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How do you talk to yourself?

Published:Sunday | October 13, 2019 | 12:00 AM

If you spoke to your friends the way you speak to yourself, how many would you keep?

Is your self-talk inspiring and encouraging, or a trail of constant correction and fault-finding?

Are you nagging yourself to death?

The impact of how we speak to ourselves is often overlooked. However, it has direct bearing on how we see ourselves and what we believe. In fact, our self-talk has the power to define who we are.


You stumble while walking. You rebuke yourself: “Why are you so clumsy?”

That registers the event as a manifestation of your clumsiness.

You could just have ignored it. However, if you decide that you need to take note of it, you could say: “That’s unusual, given how careful and sure-footed you are.”

Make that statement even if you have fallen flat three times already for the day. Here’s why.


Dr David R. Hamilton asked volunteers to play a simple sequence of piano notes each day for five consecutive days. Their brains were scanned each day in the region connected to the finger muscles. Another set of volunteers were asked to imagine playing the notes instead, also having their brains scanned each day.

The top two rows showed the changes in the brain in those who played the notes. The middle two rows showed the changes in those who simply imagined playing the notes. Both were compared with the bottom two rows showing the brain regions of the control group, who didn’t play nor imagine playing the piano.

You can clearly see that the changes in the brain in those who imaged playing piano are almost the same as in those who actually played piano.



The Hamilton piano study and many others highlight the fact that we can use our thoughts to influence ‘reality’. Visualisation is now common practice in sports. What if you added forward-looking self-talk to the power of visualisation?

As you visualise yourself achieving lofty goals, what if the way you spoke to yourself matched your vision?

People talk about ‘speaking things into being’. There is scientific evidence to support that possibility.


Unfortunately, we are guilty of dragging along negative baggage on life’s journey. There are lies that we accept as being true. They attach themselves to us and sow seeds at the subconscious level that hold us back.

Even highly successful individuals lug along some negative baggage.

What can you do about it?

It is important to note that resolutions operate at the conscious level. Habits reside at the subconscious level, and behaviour modification must go deeper than mere affirmations.

Think of your life as a CD. It is embedded with everything about you. Modifying your behaviour long term involves rewriting your CD with transformational information.

This requires focus and consistent application. There are a number of internal support mechanisms that can help to produce a transformed you.

1. At the top of my list is fervent, believing prayer. Verify this with a Google search for scientific evidence of the power of prayer. Be clear about your requests and act on them. You are more likely to achieve your goals if you move towards them.

2. Visualisation works as we have seen. You must pay focused attention to the process for it to be truly effective.

3. Empowering ‘why’ questions, provide a means of tricking the subconscious into allowing easier entry of behaviour-modification prompts. Change is difficult because the subconscious tends to reject things that are different from what is on your CD. If your CD is filled with enjoying high-calorie treats, prompts to resist the ice cream are blocked. An empowering ‘why’ question here could be: “Why do I have so much control over my diet and have such a healthy lifestyle?” This sends the subconscious off to find out why this is so. This process prompts behaviour modification of your eating habits. The exercise needs consistent repetition and critically, you must avoid answering the question. Focusing on what you think is your reality confuses the issue.


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n Trevor E. S. Smith of Success with People Academy. We guide the development of high-performance teams. We are interpersonal relations, group dynamics and performance-enhancement specialists. We provide learning and productivity-enhancement technology solutions. We offer behavioural assessments from Extended DISC on the revolutionary FinxS platform and e-competency frameworks in our SPIKE solution. Email: