We all experience positive and negative self-talk on a regular basis. Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably having the same internal conversations over and over: two opposing voices that compete for our mindset every day and every minute. One says, “You can’t, so don’t even try!” The other voice says, “Go ahead and give it a shot — the worst thing that happens is you learn something new!”
Over time, I’ve learned that these internal conversations are crucial to the success or failure of everything I do, from my business ventures to my daily activities. They play a pivotal role in my ability — or inability — to tackle challenges and achieve success in life and work. If I let the negative self-talk win more often than the positive self-talk, I begin to allow my bad experiences to limit what I do in the future. I fall into a pattern of avoiding any potentially risky decisions, and lose not only confidence, but hope. As an entrepreneur, that’s the last thing I want to do.
Success comes from winning the “battle in your head” — not allowing negative thoughts to drown out the positive. Too often negative self-talk takes a bad experience and turns it into a glaring red light. But success comes from turning every experience, good or bad, into an opportunity to learn and grow. The key is realizing that the choice is up to you, and no one else. Here are 6 steps to get your started winning the battle in your head:
- Choose positivity: Choosing to practice a positive mindset is the first and most important step to future success. You need to understand and deeply internalize the fact that winning the battle in your head is the most important thing you can do. It is Step One in your long journey of growth and success. You can and will accomplish great things, so long as you start with a firm belief in yourself. According to Buddha, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we shall become.” Take that to heart.
- List positive thoughts: Begin to build a list of your personal accomplishments and positive traits. No matter how much we struggle or how often we let negative thoughts speak too loudly, it’s important to also remember the accomplishments that have made us proud and the personal characteristics that have helped us along our journey. It will be helpful to remind yourself of this by writing it all down and revisiting your notes regularly. On those occasions when that negative voice comes back, at the first opportunity, argue back by simply referring to your notes.
- Learn the art of reframing: Pay attention to your thoughts: every time you start listening to that negative or unhelpful side, catch yourself. Take the time to become fully of the thought and then introduce a counter argument to reframe it into something more positive. For example, reframe “I’m a terrible public speaker,” into “With a bit of practice, I bet I can grow into a better public speaker.” Become aware of how often you let the negative win, and each time, in the moment, proactively flip that script. The more you do this, the more it will turn into a habit, and you will slowly start to change.
- Realize you’re not alone: Accept that failure is part of life — for everyone. Everyone has had their own self-doubts and experienced a setback, and probably more often than you know. And not letting failure define us is a challenge we all face. Don’t let a failure define you, and don’t single yourself out for it. Everyone has failed. It’s how we respond to the failure that counts.\
- Don’t let the past define you: As Dan Millman wrote, The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. This is a choice everyone can make. Only you can prevent the negativity of your past experiences, relationships and treatment by others from defining your future. Choose not to allow your past to darken your future, and you will begin to see and create the life you dream about. Your brighter future can start right now — with a mindset that drives you forward into the future, instead of back into the past.
- Dwell on your daily victories: Here’s another habit that can be a powerful lever for change: keeping a log of your “victories.” At the end of each day, write down three things that went well. Write what happened, how it went well, and the positive thoughts it gave you. You’re giving room for the positive voice to be heard. The more you build this list, the more you fill your mind with positive beliefs, and you will start to see a change in how you approach every action and decision — as an opportunity, not a potential hazard.
It’s tough to win in life until you win the battle with yourself. And the first step begins with realizing you have a choice. You can actually choose to win the battle in your head instead of giving into it. Training yourself to do so starts with each decision you make during the course of a day, from the smallest ones to the largest. Ultimately, winning the battle in your head results in self-confidence. And this self-confidence builds on itself if you allow it to — and will carry you into the future with leaps and bounds.
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