As you know, your self-talk can either boost you or drag you down, depending on whether it’s positive or negative. Positive self-talk is, of course, a product of your self-confidence and leads to relatively few problems. This article mostly won’t talk about it. It’s your negative self-talk, with its origins in self-doubt, that is problematic, and that’s what I want to consider today.
Converting your self-talk from negative to positive is one of the best ways of eliminating a huge hindrance from being successful as a leader. Consider it a form of reprogramming. If you’ve been holding yourself back by continually focusing on the negative and telling yourself you’re not good enough, you cannot legitimately expect to get where you want to go. Of course, it’s easier not to change (most change is difficult) but continuing to be mired in limiting self-talk almost guarantees disappointment and failure, regardless of the optimistic and confident face you present to the world.
Before acting to modify your negative self-talk, it’s important to take the prerequisite steps of clarifying your beliefs and values and achieving alignment between them and your goals. Why? Your beliefs and values act as essential filters for all incoming information. If the incoming information is not in alignment with your beliefs and values, you pay no attention to it. It’s only when there is alignment between your beliefs, values and the incoming information that you make that information a trusted part of your store of knowledge. If there’s no alignment, it’s likely to go in one ear and out the other.
1. Define and clarify your beliefs. Beliefs are the conceptual assumptions that you hold to be true. They can be limiting or enabling, but they form the foundation on which your interaction with the world is built.
For instance, one of your limiting beliefs might be “I am not good at meeting deadlines.”
If so, ask yourself the follow-up question, “Is this limiting belief founded or unfounded? If it’s founded, that is, based on your past failure to meet deadlines, you don’t need this article. You need a calendar and some discipline, both of which I can talk about in another article. However, if it’s unfounded, that is, you do meet your deadlines, then having such a belief creates a barrier to doing better and limits your achievement.
In order to challenge your unfounded limiting beliefs, first identify each and every circumstance that has shown your unfounded limiting belief not to be true. You need to bring in as many objective criteria as possible. This will show that you are “good enough” and that you performed in a satisfactory manner.
Take a few minutes and write down each and every occasion in which you met your deadline. In other words, expose the falsity of your unfounded belief.
Remember, everything you want and need on your leadership journey is on the opposite side of those unfounded beliefs, so the quicker you can do away with them and move on to real problems, the quicker you can start racking up the achievements you desire.
2. Inventory your values. Your values are derived from beliefs and represent the ideas that are most important to you. They are related to your needs and are not based on information from the past. Most people list their top values as having to do with their family, job, society, a hobby, or the like. They could be things like honesty, authenticity, equality, perseverance, community, etc.
Whatever your values are, list your top five, and on a scale of 1 to 10, assign each a numerical value according to its presence in your leadership. This is a measure of how much you honor what you say is important to you. It will show you the values you need to better align with how you carry yourself out as a leader.
3. Set your goals. What are the three main goals you have set for yourself this year? Are they specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely (SMART)? Are they tied to your enabling beliefs and in alignment with your values? Without positive answers to these questions, your goals are not real. They’re just generalizations or hopes.
Now that we’ve done the three prerequisite steps, we can move on to the heart of the matter: converting negative self-talk to positive.
1. Be aware that you are choosing positive self-talk over negative. This doesn’t take much, but you do need to think about it. Be clear in your mind that you are going to eliminate negative self-talk with positive.
2. Focus on enabling beliefs. Use your enabling, non-limiting beliefs to take on challenges and see them through to satisfactory conclusions.
3. Adjust your attitude. Attitude is determined by your beliefs and values. It’s the way you treat others and approach different situations. Once you discover your influential enabling beliefs and their powerful alignment with your values, you will adjust your attitude in taking the most inspiring action.
4. Take action. Based on what you learned in the first three steps, determine what action you must take in order to modify your behavior and show up as a committed, confident and inspiring leader, one who is constantly aligned with their enabling beliefs and honors his or her values.
Reprogramming your self-talk is not easy. It requires the much deeper work of truly believing that you are “good enough” and that you have the ability to accomplish your goals. Once you’ve accomplished this, however, the sky’s the limit.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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