I want to preface this blog post to say that I understand that everything that I am about to talk about is way easier said than done. Trying is what matters here, not perfection.
So many people that I talk to engage in negative self-talk. This can take the form of talking badly about yourself, making assumptions that you will fail, censoring yourself before trying/saying/doing anything, making excuses, telling yourself unhelpful things like ‘I don’t have energy, I’m tired, I can’t do this…’, or dealing with absolutes such as ‘I’m always bad at…, I can never…, etc.’
Many issues surrounding negative self-talk would be more ethically appropriately addressed by a counselor or therapist, and I highly encourage people seeking those resources if they feel like they need them or are in crisis.
What I want to talk about today is negative self-talk in the sense of coaching, and negative self-talk getting in the way of accomplishing your goals. Many people often engage in irrational or unhelpful negative self-talk that gets in the way of accomplishing the goals we want.
What are your goals?
What negative things are you telling yourself about your goals?
When it comes to accomplishing your goals, how are you discrediting yourself? Stopping yourself? Doubting yourself? Censoring yourself? Belittling yourself?
In what ways are you getting in your own way?
Are these negative thoughts rational? How are they or how aren’t they?
Are these negative thoughts helpful? How or are they or how aren’t they?
Is there a negative hypothetical outcome you are fixating on? What is it?
Could this negative hypothetical outcome be switched to a positive hypothetical outcome? What is a positive hypothetical outcome? If they are both hypothetical, is how does it feel to switch your focus to a positive hypothetical?
How can you catch yourself thinking those negative, unhelpful thoughts? How could you stop those thoughts? What is it like to stop those thoughts?
What happens when you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk? What can you do now?
Let me give you a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say you scheduled for yourself two hours to work on a project in the afternoon. The day goes by, it’s time to start the project as planned. You sit down to work, and all of a sudden you get blocked by thoughts. “I’m tired”, “I don’t feel like working right now”, “I can do this later”, “I’m just not motivated anymore…”
Let’s pump the breaks. What happened? Why are you tired? How come you don’t feel like working on this? Is doing it later something that will happen? What will be different later? Will you be motivated later? When are you motivated?
Is there a rational reason for not working on the project as planned? What is a rational reason versus an excuse?
If it falls into the excuse category, does telling yourself you feel tired, don’t feeling like working, or feel unmotivated help you feel less tired, more like working, or more motivated?
How does feeding into this negative narrative help you in the long term? What are you getting out of this negative narrative?
What could you do to stop those thoughts and replace them with a more positive, helpful narrative? What would you need to feel less tired? What would it take to feel like working?
On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most energized and motivated, and 1 being not motivated at all because you’re asleep, how motivated do you need to be to get started on a project? How did you come up with that number? What would it take to get to that number from where you are currently?
What systems do you need to help you stop the negative self-talk thoughts and pivot to positive-self talk? Is it a visual reminder, a physical gesture, an auditory cue, something else? What do you need to start changing the negative narrative?
Again, realizing you are engaging in negative self-talk, stopping your negative self-talk thoughts, and changing your narrative is much easier said than done. Give yourself the grace to not be good at it right away. It’s okay to take time, only notice it a little at first, and build on your skills. You don’t go into the gym on the first day after never working out and instantly run a five-minute mile. It takes time to build up the skills to do that. This is no different.