More on the importance of self-talk

Several weeks ago I wrote a post on the importance of self-talk. It addressed research reported by Jeff Hadon in The Motivation Myth. You can find that post here.  Today, I would like to expand on that post and give some additional examples of how self-talk impacts our lives.

Eliminate choice in your speech

Believing that we have a choice presents a huge obstacle to achieving our objectives, because having choices forces us to decide what we want to do. The brain is naturally lazy and it doesn’t want to waste its limited energy making these kinds of decisions. Your brain would much rather follow a rule that has been converted into a habit.

For example, if you say, “I want to” rather than “I have to,” you are much more likely to get to work on time, workout, and eat the right foods. By changing what you say to yourself, you have eliminated choice. The task is now nonnegotiable, and you do it.

Another example. Stop saying “can’t” and start saying “don’t.”

How to use self-talk to overcome temptation

Can we use self-talk to overcome temptation? We most certainly can.

When we tell participants to say “I can’t, they give in to temptation 61% of the time. When we tell them to say “I don’t” , they only give in only 36% of the time.

In another experiment, participants were told to set a personal long-term health and wellness goal. When their motivation flagged, one group was told to say, “I can’t miss my workout”. Another group was told to say, “I don’t miss my workout”. A control group was not given a strategy.

Ten days later the researchers found:

• Three out of ten control group members stuck to their goal.
• Only one out of ten told to say “I can’t” stuck to their goal.
• Eight out of ten “I don’t” group members stuck to their goal.

Not only was “I can’t” less effective than “I don’t”; “I can’t” was less effective than using no strategy at all.

Why does this occur? If we say, “I can’t”, we give ourselves a way out. When you “I can’t,” you automatically start to look for excuses, reasons why you can.  Saying “I don’t” encourages the brain to find ways to ensure that you do because that is the person you have become.

The morale of this story

The morale of this story. Be careful what you tell yourself. Someone important is listening. Eliminate choice. Make it clear to your brain what you will do.

Next Steps

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