A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to offer my insights about how I view human performance in a blog called Reframing the word “Performance.”
As the blog came to a close, there was a question that I challenged us as a community to reflect on:
“Where in your life can you elevate your performance to another level?”
Immediately, my thoughts went to my words.
It went to my inner voice.
It went to the ongoing daily dialogue that I have with myself about myself.
It went to my Self-Talk.
On the daily, the battle of the mind is typically the greatest challenge that I face. In this battle, my words can either be my most trusted ally or my worst enemy. And as much as I would like to say that my words are typically on my side, transparently speaking, it varies.
There’s always this internal tension within my mind, a “push-pull” sensation, that seems to be at the center of my most intimate thoughts. While I believe this to be healthy most of time, this “push-pull” sensation can start as constructive criticism, but quickly turn into destructive tendencies, if left unchecked.
When it is good, it is really good.
But when it is bad, it can be emotionally debilitating.
And after spending way too many days, weeks, and years on a rollercoaster ride with my own self-talk, it wasn’t until this past year that I decided to make a change.
I decided to be my own biggest fan.
I decided to move forward.
So when it comes to addressing our self-talk, where do we start if we want to make a change?
“I believe the extent to which one can experience change is deeply rooted in understanding and that one’s level of understanding is impacted greatly by how they listen. In other words, our willingness or unwillingness to listen ultimately impacts the amount of change we see or experience in and around us.”
If we want to change our self-talk, we need to spend time actively listening to our thoughts.
A great coach once told me, ‘Schedule meetings with yourself. Know your thoughts to better know yourself.”
Being an active listener requires us to interact with our thoughts and words, no longer allowing us to just be consumers.
In the days and weeks ahead, I challenge us all to actively listen to the things that we say and think about ourselves. (Really dig in my friends because this is root work!)
Ask yourself questions.
It may sound silly, but dialogue with yourself because active listening should create a stable foundation for two-way communication, even if it is uncomfortable in the beginning. And remember active listening is just the beginning. It won’t give us the direct change we seek, but it does give us a clear direction to move in.
“Active listening sets us on a path to better understand the source of our thoughts and not just merely the symptoms or side-effects.”
Understanding takes an incredible amount of intentionality and focus.
Our ability to recognize and distinguish patterns, occurrences, and tones in our self-talk is directly related to our ability to actively listen.
As we sharpen our ear to our own inner voice, we begin to refine our understanding of what is happening within and all around ourselves. And in my current season of life, active listening has helped me better understand the impact of external circumstances on my own self-talk.
This is an incredibly important distinction, but it is often a marginal one.
Let me explain…
Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was late to pick my son up from daycare. When I say late, I am talking almost two hours late. To tell you the truth, I had fallen asleep and forgot to set an alarm. Not my finest moment as a parent! Let me tell you…after 20+ calls from my wife, I finally arrived at the daycare feeling awful. I couldn’t believe that I had forgot my baby boy at school. I felt like I had let him down. I felt like a complete failure. In my mind, I kept telling myself, ‘You failed.” I felt like this for weeks and after awhile “You failed” turned into “You are a failure.” Then weeks after that, “You are a failure” turned into “I am a failure.”
Think about these three statements. “You failed.” “You are a failure.” “I am a failure.” The differences in these statements are small and subtle, but the implications are critical.
The greatest thing that I want us to understand is this: “micro moments create macro consequences.” The change we seek is in the details. If we are willing to embrace this, change will inevitably come.
Look by no means do I have all this figured out, but I do believe that a little understanding goes a long way, especially when it comes to how we talk about ourselves.
So reflect on these questions:
How well do you truly understand the things that you say to yourself?
What is the source of the things that you speak/think about yourself?
Are you building yourself up or are you tearing yourself down?
Be honest here. Don’t rush through this process.
Listen. Understand. Repeat.
And when you find clarity, make small sustainable changes because understanding should call us into action.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “When does the change come?”
The unpopular answer is…it depends.
Maybe it’s today. Maybe it’s tomorrow.
Maybe it’s the day after that. Maybe it’s months or years down the road.
Regardless of when that change may come, I encourage us all to just take a small step forward.
Let that be our first step and let nothing else be second. Step by step. Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Phrase by phrase.
And in time, you, me, and the individuals around us will become the change that we seek by changing the way that we talk, think, and speak about ourselves.
I am a recipient of the things that I speak.
I am always equally talking and listening to me.
Who I was, who I am, who I will be…are largely dependent on how I speak about me.
I am my biggest fan and the next minute my own biggest critic.
I can push myself to set ambitious goals and I can also convince myself to quit them.
Will my words uplift or defeat me?
Will I take this moment to be grateful for who I am or will I just feel burdened to be me?
Today, will I look past me again? Or will I actually see me, not just for what I could be, but for all that I already am?
Will I build me up?
Or will I only speak about my fall?
Do I portray self-confidence in public, but belittle myself with my own thoughts?
Will I choose to celebrate my progress?
Or will I hide behind false narratives and facades designed to manage my expectations by making me feel so so small?
At the end of the day it’s my call. Because every word every sentence every phrase every thought it’s all a deposit into either positive or negative self talk…