Leading with self-talk
What is your self-image? What are you good at? What are you not so good at? Don’t think about what others think of you. What do you think of yourself?
You have many beliefs about yourself. These beliefs control your ability to realize your leadership potential. When you learn to change these beliefs, you can expand your skills and realize your potential. If you grew up thinking you were shy, then you are shy. If you believe that you are naturally overweight, then diets will only work for you for a short time—you will gain the weight back.
How we talk to ourselves, our self-talk, has a powerful impact on our lives. Self-talk is the internal conversation we have with ourselves all day long, every day. The beliefs we hold about ourselves are what control the real use of our potential. Over the years we’ve been telling ourselves a lot with our self-talk. We’ve been telling ourselves we’re shy or outgoing, a warm person or a cold person, a high performer or a low performer.
We build and change our self-image through our self-talk. Many of our thoughts are constructive and others are debilitating. It is often said that if a friend talked to you the way you sometimes talk to yourself then the friendship would be over in a hurry. The greater our self-image or self-esteem, the easier it is to deal with new situations and new challenges.
Don’t think about a steaming hot piece of apple pie. Don’t think about the big scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream melting on the top of it. Don’t think about the wonderful cinnamon smell.
It’s hard not to think about it, isn’t it?
The message I just placed in your head was a powerful one and I did it by telling you what NOT to think about. Your self-talk (negative or positive) is doing the same thing all day, every day for you.
Affirmations are positive self-talk that guides us toward our goals. It is important to affirm correctly or the desired results will not be achieved.
If we go through life focusing on the negative, we prevent ourselves from maximizing our personal potential — an insight Mother Teresa tried to pass on to a fervent group of antiwar protestors. The protestors asked Mother Teresa if she would be willing to lead a huge antiwar demonstration. “No”, said the wise nun. “I won’t march against war. If you ever hold a demonstration for peace, call me”. When your mode is anti, you have to use your creative energy in defense, leaving little to create what you want to do with your life.
Does this sound like some kind of crazy self-help technique like standing in front of a mirror and telling yourself that you are wonderful and that people like you? In some ways the answer is yes. The important thing to recognize is that it’s not a question of if you’re going to affirm — you already do. It’s whether you’re going to do it effectively.
Try this at Home
If you want to imprint your children with a good sense of self-esteem and a positive expectation for the future, try asking these two questions every night. It will cause the young person to shift their self-talk.
What did you do today that you’re really proud of?
What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
Stick with it. Your young person might think the questions are odd at first. Once they get used to the new pattern, you’ll find they talk positively about themselves every day.
Your Own Self-Talk
What conversation do you have with yourself at night before you go to sleep?
Are you telling yourself how proud you are of your performance? Probably not! If you’re like most of us, you’re probably berating yourself for not getting enough done during the day. This is self-talk and it’s negative. Shift to the positive.
As a Leadership Strategy
After practicing on yourself and your loved ones, try the technique out on your team. At your next staff meeting, invite each member of the team to respond to these two questions:
What are you proud of from your actions last week that moved us closer to our goals?
What are you looking forward to doing this week that will move us closer to our goals?
Make this a weekly routine and monitor the results.
- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.