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Are You Really Listening to How You Talk to Yourself?

What did I just say to myself? I heard in my self-talk, a message very similar to what I heard a lot when I was a child. A phrase that my mother used to say often, ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’. It is amazing how this ‘self-talk’ can find a home in our minds and can become quite limiting for us if we leave it unnoticed and unchallenged.

Another one which is quite common that I have encountered in my coaching practice is something like, ‘I’m not good enough’, or, ‘you can’t trust people, they always let you down’. While they may seem innocent enough, the limiting beliefs they manifest can become detrimental to our progress and success in life.

This blog post is about recognising some of those patterns; do we want to keep them, or learn to challenge and change them?

Human brains are sponges for learning and mimicking the other humans around us. Sometimes the humans around us may have modelled behaviours that we may not have necessarily wanted. Wherever we are in our lives, we find that elements of the people we grew up mimicking and learning from have passed these attributes on, sometimes through the phrasing used outwardly which in turn becomes inwardly hardened unconsciously within us.

As children, there really is no choice for us to filter out the things we are learning. We observe and copy, or at least we attempt to copy what we see. It’s the same for many of our behaviours, languages and sets of moral beliefs too. We grow up normalising all of this and it becomes second nature to us and something we rarely, if ever, question.

When we do reach adulthood, we have acquired so many ‘normals’, that tracking where the ‘normal’ self-talk originated from becomes impossible and, in many cases, it doesn’t even matter. There’s value in discovering the impact of our own free will and the variables which make us individuated and responsible for our own cognition and sometimes identifying what was influenced and what was chosen can be useful to do.

Coaching my clients, we often uncover many interesting held beliefs such as ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’, ‘Its a wild world out there’. When we do a bit of digging with the client, it often comes to pass that they can pinpoint an influence in the past or some memory of them inheriting such beliefs. Usually, when they identify this, they almost always automatically question why they believe this and are motivated and curious to learn more about what effect it has had on them.

This is the motivational fuel required to change it and bring about new, success-sustaining beliefs. New beliefs that will drive better, chosen actions and therefore better life outcomes.

We have an estimated 40 to 60 thousand thoughts in a day, so getting a feel for which ones we should target as problematic can be a challenge. It is very easy for us to move forward and project a future based on our past patterns because the thoughts and beliefs which are hardwired into us, want us to afford as little effort as possible.

As a result, many of us produce many of the results based on the default patterns that we have always had. This is why we find many challenges in life difficult to overcome. The same thinking always gets us the same result that we have always had.

When we become aware of the problematic ‘normal’ thinking/self-talk that we have formed patterns around which we recognise is not allowing us to create the future we want, we have a choice to think about what sort of self-talk would better serve us to achieve the outcome we are searching for. Then, the exciting part begins where we get to practice the new thinking within ourselves. It opens up the internal debate.

John Stuart Mill talked about debate and debating being the way to achieve the truth. I think that for us, we need to have rigorous debates with ourselves so that we can come to conclusions about our values, beliefs, preferences, wants, impressions and consider if what is being proposed is in our best interests. Ultimately this is the central goal of being interested in self-knowledge and working towards a better relationship with ourselves.

Cells that fire together, wire together. To create a new default thought about money, your abilities, or your character requires us to provide evidence to ourselves that there is another way. The evidence we have had in our lives may have led us to harden the idea that ‘the world is dangerous’ or ‘people cannot be trusted’. The remedy is to debate and challenge these issues when we identify them within ourselves.

Searching out new opportunities to challenge these assumptions is required for us to accept the new ‘normals’ which will eventually lead us to have better life outcomes. A wonderful tool and model to use can be found in the diagram below; you can see that our thoughts lead us to the feelings or emotions that we experience. Our feelings lead us to behave in the way we do and the behaviours we implement in life are going to result in us having the life outcomes that we achieve or in many cases fail to achieve.

Start to consider what are the behaviours you need to practice to achieve your favoured outcomes. Then you can consider the feelings you need to practice to get you to behave in the way you want. From that point, you can think about the thoughts that will create those feeling states that you want to get yourself experiencing.

This is the key to achieving what you want from your life. It is not difficult to understand but the challenge is committing to a practice which will enable you to create the new automatic thoughts to override the ones you have picked up throughout your own life.

The great news is that awareness of our inner dialogue can help us firstly, to become conscious of what we are saying that is creating obstacles and, secondly, to choose and then practice thoughts to replace those hindering thoughts which are most likely not leading us to the desired outcome that we have for our lives.

Without practice and a commitment to a new set of beliefs, you could struggle to achieve what you are looking to achieve. It is worth the effort and you will be surprised how quickly you can build momentum towards the goals you have set for yourself.

Get to work listening to what you are saying to yourself!

I love hearing from you guys and answering your nuanced questions. Feel free to email rob@robduffy4coach.com and ask me any questions you have!

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