This is a continuation in a series of posts that are digging deeper into the four mental strength skills utilized by the Navy SEALs. Today is about self-talk, specifically positive self-talk.
What we say matters!
Most of us are in constant mental chatter. We talk to ourselves all day long and, unfortunately, this self-talk is frequently negative. Often it is tainted with guilt about our past or anxiety about our future. This negativity can destroy any seed of hope that we may otherwise have in striving for our dreams.
Our actions are inspired by our thoughts. If we can change the way we think, we can begin to change the actions we take. It is human nature to seek personal growth; whether financially, emotionally, physically or spiritually. Practicing positive self talk can help us set in motion actions that will bring us greater rewards.
Psychologists Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck were pioneers of cognitive therapy and both believed that you could talk yourself into a negative or depressive state with irrational logic.
“The Brain”, a show featured on The History Channel made the claim that we say 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute. By speaking positively to ourselves we can “override” fears coming from the amygda (a part of our brain).
Self-talk has been clearly shown to affect our performance.
And when it comes to combat and tactical athletes self-talk can be a matter of life and death!
This is what mental strength is all about!
There are several aspects to the mental strength skill of self-talk that are important to understand, if you are going to use it for your advantage.
The first is that some self-talk always occurs before you say anything, do anything, or feel any emotion. The self-talk is very quick and often you are not aware of it, but it is there. You can however become aware of your self talk and you can change it. Change our self-talk; you can change your response and performance.
The importance and the impact of self-talk have been covered in several police publications. Duran & Nasci (2000) define “tactical terminology” as term that instills the proper attitude necessary for safe completion of law enforcement task. Examples include replacing the term “officer safety” with “officer survival” and “routine traffic stop” to “unknown risk” traffic stop.
Willis (2005) also indicates the importance of positive self-talk. He suggests that concepts of the “survival” mindset should be replaced with that of a “winning” mindset to avoid the internal perception of a weakened or inferior position. In addition, he suggest replacing strong-hand and weak-hand with dominant and non-dominant hand to eliminate the attitude of weakness.
But before you being your mental strength training of self-talk for peak tactical performance you need to pass the entrance exam.
In a future post and in my Warrior Mind Training workshops, I’ll go over situation specific self-talk.
For now here are seven “entry-level” steps to positive self talk. By following these steps you will begin to eliminate your inner negative conversations and install more empowering thoughts.
Again, the reason I call these “entry-level” in an article for the combat and tactical athlete, is that the mind is conditioned by habit. And to expect to change your critical self-talk right away without preliminary exercise is setting yourself up for failure.
Master these steps and your self-talk will improve during crucial and intense situations, and then we’ll take it take to a new level.
Remember – How you do anything is a reflection of how you do everything! If you can’t follow this exercises in your “normal” life, how the heck do you expect to control your self-talk under pressure!
1. Eliminate Internal Negative Chatter
The first step is one of awareness. It will be hard to make a change to positive thinking without being acutely intimate with the thoughts that run through your mind.
Undoubtedly it will not be easy to make a switch if you have a long history or negative self-talk., or worse yet, if you don’t think you have negative self-talk
Your talk became negative over the years due to various factors. If you constantly tell yourself such negative stories, i.e. “I’m slow”, “It hard for me to learn new things”, your actions are going to reflect this unsupportive self-talk. It will be difficult to get very far if you are always putting yourself down or doubting yourself.
A common negative talk involves telling you “I can’t”. When you say to yourself “I can’t” or “it is too difficult”, you are creating a resistance. Having such a mental block will prevent you from achieving a task you could otherwise succeed at.
Anytime you catch yourself saying “I can’t…” turn around and challenge yourself by asking “how can I?”
Another great method to neutralize negative self-talk is to repeat “Cancel – Cancel” each time I find myself saying something negative, whether in the mind or verbally.
2. Positive Affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements of a desired outcome or goal. They are usually short, believable and focused. By repeating them over and over again, you build inroads into your subconscious mind, opening up the possibility of a new state of thoughts.
An important step when repeating affirmations is that you need to read your affirmations aloud with feeling. The mere reading of the words bears no consequence unless you put some emotions behind them.
Your subconscious mind takes any orders given in complete faith and after repeated self-talk. So the daily practice of repeating affirmations is important.
3. Positive Scripts
One thing that you may observe is on how easy it is for your mind to build negative thought upon negative thought. The chatter not only does not stop but it spins a drama that traps and limits you.
From now on, regularly do this exercise instead. Spin an uplifting story that runs like a movie script. Some visualization will be helpful. You build on a story with a positive outline. The longer you can tell this story to yourself the better. It is also best if you can make this story one about having all your goals achieved. When you do this, you start to internalize your goals and dreams, as if they are something that you have already achieved.
4. Replace Negative Influences with Positive Ones
It is important that you identify external negative factors in your life which may be holding your thoughts hostage. For instance, your mental state can become toxic by being around friends who are negative. If you are not vigilant enough, you will start to adopt their thoughts as your own, “birds of a feather flock together.”
So, be alert to what your negative influences are. If they come from certain friends, limit your exposure to them as much as you can. Refrain from discussing your plans with people who will be unsupportive of your dreams and goals.
Instead surround yourself with thoughts and actions from people who will empower you.
5. Present Tense Messages
You may find yourself daunted by the many things you need to do in order to reach your goals. Your mind gets caught up in an endless stream of worry and things to do.
Use the W.I.N formula by asking yourself “What’s Important Now?”
If you find yourself becoming stuck, stop and say, “What’s Important Now?” Change your internal talk from a future anxiety ridden one to one that is about the more manageable present.
Also FOCUS can help with this. Follow One Course Until Successful You cannot control what will happen in the future but you can take the necessary steps now that will build a better tomorrow. Taking the necessary steps require you to focus your thoughts and inner talk on Now.
6. Confront Fears
Fear is often what holds you back from your success. You are scared of taking chances because you fear losing the security that you enjoy now. You try to convince yourself that you are happy in your current state when in fact, you are not. Your self talk may sound positive in your attempt to lie to yourself. But somehow, there is an inner knowing that you are short-changing yourself.
Ask yourself what you are afraid of. What can be the worst that can happen? Take a step-by-step approach in breaking down your fears and see if there is any way round to looking at things more positively. When you confront your fears, you will often realize that the worst case scenario is not as bad as you think. In fact, the benefits of change are worth the risk. Your inner-talk begins to change at this point.
7. Focus on Enjoyable Moments
It is much easier to have a positive attitude if you focus on the enjoyable moments in life rather than the difficult ones. While there will inevitably be challenges, you need to remember that life consists of ups and downs and the good times are forged through the bad.
So choose to fill your mind with positive images and thoughts. Make it a conscious habit. Simply bring your mind back every time it goes astray in its thoughts. For a start, if you can be grateful for what you have presently, your self talk will also change to be in alignment with one of joy. A state of gratitude does wonders to your psyche.
By following the above tips to positive self-talk, you will experience an improvement in the quality of your life. The rewards are plentiful with greater happiness, peace and joy.
Best of all, you feel empowered. With the change in energy, you are more likely to reach your highest potential and achieve success.
You will then be able to take this mental strength mindset with you into any situation.
I have adopted from my friend and a true warrior in both the physical and spiritual sense Richard “Mack” Machowicz “Unleash the Warrior within” the following seven principles for personal growth, you may want to do the same.
Bukido Code of the Warrior Spirit
- I will be responsible for my life and my actions.
- I will concentrate all the energy of my body and mind on one specific target at a time.
- I will develop the ability to remain calm and composed, for even in the worst situations I will find opportunity.
- I will spend my time wisely, for it is too precious a commodity to waste.
- I will continually CHALLENGE myself to learn by exposing myself to others with skills greater than my own.
- I will develop patience in all things, for it is the essential quality of a powerful mind.
- I will make my capabilities exceed my limitations
Key NLP Areas to Change Self-Talk
- Presuppositional language
- This is simply about scrambling the sub modalities of what you say to yourself.
- In order to assist others, practiced with your own self-talk first
- Commit to setting aside five minutes twice a day to scramble and soon you’ll notice how much you can manipulate the psychological response you get from changing the structure of how you talk to yourself.
- Remember-you don’t have to change the content of the words, simply the way they are represented, such as the tone, rhythm, direction, and cadence and so on.
- Work with reframing thoughts and ideas also-change their meaning, change the effect.
- Turn negative statements into positive ones and remember, say it the way you want.
- …and if your self talk works in a positive way leave alone.
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