Positive Self Talk

By Stephanie Jones, Guest Blogger

Everyone experiences setbacks and disruptions when working toward any goal. Isn't that what makes achieving a goal so fulfilling - persevering through difficulty and overcoming challenges to reach your personal finish line? But, how can we prepare ourselves to deal with distractions or setbacks? What tools are available to help get us back on track when even the best laid plans are derailed?

One of the most useful tools involves paying attention to self-talk. What kinds of things do you say to yourself? Most of the time we can be far more discouraging and pessimistic when talking to ourselves than we would be if we were talking to a friend or even a stranger. If we aren't careful, we tend to beat ourselves up over setbacks or failures. What do you say to yourself when you give in to a craving and eat that bowl of ice cream? What do you say to yourself and about yourself when you miss your morning workout? Do you call yourself fat or lazy? Do you tell yourself you'll never reach your goals? Do phrases like "I'll never or I can't lose weight" or "I can't finish that 5k next month" pop into your head. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. You are engaged in negative self-talk, something that seems to come far more naturally to us than positive self-talk.

The good news is that with practice we can learn to talk to ourselves in a more positive and constructive way. And, in turn, changing the way you talk to yourself will enrich your life and make you far more likely to succeed. So where do you begin?

First, spend the next few days paying attention to what you say to yourself, or what kind of thoughts you have about yourself. Write them down in the moment so you are sure to remember them. In addition, you can try to recall some past experiences with failure and write down what went through your mind before, during, and after those moments (and write them down). Within a short period of time, you will see a clear picture of the negative things you say to yourself.

Second, write down 1-3 positive things you can replace each negative thought with. If you are having trouble, think about what you would say to a friend in the same situation. For example, if your friend called you because she felt like a failure for slipping up on her diet and having dessert, what would you say to her? I am fairly certain you would not call her fat and/or lazy - you would more than likely think of some very encouraging and positive responses. Maybe you would say, "everyone slips up now and then, it's not the end of the world" or "you have done really well, this is just a small blip and I know you will be right back on track," or "don't give up, you can do it, put this behind you and move forward."

Now that you have these positive and constructive phrases, put them to practice daily. At first, you will have to make a very conscious effort to put a stop to the negative talk and replace it with the new positive. You may even find that you need to actually say aloud "STOP!" in order to interrupt the negative pattern. However, rest assured that with time and practice, you will master positive self-talk. And with that, you will be empowered to move forward relentlessly toward achieving your goals.

Lastly, if you have doubts about the usefulness of this tool, please give it a try for a few weeks at a minimum. It has been proven that what people think about themselves often becomes reality; therefore, it stands to reason that whether you are frequently telling yourself that you cannot do something or conversely you are frequently telling yourself you can do it, you are probably right! Good luck and never give up!

About the Author
Stephanie Jones is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.  She began racing triathlon professionally in mid-2011 and focuses on the Ironman distance.  Stephanie enjoys coaching other athletes and working with the local triathlon club in Charleston, SC where she spends half of the year.  The other half of the year, Stephanie lives overseas as part of the U.S. Embassy community and enjoys racing on the European circuit. Desiring to make a difference through racing, Stephanie has dedicated 10% of her prize money to charity and is currently supporting The A21 Campaign, an organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking and exploitation.

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