We talk all day, whether in-person or through email, text or chat. We’re inundated with conversation, rarely finding a moment of silence. Out of all of this communication, who do you think hears your voice the most? Is it your boss or employees? Maybe your partner or children? While these might seem like the obvious answers, the answer is actually you. For as much as we talk to others, we talk even more to ourselves.
Sometimes the conversation is about what we’re doing – a technical task like filling out an application or putting together furniture. Other times it’s in regard to our ability to do something or a reflection of our confidence, such as “There’s no way I can do this,” or “I’ve got this; this is a piece of cake.” The list of what we tell ourselves is endless.
It turns out that when we talk to ourselves, that conversation has a massive impact on our confidence and our ability to perform at work, at home and in whatever other ventures we pursue. Here’s an example. Imagine you’re at work; you have a new client to call, and you’re trying to seal the deal on a new policy. You haven’t worked much with this person, so the rapport isn’t entirely there; plus, they don’t always seem to be the most pleasant. Nonetheless, the call must happen. Before you dial the number, you tell yourself, “This is a waste of my time; I hate calling them.” How do you think that phone call goes? My prediction: not that great.
Now imagine the same scenario, except this time before dialing, you tell yourself, “Let’s seal the deal! Talk slow and breathe. This is easy money!” How do you think that phone call goes? I’m thinking much better.
Mind experts like Trevor Moawad and Michael Gervais preach this exact same thing when working with groups like the Navy SEALs and athletes such as the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. According to Gervais, “Confidence comes from one place – and one place only – your self-talk. The cool thing is … we can train this.”
What might your life look like if you change the conversation you’re having with yourself? To help propel you in this journey, here are a few steps to begin changing the conversation – and changing your results.
Begin by building awareness. Pay attention to what you’re saying, both out loud and internally, when you’re working on something that challenges you. Write down the phrases you notice yourself saying most often. Ask yourself, is this helping my progress or hurting it? You can do the exact same thing by looking at what you’re saying to yourself before you do something you consider relatively easy or simple.
Create a mantra or ‘go-to’ phrase. We can craft personalized phrases that really click in our minds. For example, my go-to is inspired by the legendary band The Grateful Dead. Whenever I’m faced with a daunting challenge, I remind myself, “Just keep trucking.” It doesn’t make the task any easier, but I’ve at least reminded myself to keep my head down and keep working.
Speak to yourself like a champion. Even the world's greatest performers and experts have rough days, but what makes champions different is that even on those days, the conversations they have with themselves are motivating and encouraging. It’s not blind optimism – it’s showing belief in yourself through your language, even when the cards may be stacked against you.
This process might take a bit of time, but you have all the time in the world. Start the journey today and never look back. What we say to ourselves matters far greater than we often realize. It’s up to us to make sure the words coming out of our mouths, and those in our head, are giving us the best chance to succeed and live how we desire. The most important conversation you’ll ever have is the one you have with yourself.
Trevor Tellin is a sports psychology-trained consultant whose organization, New Summits Consulting, works with individuals, teams and organizations to maximize performance by channeling the power of the mind.