February 7 – Flipping the self-talk switch

“Evidence is conclusive that your self-talk has a direct bearing on your performance.” (Zig Ziglar)

Sometimes I psych myself up, and sometimes I psych myself out. There are days that I wake up ready to attack the world and make my mark. I have the drive of a young man on a mission, ready to conquer all and accomplish whatever I set out to do. Other days I wake up already feeling defeated. I cower at the mere thought of trying to accomplish anything. On those days my muscles and joints seem to hurt more, and my heart is full of dread.

The truth is that on a day to day basis, the world around me doesn’t change much. Sure, I live in a world that is ever changing, but the changes are far more subtle when taken in daily doses. So, what is really different? I am different.

This quote, and others like it, tells me that I can alter things just by how I talk to myself. I can, indeed, psych myself up to better performance, or defeat myself by telling myself I will fail. I have known this concept for years. Applying this concept and making a difference in my day, is not always as easy as it seems.

Last night I was talking to my wife. She asked me how the day had gone, and I told her that I was having a great week at work. I was feeling more productive than usual, and have been handling difficult assignments with apparent ease. At the beginning of the week I was literally losing sleep over a difficult set of problems that needed to be solved. I was fearful that my team and I wouldn’t find a satisfactory solution in time for some upcoming deadlines. One might think that these issues were resolved, resulting in my improved mental state. The truth is that they aren’t. While we are on the path to resolution of the most thorny problems, they still could unravel and leave us no better than we were a week ago.

Why, then, do I feel better? I didn’t consciously change my self-talk, but subconsciously I did. I elected to take things one day at a time, and do what I can on that day to make things better. Within each day, I have worked at whatever pieces of the problems were closest at hand. The result in terms of the problems  is that my team and I have moved the needle, if even slightly. But, the result in terms of my mindset have been far more dramatic.

Today is Friday. There are meetings this morning that will reveal much about how things will go over the next few weeks. Some of the problems we’ve been working may ease, or they may get more difficult. Frankly, that is out of my control. Either way, I will just continue to work the problem.

As I said, I cannot look back and point to a particular moment this week when I made a conscious decision to change my self-talk. But today, I am living evidence that making the change has made a difference in my performance.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to flip the self-talk switch at will. I am also a believer that momentum plays a role in my mood and self-talk. As I trend in one direction, there is a head of steam that gets built up that can be very hard to change. But, I won’t stop trying. I know that sometimes in the future, this positive momentum will switch. When it does, hopefully I will be able to grab the throttle, and push myself back in the right direction.

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