There’a lot written about the power of how self-talk can build us up or tear us down. And we’ve all noticed how inspiring speeches always stress what is possible. They try to instill us with a “can do” attitude.
Yet with all this, I never really believed in the power of self-talk until my partner invited me to do an experiment. She invited me to say to myself, “I don’t have enough time to get everything done,” and notice how my body felt. Then she suggested I say, “I have so much time to get all this done!,” and notice if there was any change in my body.
This wasn’t about the truthfulness of the statement. The point was to notice what happens in the body. To notice my energy and my motivation. The question of “is there enough time” can have a tactical impact: data for prioritizing my actions, but also a psychological impact, inspiring me to keep going, or demoralizing me with feelings of futility.
We can try this experiment when we’re thinking about someone’s attitude about us (“My boss hates me” vs. “My boss is encouraging me to succeed”), or our own ability (“I keep messing up” vs. “I keep learning”), or even about possibilities for success (“I’ll never make it” vs. “I haven’t failed yet!”).
What was different about my partner’s approach is that rather than treating these as mental tricks like I’ve seen in self-help books, she suggested turning them into quick, experiential experiments. Literally feeling into my body, to notice that what I say to myself can create a physical change in posture, energy, and readiness to act.
This doesn’t mean we should lie to ourselves. But if we’re going to talk about the future—a future which we don’t know yet—why not say something that gives us the best chance of enjoying ourselves and doing our best work?
But don’t take my word for it. Try the experiment yourself and see what you notice!18 August 2022