Self-Talk and Mental Programming

In today’s life coaching article, I will be writing about self-talk and mental programming. Throughout our lives, we have unknowingly received countless negative programs, which are recorded in neural pathways in our brain. This is similar to the programming of a computer. These negative programs were created by negative input. Parents, friends, teachers, television passer by conversations. You name it. (Behavioral researchers have estimated that in the first 18 years of our lives alone, each of us is told no, or what we cannot do, or what won’t work, more than 148,000 times.) And it doesn’t stop there. We continue to receive the wrong kind of programming from others, and from our own old negative programming from the past – our own self-talk.

The Law of Repetition

We receive our programs through repetition. First, from others, and then through our own repeated self-talk. That’s why what others tell us most becomes what we believe about ourselves most. Each time a message is repeated, it gets rerecorded, in the brain, and becomes stronger. Unfortunately, a lot of the programs we got were the wrong programs.

How Self-Talk Works

While we’re growing up, we get “programmed,” every day in dozens of ways. Everything we hear, see, or experience in any way gets “programmed” – much like programming a computer, which means it gets recorded in our brain. Also like a computer, the part of the brain that records all of those messages doesn’t know the difference between something that is “true” about us, or something that is not. Our computer brain just records the programs as we receive as “truth” – and those are the programs that determine every choice we make.

So we grow up getting “programmed,” – in a very natural way – and a lot of the programs we got about ourselves were completely wrong: (“You can’t do this,” “You’re not good at that,” “You could never do that,” “Why would you do that, it won’t work for you,” “You’ll never be good at math,” “You’ll always be a ‘fatty’,” “How could you be that stupid?, ”Can’t you do anything right?,” “You never listen,” or “Who do you think you are, someone special?”) And there were thousands more programs, just like them, that we heard, recorded in our brain, and ended up unconsciously repeating to ourselves and, ultimately, believing as truth.

To know what our old “Self-Talk” does in our lives, all you have to do is listen to the “negative” self-talk of the people around you. You may have even heard yourself say some of these things, or you may have heard these kinds of comments almost every day from someone else: “I can’t do this!,” I’m no good at that,” “I can never remember names,” “Nothing ever works for me,” “I can never lose weight,” “It’s just no use!,” “I never get a break,” “I just can’t seem to get organized,” “Today just isn’t my day,” and on and on and on. read more

Thoughts on Positive Thinking

Are you a positive thinker? You may say yes, no, or sometimes…the latter I would guess is likely most accurate.

Taking the glass half-full or half-empty approach, we could contemplate, well, if I’m a positive thinker, it’s half full; if I’m a negative thinker it’s the latter – but what is this positive thinking stuff all about anyway and does it even matter?

To answer this last question, everything we do has an impact on the outcomes and circumstances of our lives, so in the spirit of this – yes of course the quality of our thoughts matter. However, I think that ultimately, in a cause and effect reality, it’s the choices we actually make because of our quality of thoughts that are impactful.

I have heard life coach Tony Robbins say that even he, himself, “is not a positive thinker”. I thought hey Tony, what do you mean? You’re a life coach!? But he did explain. He said that it would be like looking at your garden and saying,”There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds!!!”- meaning, say you did have a garden, and weeds started to grow; would the weeds go away by your positive (or negative) thinking alone? What if you were negative and cursed the weeds? Told them to BURN IN HELL! Would that get rid of your weeds? What if you visualized your weeds being gone and positively visualized your garden weed free and flourishing? No matter what type of thoughts you’re thinking, positive or negative – if you want those weeds gone – a good choice to get rid of them is to pull those suckers out – or at least invest in some weed killer! Now, can you come to that decision to take action by either one of those thought choices above? Sure – so what I hypothesize from this example, is we will think both in positive or negative terms about a situation or outcome, but the positive outcome gets determined by the choice to take action, whether it’s motivated by positive or negative thinking. I think we need both the good, the bad and the ugly, if you will, or as Tony puts it, the pain and the pleasure. Furthermore, from experience, I have seen negative thoughts or the fear of pain motivate positive action more frequently than positive thoughts. Fear of some kind of pain does seem to unfortunately be the ultimate motivator.

Again, of course these are some massive generalizations of how someone could react to a situation, but in the end, to reach a positive outcome, I can see where both thinking in a negative way or a positive way can lead someone to get either positive or negative results. I’ve experienced this recently with my youngest son, who is 10 years old. A few weeks back he was playing a video game and was very frustrated. He told me “dad, I’ll never beat this game. I just can’t do it – it’s too hard!” I didn’t say a word to him. However, about 45 minutes later he came back and said, “dad, I finally beat it!” Now what the heck happened in 45 minutes that took my 10 year old’s negativity into a positive outcome? I thought about this for a while and I noticed something that taught me a good lesson. While playing that game, he experienced all types of positive and negative thoughts and emotions, probably too many to count. So what made the difference for him? What kept him going until he beat the game? Even though there was some despair, it had to be mixed with some sense of accomplishment, even though he was making small progress. Maybe it was just enough to keep him going? Maybe that’s all it takes is for us – to see some progress, or the possibility of some good – to help us go on. Anyway, I know there was a lot of frustration over beating the game, so I said to him, “I thought you would never beat that game?” He said, “it was really hard, but I figured it out.” I was like, that’s it? It was hard, but I figured it out? I thought to myself – wow – how about that – “10 year old discovers the secret to success!” ** It was hard, but I figured it out. ** Positive thoughts and negative thoughts all played the part – but it was the final vision, the thought of the undiscovered promise of beating the game that made the difference. I guess the takeaway here is, as long as we have a vision and keep at it, we increase our chances of realizing it.

Finally, I think our thoughts will never be purely positive or purely negative and it’s by design. We look for that which makes us feel best in each moment of our lives – and life’s not always how we want it to be at all times – so there is always going to be conflict in the way we see things – in the end we need both positive and negative to know that either one exists. Luckily, we can choose our behaviors towards our thoughts and consciously change them if we go to far in either direction.