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The Art of Positive Self-Talk

Photo by Hannes Caspar
Stop yelling at the movie, you ain’t never gonna change it like that. Go change the movie in the projector. You are the projector. ~David Icke

As a transformation coach, the most important challenge I face is creating change for people that is sustainable.  This requires teaching them powerful but simple techniques that they can take into the real world and use to make significant progress towards living a happier life.

I like to aim for what I think of as full-contact living, which is consciously coming into direct contact with as much of life as we can. By increasing the surface area of our lives, we can fully experience the joy of it all.

Increasingly often, it seems as if we inhabit an A to B world.  We are at A and need to get to B.  And everything in between gets little more than a passing glance, because when we make time linear, we take a lot of the essence out of it.

We experience the two-dimensional aspect of it, but we miss the full 3-D experience.

It’s the same with our self-talk.  We actually don’t even realize how much we talk to ourselves – but we do it even when we are talking to each other.  We need to learn to experience it fully because it has an enormous impact on us and our lives.

To that end, I teach responsible self-talk to all my clients because it’s a simple life tweak that delivers.  It’s also kind of fun.  Try it the next time you’re having an argument with someone, and you’ll see what I mean.

So what is it and how can we experiment with it?

Responsible self-talk involves carefully listening to the perspective we take when we talk to ourselves.  Do we tend to assume responsibility for how we are feeling – or do we “blame” our feelings on other people, events, and circumstances?

For instance, when you feel troubled by your past, you are viewing your past as something fixed and solid that is still acting upon you.  This perspective is disempowering because it gives your past power over you now, in this moment.  You voluntarily give it the power to trouble you.

Many of us feel, think, speak, and act with this disempowering perspective.

When we speak of the past, the only reality happening now is the way we think and feel about the past.  When we realize and acknowledge that, WE CAN CHANGE IT.

That’s the power of responsible self-talk. Here is an example:

“I am troubled by my past” could be changed to “I trouble myself with my past.”

There is a world of difference between these two perspectives.  The first one assumes the past has the power to affect you.  The second one gives you the power to decide for yourself how it will affect you.

This is a significant distinction. This new way of putting words together makes you an active observer of – and participant in – your own experienceMore importantly, it gives you the power to make your current experience whatever you choose it to be.

Remember this simple idea: your reaction to an event is as important as the event itself and how you react to an event creates the perspective.  The responsibility is yours.

If you are the one who is creating the perspective, you are the one who can change that perspective.  You can think, talk, act, and feel differently.  People or circumstances do not do anything to you psychologically.  You do everything to yourself.

Here are some more examples of changing your perspective through self-talk:

  • She makes me so angry
    I make myself feel angry about her
  • My father makes me feel helpless
    I make myself feel helpless when I am with my father
  • Life is so uncertain
    I make myself feel uncertain about life
  • The news makes me sad
    I sadden myself with the news
  • Tomorrow’s meeting terrifies me
    I am terrifying myself with my thoughts about tomorrow’s meeting
  • Fear takes me away from my path
    Because of fear, I take myself away from my path

When we take responsibility in our self-talk we speak in the present tense because the past, the present and the future can only be experienced now.  In the present, all we have is our reaction to things that happened in the past.  And in the present, we can only anticipate our reaction to things that may or may not happen in the future.

The actual reaction is our responsibility.

Remember, the words you use create your perspective.  It’s the perspective of power – and specifically, power over your current emotions and feelings.

Will you take the power into your own hands – or give it away to things outside your control and become a victim?

I believe in the beauty of our dreams and that having a fulfilling life requires radical acts of courage.  You don’t get the life you wish for – you get the life you commit to and work for.  Experimenting with responsible self-talk will give you an awareness of your personal accountability, a renewed sense of responsibility—and a simple, working tool for self-empowerment.

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About the author

David Frank Gomes is a Co-Active Life Coach, Mentor and Agent For Change. He was trained by Master Coaches from The Coaches Training Institute In California. He has a 25-year practice in mediation and contemplation in one of the great wisdom traditions and is also a filmmaker and creativity consultant. He is the human caregiver for the worlds greatest 6 lb Poodle Biscuit and is the chair of the Kitsilano community garden, the oldest community garden in Vancouver.

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24 thoughts on The Art of Positive Self-Talk

  1. Hello David,

    Thanks for an inspiring guest post. I dropped by your website and I like your ideas.

    Let me first compliment you for recognizing and teaching your clients that everyone has a responsibility. Most people are busy trying to figure out what everyone else has done in order to make you feel. Turn the perspective 180 degrees and ask yourself: “What have I done and what can I change?” Maybe a bit out of context but I like your ideas.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Best,
    Anders Hasselstrøm
    Motivational speaker

  2. Hi David,

    Your post is the first post I ever read about self-talk from the angle of “taking responsibility for your self-talk.”

    Kudos to you for teaching clients how to take responsibility for their self-talk. Covering it up with an affirmation, a band-aid, if you will, doesn’t help.

    You must realize that YOU are co-creating the drama-rama in your life through beliefs, thoughts, and the words your speak. If you don’t take responsibility for your self-talk, you’ll just create more of the same. Also, you don’t have to buy into fear. You have the power to choose differently.

  3. Ahsoka23

    For some reason The Universe is trying to tell me something, because this is the 3 article I have gotten in my inbox and have read about facing your fears and following your dreams. I think I just have to face my fears. Thanks for this article.

  4. Hi Anders, thanks for your kind words and yes I agree it’s a major persecutive shift, and one that is not always easy to practice, but it does shift people out of feeling like a victim.

    And thank you Amandah for your perceptive comments. Your right this technique really does help people create less fear for themselves, and they realize nobody is doing anything to them, they are doing it to themselves…it really can be quite a liberating way to live and be in the world.

  5. Eric

    This is right out of the late Dr. Robert Ellis’ book: ‘Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT).

  6. Hi Ahsoka23, yes the universe does appear to be nudging you along…this is one of the great benefits of finding a coach and mentor…two people joined together with a cause. I know many people can get stuck for a very long time, when a few months of coaching and mentoring would move them along nicely …

    and Eric I have not read that book you mentioned, but this is also right out of the any of the great wisdom traditions such as the Tao Te Ching. For most people the question is not where does the wisdom come from, but how will you incorporate it into your daily life.

  7. Hi David,
    I am in full agreement with your perspective on self-talk and its importance. I find it is often a challenge for clients to reach a point where they recognize the potential impact of changing their self-talk. This may come to them through the occurrence of an “aha” moment that provides a glimmer of hope that things could change for them. However, they often need help in recognizing the significance of that “aha” moment, and this is where a Life Coach can help as well. Thank you for all of your thought-provoking material.

  8. Mika

    Love LOVE this post. It’s a great reminder to take emotional responsibility for yourself.

    xx. Mika

  9. Thanks for the kind words Mika, and yes it does feel good to start to choose to take a more active role in your emotional life… and if anyone is interested here is a companion radio show i do on this subject called “The Language of your life.”

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lifecoachradionetwork/2013/08/20/frank-talk-the-language-of-your-life

  10. David,
    Several years ago I went into a phase of negative self analysis when I would beat myself up, mentally running through events and experiences from my past.

    It took a lot of time and willpower to change those debilitating perceptions of myself into positive self talk.

    I feel many people could be trapped by their past and do not know how to deal with the impact it still has on their lives. I will be sharing your article!

  11. Thanks for sharing Dianne, i hope it helps lots of folks to learn a new and very simple way to change it up, and thanks for your comments Carole, I agree having a coach and mentor in your life, even for only a few months can make a world of difference in how you go about making theses changes stick!

  12. Good point, and the interesting thing is how long I didn’t even know what my self was saying to myself! It wasn’t until I started exploring mindfulness meditation, which is all about just watching and noticing the thoughts running through your head, that I realized what was going on. Just catching onto the patterns & themes of our thoughts makes a better experience of life possible.

  13. When I feel that I am having negative self talk, I immediately use positive affirmation that I learn, I keep saying “I like myself” and my self esteem goes up. I become positive and the negative self talk disappears. Thanks for sharing the post. Very helpful!

  14. Great content! The thoughts that you have create will make a huge impact on how your life will turn out to be.

  15. Joy

    hullo wake up call! Been having relationship issues and in the back of my mind I say to myself Joy what’s your part in this, then another voice says no Joy you’re right and he is wrong. Its tiring and usually the voice that wants to be right wins. Life lessons!

  16. I love this post. It is so easy to blame others, but accountability is critical to being at peace with yourself. More people need to learn this.

  17. Nice post. In many cases, individuals may not realize that they like having negative drama in their lives, because it allows them to get negative attention — and this subconsciously causes them to squash any attempts to eliminate it. Great insights.

  18. Yup, taking 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your life is critical to moving past it.

    Everything in your life is your own doing! Even the stuff that seems like it’s being done to you by others. It’s fundamental law of attraction, but this concept goes soooo deep!

    It’s also a really difficult pill to swallow at first, but once you make this connection clear in your mind, your life starts to flow… because you are no longer a victim. I see so many victims out there, blaming others for their crappy lives. Can’t do that if you want to be a winner. Winners own EVERYTHING in their lives! I’m still trying to fully internalize this but it’s getting better. It’s especially hard in intimate relationships where we tend to want to point the finger at the other person.

    Great post,
    Leo

  19. Very nice post, David. The awakening of the soul will provide inner peace, and the positive vibrations set forth from within have the power to keep all negativity at bay! I have come into my own higher consciousness this past year, and it has been an astounding journey. The evolutionary process when you are attuned to the higher frequency of the Universe is constantly sending out a signal to each of us…tune in! You will be amazed!!!

  20. Great post David, I really like your suggestion of flipping the perspective. I think it can be so easy to place blame on those around you instead of holding yourself accountable. I’ll enjoy trying this technique when the need arises.

  21. tali

    Hello David!

    Nice article. I think it will take a lot of practice to be able to really transform my self-talk into that of a more ‘responsible’ person. Do you believe that it is possible to “self-talk” your way out of clinical depression?

    Thanks,
    Tali.

  22. What an empowering article. I am so inspired by your way of framing the examples of self-talk. They ask us to take responsibility for our thoughts, witness them and make positive changes. Thank you!

  23. Hi David, thanks for a very enlightening article. In your post, it says ” You don’t get the life you wish for – you get the life you commit to and work for”, which is so true, what we perceive of ourselves is what comes out as a result. Responsible self talk will help us to be aware of our own actions and doings, through this, we can have a different perspective that can change our lives forever.

  24. The way we talk to ourselves is everything! Calling yourself a victim only leads to inaction, I completely agree that it’s the wrong way to go about anything. Loved the ‘scripts’ you wrote out for changing your thoughts!

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