Last week, I referenced the steps to behavioral change and what it takes to truly commit to create new habits for yourself. One of the steps I referenced was the “contemplation” stage. This is the stage in which you are finally ready to admit you have a problem that is within your control but instead of doing something about it right then and there, you begin to have a conversation in your head about all the reasons why you can’t make this change. Negative self talk is something that plagues a lot of people if not all of us, but why?
Well, for starters remembering negative outcomes have been essential to human survival for eons. During the Paleolithic era all the way up to the late 19th century, it was relatively easy to die a premature death. People would die from some disease or exposure to something that they couldn’t combat because of the lack of information we had during those times. If you were alive in those times, it would be really important for you to remember that a tiger or wolf was an animal that could cause you harm as opposed to a rabbit or deer that you would likely use for food. It was important to remember that if you got exposed to a certain plant or animal you could expose yourself to something poisonous. These negative outcomes became very important to remember so our brains as human beings evolved to focus more on the negative.
However, in today’s modern age we don’t really run those risks anymore, so what is it that constantly reinforces negative thoughts? Well, a lot of times it can be friends and family. Most often though, it’s the screens we look at every day that tell us someway or another that what we esteem toward isn’t possible. Now, while some of the things we aspire to may not be possible in the moment, it doesn’t mean that they’ll NEVER happen. So, the next time you say that you want to do something and someone combats you with something negative or if you begin to have a negative conversation with yourself, ask yourself these 3 questions.
Is what I’m saying about myself or what this person is saying about me true? You’re going to find that a lot of times it isn’t. If I were to say I want to be able to squat 500 lbs someone could tell me, “you’ll never be big enough to do that”, I should internalize and process that. Never? I mean forever is a LONG time. If I put a plan in place I’m sure I could one day squat 500 lbs as long as I put in the work.
Is what I’m saying about myself or what this person is saying about me necessary? This is usually going to be another big fat NO. By necessary I mean, is it a vital piece of information they’re sharing with you? For example, if I say, “I want to climb Mt. Everest” and someone says, “you know at the summit the air pressure is ⅓ that of sea level so its really tough to breathe up there”. That would be something I need to know.
The last question I want you to ask yourself is, does it improve upon the silence? That is to say when you start telling yourself these negative things or someone starts telling you negative things, does what was said improve anything anywhere? The answer is also usually going to be no. In which case you’re going to realize that a lot of the road blocks you thought really existed is just white noise in your head.
I know in the moment it’s tough to do all this internalizing and processing, but in a world that moves so rapidly I think it would do a lot of us some good to just take our time with a decision and really attempt to do all that we aspire to.