If you did the exercise in the last posting about comparing your negative vs. positive thoughts and came up with more negatives, don’t start feeling too bad. Dr. Shad Helmstetter in his book, Who Are You Really and What Do You Want? states there is some research that shows for some people up to 70% of their thinking is negative. That is a big chunk of negativity. What can we do to change the percentages in a positive direction?
One key area where we can improve our thinking in a more positive way is what we say to ourselves – our self talk. Yes it is ok to talk to yourself. We do it all the time. You probably don’t want to walk through the shopping mall holding a long dialogue with yourself. You will get a lot of strange looks but seriously, it is important to consider the things we say to ourselves.
I remember years ago in a College basic computer programming class learning the acronym, GIGO, Garbage In Garbage Out. If your computer program is filled with errors, your output on the program will be filled with errors. The professor mentioned that in his opinion the greatest computer ever designed was the human brain designed by God. He exhorted the class to apply the GIGO principle to our lives and thinking. If you allow garbage in to your minds the output into your life will be garbage.
Years after this while I was studying on my first Masters degree in Divinity/Counseling at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL my advisor encouraged me to read the Dr. Helmstetter book, What To Say When You Talk To Yourself. This, along with my appreciation for Cognitive Behavioral theories in my Psychology courses caused me to be awestruck by the power of our thinking in our individual lives.
Self-talk is the internal scripts we say to ourselves in our minds- “Boy, I’m sure having a rotten day!”, “How could I be so stupid”, “I should be able to do this better”, “ I will never be able to remember things!”, “ My mom said I would always be a failure. I guess she was right.” “I just can’t be creative!”. The scripts are programming statements that we consciously and unconsciously repeat over and over to ourselves. These statements program our personal internal computer, (our brain). When the programming is full of shoulds, coulds, can’ts and regrets we are programming major negativity which will produce negativity in our lives.
When I first read What To Say When You Talk To Yourself , I reflected over all the “I can’t” statements that had limited my past from my teen years and negatively affected the present at the time. I was astounded at the negativity and limitations I had placed on myself, almost unknowingly. I would like to say that that realization changed my life to success over night. Mental habits are slow in changing. Even up to this day. Before starting this blog for months I remember arguing with myself, “Why bother writing a blog you have nothing to say. You can’t do it. Who will read it anyways? It won’t help anyone” I finally reprogrammed my self talk with “I have always wanted to work on improving my writing. Doing a blog may be productive writing practice. Even if I only get a few readers, if I can encourage them to live a more than ok existence it will be worth it.”
In the previous paragraph I give an example of the primary way Dr. Helmstetter promotes to change the thinking programs in our minds. Set aside 30 minutes of quiet alone time to think over your self-talk statements you say to yourself on a routine basis. Jot down on a paper the things you say to yourself –
Examples –“Why me?”; “I never say the right thing”; “my room is always messy – I guess I am just a messy person”; “nobody likes me”; “I just can’t lose weight”. Look over the statements. Are they things I really want to be true about myself? Can I have pride in saying these things? Are they helping me be a better person? Then finally think over what you should be saying instead and write the new programming statements out. Here are some examples --change the “ I can’t” to “I can”; “I am having a rotten day nothing is going right” to “My day is starting off rough but I am not going to let it beat me. Look out world here I come!”; “My dad said I would always be a dummy in math” to “Maybe I am not a numbers guy but I need Algebra to get my degree so I will use the campus tutoring and do extra practice to make sure I pass.”
You get the idea. Look at the negative statements you are telling yourself and create a positive new program. Then when you catch yourself saying the negative statement hit the delete button in your mind to erase it and then paste in the more positive statement. Try the 30 minute exercise mentioned in the preceding paragraph and try building some new positive programs for yourself. Let your thoughts move your life in a positive direction!