Harvey Mackay

Self-Talk the Talk to Walk the Walk

There once was a strange storekeeper who talked to himself. He talked to himself while he rang up groceries. He talked to himself whenever he leaned into the candy case for the children who wanted to purchase a treat.

One day, a woman named Francie came in and watched the storekeeper talking to himself.

"What's wrong with you?" asked Francie.

"Ain't nothing wrong with me," answered the storekeeper.

"Well, then, why are you going around acting like a fool and talking to yourself?" probed Francie.

"I reckon I got two reasons," said the storekeeper. "First off, I like to talk to a sensible person. And second, I like to hear a sensible person talk."

Now I don't recommend going around talking out loud to yourself in public, but I do recommend talking to yourself.

During most of my corporate speeches, I ask the audience, How many people talk to themselves? People are uneasy acknowledging this, but I do typically get about a third of the room to raise their hands. Then I say, "To the two-thirds of you who didn't raise your hands, I can just hear you say to yourself: 'Who me? I don't talk to myself.'" It always gets a good laugh.

But the point is, I want you to talk to yourself. Self-talk can have a great impact on your confidence. It can be positive or negative, and have a great effect on how you feel. Obviously, I want to focus on the positive self-talk.

Some of the smartest people in history have talked to themselves. Albert Einstein talked to himself. According to Einstein.org, he "used to repeat his sentences to himself softly." If it worked for Einstein, it's good enough for me.

Talking to yourself makes your brain work more efficiently. It boosts your memory, organizes your thoughts and helps you to achieve your goals.

In a study printed in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, psychologists Daniel Swingley and Gary Lupyan discovered that talking to yourself is beneficial. Swingley and Lupyan found that allowing people to repeat an object's name to themselves helped them find the object in a crowded tableau.

Can I ever relate to that research! Whenever I make a to-do list or plan my day, I make sure I not only write it down, but also say it out loud. Use as many triggers as you can to help you remember or to reinforce your message.

Let me give you another important reason to "think out loud." You are your own best and toughest critic -- and most enthusiastic cheerleader. You serve two significant roles. You can assess your abilities and chances for success because you can be brutally honest with yourself.

So when you talk to yourself, you will know the difference between true potential and flattery, commitment and apathy. You can only fool yourself so long. In your heart of hearts, you know what you can and cannot do.

In her book "Recreating Yourself," Nancy J. Napier discusses self-talk: "It is the dialogue you have with yourself about who you are, what you are doing, how well you're doing, whether you're good enough, what people think of you and so on." Your self-talk is a reflection of what you took in about yourself as a child, "particularly those things that were reinforced time and again."

Napier says that in cognitive therapy, identifying negative self-talk and challenging it can bring about positive change. You question the assumptions underlying the statements. Napier uses this example: "Joe stood me up for a date last night. I guess I'm not attractive enough to get the man I want."

Once you become aware of what you are telling yourself, Napier suggests you replace the statement with a positive statement. "Yes, Joe did stand me up. I guess that's reason enough to realize that Joe isn't the kind of guy I want to have around."

I will never stop talking to myself. After all, I have a captive audience.

Mackay's Moral: When you talk to yourself, make sure you listen carefully.

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