It’s the end of the day and you’re exhausted. Self-talk rallies you to stay and finish the job. Self-talk also regulates your self-image. If you believe you’re an average performer (or even a terrific one, or a terrible one), you won’t be able to do much better or worse than your baseline self-assessment. Since self-image is determined by what you consistently tell yourself about yourself, you have the power to change your self-image by changing your self-talk. This is how to program You for success.
First, become aware of what you’ve been telling yourself. Chances are, it includes some negative self-talk. Berating yourself, or even self-deprecation, will damage your self-image. It’s time to stop doing it—now and forever. Many people believe that they’re at the mercy of their thoughts. Accomplished people know that when you work on controlling your thoughts, you get better at it.
The human mind’s “default” setting is “problem-centric thought,” or PCT. In fact, many people are trained to stay in PCT by mental health professionals or “self-help” guides whose well-meaning but misguided approach is to focus on the problem. Just talking about a problem doesn’t solve it; it may even get bigger.
As “expectancy theory” states, when you focus on something, it occupies the forefront of your mind, pushing other thoughts aside. Along with this thought come attendant feelings and behaviors. If you focus on negative thoughts, you feel bad. The human mind is fertile ground where seeds are continually being planted. So plant seeds for the good things you want to achieve. Learn to talk to yourself about what you do well and how you want to improve. Concentrate on solutions instead of problems, and bolster that positive focus with self-talk and visualizations.
In my experience working with elite athletes, players who visualize their game are calmer, better prepared, and more likely to succeed in high-pressure situations. They prepare their minds and bodies early to avoid emotional surprises when they get to the real event. The same is true in business.
Tom Bartow is co-author of our new book Organize Tomorrow Today, 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life. He coaches a prominent Fortune 500 executive who was uncomfortable with public speaking. Following a big promotion, the man turned to Tom for help giving his first speech. Tom had him visualize every aspect of the presentation. After that, the executive went through this process on his own—so many times, in fact, that when he approached the podium for the actual presentation, he felt like he was in familiar territory.
Done properly, this same workout will take you only a hundred seconds to complete each time. Follow these five steps:
1. Centering Breath: Breathe in for six seconds, hold for two, exhale for seven. The biological response to pressure is an elevated heart rate, which reduces your ability to think effectively. A centering breath is a powerful way to get air into your diaphragm and slow down your heart, thus allowing your brain to operate optimally.
2. Identity Statement: For fifteen seconds recite to yourself a preconceived personal mantra that reflects your strengths and the level of success you desire. Research shows that the bolder an identity statement is from present reality, the more impactful it will be. It should employ adjectives to emphasize your positive qualities and pinpoint what you want to become:
- I am full of positive energy. I make $1 million per year, and I am an awesome mother and wife.
- I outwork the competition every day. I am the most effective salesperson in the country. I experience true love as a husband and a father.
3. Personal Highlight Reel: Spend thirty seconds visualizing three “done-wells” from the previous twenty-four hours. Then take thirty seconds to visualize three things you need to do well tomorrow. The key is to visualize specific moments of success. These will spill over into the areas not visualized. The rest of the Mental Workout is simple. After the highlight reel,
4. Repeat your 15-second identity statement, then,
5. Take another 15-second centering breath. Now, you’re ready to succeed!
About the Author
Dr. Jason Selk helped the St Louis Cardinals win two World Series while serving as Director of Mental Training. He now trains companies and organizations on how to achieve optimal performance. He’s the bestselling author (with Tom Bartow) of Organize Tomorrow Today, 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life (Da Capo Lifelong Books, January 2016), 10-Minute Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and Executive Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2011). He’s a regular television and radio contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC, and has appeared widely in print.