Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Our brains are always turned on—even when we’re sleeping. We’re always giving ourselves feedback or self-talk. And that self-talk comes from 2 different voices in our head – our spirit which nurtures us with kind, loving and positive thoughts, and our gremlin who delights in pointing out all the things we do wrong and all the ways that we just don’t measure up. Which voice speaks the loudest, and which voice do we listen to and believe? Our gremlin, of course.
Now consider this. Research indicates that, on any given day, 75% of what’s rattling around in our heads can be negative. Research also shows that by the time a person is 18, if they grew up in an average home with an average amount of support, they had already received almost 150,000 messages about things that they couldn’t or shouldn’t do. These messages came in a most loving way from parents, teachers, siblings and friends. Maybe the message was “Are you sure you want to try out for the track team-you know you can’t run very fast, and I’d hate to see you disappointed”; or “Why would you ever want to be a doctor—it takes forever to get through school and it’s awfully hard. Why don’t you try nursing instead” or “You’re wearing that?”
The brain is like a computer – our very own personal computer, and the programs for our personal PC are all of the messages we’ve received from ourself and others, If the research is correct, the majority of our programming is negative. And we add to that programming every day. Don't believe it? Start listening to what you say to yourself. When you do something wrong, do you tell yourself that you’re stupid or that you never do anything right? When someone witnesses you trip over nothing, do you manage a weak smile and say something like “I am such a klutz”. We think these things are innocent, but they’re negative programming for the brain, which now acts on “I never do anything right” and “I’m such a klutz”.
In the same way that a computer operates running programs regardless of whether the data is good or bad, your brain just accepts the programming it receives – all those negative messages – and operates with the input it’s given. A computer doesn’t judge the programs, and neither does your brain. You’ll never hear your brain say “Hey, quit sending me all that negative stuff”. It just stores the messages and acts on them. So when you continually tell yourself that you can’t cook, and then you burn the meatloaf, your brain is just acting on the programming it’s been given – the program that says “I can’t cook”.
Your brain – your computer – is operating with negative programs. About 150,000 negative programs in our first 18 years alone. Is it any wonder we have so many problems? We enter adulthood knowing much more about our limitations than our potential. We accept our limitations, we live up to our limitations, we embrace our limitations – we even argue for our limitations! Our brain believes what it’s been told over and over and over—and that repetition is very convincing.
I believe that self-talk is a critical component of how we get through life. They say that you become what you think about most – what you think about expands. Unless we reprogram our computer—unless we put different information into our brain, the old programming will stay there forever. And, it will continue to affect (and infect) everything we do and all that we will become. The good news is
it’s not difficult to change our self-talk, but it does take persistence. So start now to reprogram years of negative information.
To reprogram your brain, start listening to how you talk to yourself. As soon as you become aware of a negative thought:
- Catch yourself.
- Interrupt your negative thought. Imagine a huge red stop sign right in front of your face. Or say STOP out loud. Or whatever works for you to interrupt your thought.
- Replace the negative message with a positive message. “I am worthwhile. I am smart. I am strong. I am powerful. I am confident. ”
Practice this. Make a conscious effort to do this every day and see if you don’t feel better. The bottom line is if you change your self-talk, you will change your life.