What to Say When You Talk to Yourself

"You are everything that is, your thoughts, your life, your dreams come true. You are everything you choose to be. You are as unlimited as the endless universe."

- What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, page 13

Did you know as much as 77% of what you tell yourself is counter-productive – or that up to 75% of all illnesses are self-induced? How vital would it then be to learn the right words to make your success permanent? Such is the fulfilled promise contained within What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by acclaimed psychologist, Shad Helmstetter, Ph. D. Though published in 1982, this classic unequivocally stands the test of time, as the brain only now begins to offer up its secrets some 30 years later.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

The Self-Management Sequence

"You will become what you think about most."
- What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, page 25

Citing typical phrases from decades of self-development literature – like Believe in Yourself and Create Your Future – Helmstetter points out the problems with positive thinking and motivational speaking. Three key ingredients are missing: a) permanence (all external solutions are temporary whereas only internal motivation lasts); b) knowledge of the brain’s actual physiological processes; and c) new word-for-word directions (a specific “programming vocabulary” to erase and replace old negative programming).

Every moment our sub-conscious mind works to make sure we become precisely the person we’ve bought into. Stunningly, during the first 18 years of our lives, we’ve been told “no” about 148,000 times. Here’s the cause-and-effect chain reaction that results:

  1. Programming creates beliefs.
  2. Beliefs create attitudes.
  3. Attitudes create feelings.
  4. Feelings determine actions.

Actions create results.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Applying the Five Levels of Self-Talk

"Wanting to be a positive thinker isn’t enough…We are too busy fixing the train to realize that we are on the wrong track."
- What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, pages 89 and 112

If we want to manage ourselves in a better way, the first step is to change our programming.  Levels 4 and 5 truly harness our untapped power:

  1. Negative Self-Acceptance.  “I can’t…”  (e.g., “I can’t lose weight.”)
  2. Recognition & Need to Change.  “I need to… I should…” end with an unspoken “but”, which makes Level 2 dangerously ineffective.
  3. Decision to Change.  “I never… I no longer…”  (e.g., “I no longer smoke.”)
  4. The Better You.  “I am…”  You’re painting a new picture of yourself.
  5. Universal Affirmation.  “It is…” – expressed as a statement of fact.

The Five Levels of Self-Talk can be applied in countless situations:

  • Daily. If we allow “details” like driving annoyances, standing in line or dealing with rain to upset us, we can change our attitude any moment we like.
  • Miscellaneous Contexts. These encompass problem-solving, getting organized, “selling”, shifting over-used “carrot or stick” management approaches and more.
  • Specific Issues. Who doesn’t wish they could save money? How about reframing tight finances as follows: “I am good at earning what I need. Every month, without fail, I put something aside. Each week/month/year, I become financially secure.”
  • Habit-Changing. To move from worry to freedom, we can create and practice new language such as “I choose to look at the world around me in the bright, healthy light of optimism and self-assurance.”

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Your Mental Apartment

"Our thoughts are the gold coins in the treasure chest of our inheritance."
- What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, page 221

Here’s a visual you can summon any time you’re at risk of getting off the rails. Imagine a “mental apartment” – the place you live with your thoughts. It’s furnished with everything you think about yourself and the world around you. Much is hand-me-down.

Now, let’s say we clear out everything, leaving the place empty and spotless. There’s not a negative thought, sofa, picture, book or chair in sight. A little while later, left with nothing but yourself and an empty apartment, you retrieve a rickety chair stored in the garage. Next, you haul in your old TV. Before you know it, your space is rearranged using your familiar decor! Akin to old programming, you’ve not essentially replaced anything.

In a second scenario, imagine we entirely eliminate your old furnishings. We don’t even give them away; we get rid of them outright. After the shiny delivery truck departs, your fresh digs stand on the sturdy legs of self-assurance. What was once a place of tattered hopes and broken-down dreams is filled with the bright beginnings of an exciting new you.

That is how positive thinking should work. Otherwise, it remains merely wishful.

Through the simple yet revolutionary techniques of Self-Talk, we can knock down walls that have stood in our way until now. It’s honestly the difference between living with fulfillment and purpose, versus expending our years frustrated and incomplete, contained by the limitations of our own disbelief.

How hopeful it is to know we can over-ride virtually any conditioning we’ve received in any part of our life. No one will ever be able to take us away from ourselves again!

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Carol-Ann Hamilton

ABOUT Carol-Ann Hamilton

Carol-Ann Hamilton is a dedicated Maverick, Catalyst & Pioneer-Visionary who brings three decades’ coaching and facilitation expertise to her singular goal, “Encouraging Your Greatness”...
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