I’ve worked with CEOs, Fortune 500 executives, social entrepreneurs, and other leaders around the world to unlock their full leadership potential. One place I often start is helping them develop practices to break free of negative self-talk. This is not only important in the workplace but also in so many other areas of our lives. In fact, I used these strategies myself during my long and difficult battle with COVID-19.
Our minds are constantly filled with thoughts. We’re either thinking about something that happened earlier in the day or about something that’s about to happen. But most of us aren’t aware of this internal chatter and how it subconsciously runs our lives.
If you take a moment and listen to your inner thoughts, you’ll start hearing this inner monologue. You might find yourself judging others: “Why can’t they get the job done like they said they would?” Or judging yourself: “I just can’t get through my to-do list. Everyone else seems to be managing OK. Why can’t I get it together?”
It’s not abnormal to have a barrage of thoughts. Countless studies show that we can’t control every thought that enters our minds. However, we can change the way we relate to them. Here are three ways to break free of that inner monologue:
- Take a deep breath. When working with high-octane leaders, I encourage them to pause for 30 seconds between meetings and take three deep breaths. Science shows us why this is so powerful. When your mind perceives a threat, it triggers the body’s sympathetic nervous system, elevating your heart rate, blood pressure, and fight-or-flight responses. Conversely, deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, enabling calm and clarity. Deep breathing helps signal to your body that you are no longer under threat. This simple (and quick!) practice allows us to stop dragging in the clutter from prior encounters in the day and, instead, be fully present with whoever is in front of us at that moment.
- Let go of limiting stories. So often, we tell ourselves stories about “the way things are,” and they eat away at us under the surface. Before falling ill this year, I had been in the best shape of my life. However, months after my initial COVID-19 diagnosis, I would often walk to the local park and become short of breath after only five minutes. Every time my symptoms flared up, my mind would automatically jump to a story I’d been telling myself: “I may never recover my full health again,” which would send me into a downward spiral. To let go of this limiting story, I decided to adopt a practice that I train other leaders in, and that is asking one simple question: “What is actually happening right now?” Pretty soon, I realized that all that was happening (in reality) was that my heart rate and breathing were faster than normal. That’s all that was happening. The story that had been repeating in my head wasn’t necessarily true. After all, I had recovered from relapses before! Once I realized that my story wasn’t the truth, I didn’t feel as stuck. All too often, we get trapped in automatic thought patterns that lead us to believe there is only one way out. When we interrupt these patterns by reconnecting with reality, we can deal more powerfully with difficult situations.
- Use your words wisely. Another technique to escape limiting stories is to notice your language. The words we use with others matter, and so do the words we tell ourselves.
Many times this past year, I would wake up not feeling my best, and I would catch myself mumbling, “Oh, this is going to be a bad day!” The problem with words like “bad day” is that they become the frame through which we see everything. Almost immediately, we start paying extra attention to all the bad things that are happening, and, in doing that, we make ourselves powerless for the entire day.
However, we do have a choice of the language we use. Instead of saying, “This is a bad day,” tweak your words ever so slightly to say, “Right now, I am having an ‘off’ moment.” This slight shift in language allows you to be honest about what’s happening without throwing the whole day in the trash.
What are the things you say to yourself over and over again? Is there a small shift you can make in your language to take your power back?
Don’t let your inner monologue run your life! In every moment, you have a choice. You can deflate the power of negative self-talk by simply taking a moment to pause, letting go, and choosing your own narrative.
Written by Radha Ruparell.Track Latest News Live on CEOWORLD magazine and get news updates from the United States and around the world. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the CEOWORLD magazine.
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