Do you know who your biggest critic is? It’s probably YOU. As human beings, we often sabotage our own chances of success just by the way that we talk to ourselves inside of our heads. (And sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it!). The way we react to situations, how we respond to failures, and the beliefs that we hold about our capabilities all have a major impact on the kinds of results we get in the world.
In fact, there’s quite a lot of research that’s been done on this topic. This 2004 study from Conroy and Metzler found that negative self-talk in athletes increased anxiety. And this one from Chopra in 2012 showed that when students were given strategies for transforming self-talk from negative to positive, they were empowered to shift their mindset and improve their attitude. Positive self-talk has also been shown to reduce stress, boost resilience, and help with goal achievement.
Shifting your self-talk from negative to positive can be a challenging process.
But it’s way simpler when you have a plan.
First, you have to acknowledge that you have the power to either build upon your fears — or build upon your strengths. You can choose to pick yourself up when you fall — or you can wallow in self-pity. The voice in your head is yours. Use one (or all 10) of these powerful strategies to take back the control and use positive self-talk to boost your success rate for any endeavor.
Here they are:
1. Steer clear of negative people.
The people we surround ourselves with are the people we become. This one can be hard because sometimes the negative people are those we’ve known and loved for years. But their patterns of pessimism are hurting us. Spend more time around the people who live with optimism. It’s contagious in the best of ways.
2. Adopt the attitude of gratitude.
When we are stuck in a cycle of negativity, it’s hard to break out of it. Our focus is on everything that is wrong, every mistake, and every weakness. You have to consciously shift yourself over to a gratitude mindset. Change the focus from what is lacking to what is abundant. Make it a regular practice to identify at least one thing you are grateful for every day.
3. Create a positive affirmation.
If it is too hard to change your self-talk from negative to positive without solid direction, then create a positive affirmation. This is a written sentence or statement that you consciously recite to yourself when your internal dialogue gets gloomy. It can be anything you want but think along the lines of: “I have confidence in myself. I am on a journey, constantly growing and developing. I can accomplish what I set my mind to.” Choose it. Write it down. Say it often.
4. Use visualizations for success.
When you visualize something clearly in your mind, it changes the connections in your brain. Before the negative self-talk can even begin, start crafting a picture of real success in your mind. See it in detail and imagine yourself experiencing it. Seeing is believing, and this applies to what you see in your mind, too! Visualize your success often.
5. Notice when negative thoughts appear and banish them quickly.
Be aware of the situations in which your thoughts become unfavorable. If possible, avoid the triggers altogether. But if you can’t (and it’s not always possible), then simply notice when your thoughts turn sour and make a commitment to do a “180” on them. Slam the door, leave them in the dust, and change activities. Act on an idea. Exercise. Go for a walk. Sing a song. Call a friend. Consciously steer your brain away into something you know will encourage positivity.
6. Talk to yourself like you would a mentee, student, or a best friend.
Think about how you would respond to a person you care about that is looking up to you for advice. If they experienced a misstep or needed some guidance, what would you tell them? How would you offer the best support? Try treating yourself in the same way. Be encouraging, constructive, and compassionate.
7. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Negative self-talk can creep up when we compare our success against others. This is never a good idea. It’s great to model after or study strategies that have worked for others. But when you start to make note of all the things that you are not or all the things you haven’t done, it becomes harmful instead of helpful. You are a unique human being with a unique path to take. Comparison will get you nowhere.
8. Change your perspective on failure.
We have this idea in our culture that failure is ugly, sad, and undesirable. We avoid it like the plague, and we’re embarrassed when it happens to us. But these are actually our greatest learning opportunities! Robert T. Kiyosaki said: “People who avoid failure also avoid success.” We all experience it, whether we advertise it or not. So why not welcome it in and learn from it?
9. Define your purpose and set goals.
When you don’t know where you’re headed or what you’re supposed to be doing in life, then how do you know whether or not you’re succeeding? Self-talk is bound to be less than positive in these instances. So, spend some time connecting with your true purpose and align yourself with real goals that matter. Setting up the framework will give you more inspiration for positivity.
10. List past successes, big or small.
Negative self-talk can come from a lack of confidence. It grows and spreads like a weed from a place of fear and doubt. So, remind yourself of all the successes you’ve had. Write it out so that you can see it. Anything can go on your list. It just needs to be a situation where you’ve felt successful. When you’re in a slump, look at the list of your successes.
Empower yourself for success.
At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own victories and triumphs. You get to choose which mindset you employ. And the choice should be a simple one. One mindset slows down your growth and limits your capabilities. The other opens the way to infinite possibility. Which will you choose?
“Our thoughts make us what we are.” -Dale Carnegie