves in our minds (self-esteem or self image).
2. Our self-esteem causes us to live out this image automatically (performance).
3. Our performance causes us to confirm our self talk.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 indefinitely…
To explain this, let’s look at an example. Imagine you have a bad temper. Something that you’ve heard and been telling yourself for years now (self talk). And so, you’ve built an image of yourself exploding from frustration at the slightest cause (self image). And then a colleague whistles irritatingly in the office. It’s only natural that your temper will flare up (performance). And what happens afterwards? Your brain goes, “Yes, that’s me. Short-tempered. Always have been, always will be.” (self talk). And so on.
We can’t stop the cycle. But, we can use the cycle to embrace a better truth. Contrary to popular efforts (e.g. New Year’s Resolutions, dieting, joining a gym), which are focused on our performance, the best place to start with is to change our self-talk.
To do this, there are three simple steps:
1. This is not like me. When we catch ourselves in the middle of our negative self-talk, we immediately need to stop it in our heads. You can also use the phrase, “Up until now I have been…, but no longer. 100% potential!”
2. This is like me… It’s not enough to just stop the negative self talk. We need to describe the solution to ourselves in order to continue the process of manipulating the cycle. We need to tell ourselves in detail what our better truth about ourselves is. And this doesn’t include any negatives! (e.g. we can’t talk about ‘not smoking’, but rather what it will look like if we aren’t smoking any more)
3. Next time I intend to… And the final step is to tell ourselves that next time this happens, what is the better behavior that we will do. (e.g. next time I will count to ten and listen carefully to what the person told me before I speak)
And that is ALL we need to do! The biggest mistake we could make is to go about and DO our self-talk. Don’t go and fix the situation. Rather sit and focus on your self-talk and leave the mess. And be prepared. Our brain is not going to want to let go of our dominant thinking so easily. We will keep messing up, but we will also keep repeating the self-talk. And before you know it, our performance will start changing without any effort on our part. The conflicting thoughts will have become our new truth and we will perform and behave according to it.
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