Tag Archives: change your outcome

Change How You Talk To Yourself, Change Your Story (and Your Outcome)

Try changing how you talk to yourself when something is too hard. Can it change your story? Can it change your outcome?

On the rail trail, my feet hit the gravel covered ground one after the other.

I’m out for a run with John (who is training for his 1st 5K).

The first few minutes of a run are so hard for me. Every time. Without fail.

Doesn’t matter how much or how little I’ve been running lately.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve been eating well or living it up.

It does not matter what kind of shape I’m in or what kind of night’s sleep I’ve had, for me, the first 10 minutes or so always feel like my feet are encased in cement blocks.

But if I can just get through those first few minutes, I come out on the other side and start to feel like I’m gliding easily. One step falls in front of the other, over and over. I find the natural rhythm that comes from my body, a pace that I set. I start to feel like I could keep going like this forever (barring any foot or knee pain surfacing as it sometimes does!).

During those first 10 minutes where I just want to stop, there are countless thoughts that appear in my head and most of them have to do with “Just stop running.” “You can stop now.” “You should walk instead, this sucks.” “Why are you doing this. Let’s walk!”

Years ago, I went around saying I wasn’t a runner, because when I felt the difficulty of those first few minutes and heard those thoughts over and over again, I did stop. I took those things to mean that this wasn’t for me. The story I was telling myself about my abilities and it being hard added up to giving up.

There is massive power in the stories we tell ourselves.

If I tell myself, I’m not a runner, then I become someone who doesn’t run because I believe the story I’ve made up.

Doing something differently though brings me different results and allows a new story to form.

On some runs, as my feet hit the trail, one after the other, those first 10 minutes are still hard. And I still have thoughts about how I should stop and how it would be easier if I just started walking. But on some runs, I add some of my own thoughts. I say to myself:

You can do this.

You are amazing.

Look at how far you have come.

How incredible is it that your body can do this?!

I love that you are doing this.

I can’t wait to see how far I can go today.

This feels good.

You really are amazing.

And guess what happens? Those 10 minutes pass faster and the entire run feels better. I feel better. The story I create changes from my mind telling me “this is so hard, I shouldn’t do it”, to “this is hard but I’m totally capable of doing it and it’s going to be great”.

And the result is that it is great.

(Just to be clear, I am not advocating for ignoring your body when it warns you that something is dangerous. Sometimes our bodies tell us we should stop because we’re going to injure ourselves or that we’re not at that level of fitness yet. But you know the difference between that and the habitual negative self talk that we sometimes get into. I always recommend listening to your body (and that is not the same as ignoring the bullshit we like to tell ourselves). The mean and demoralizing chatter that comes from our brain is not the same as the warning signals our body sends. Always use your best judgement!)

The words we use to talk to ourselves are so incredibly powerful.

Most of us try to motivate ourselves with shame. It doesn’t matter if it’s to stick to some sort of goal, to make habit change or push ourselves out of our comfort zone. If there’s something we want to do but it’s really hard, shame is our go to.

You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You don’t have what it takes. You just can’t do it.

Sound familiar?

These thoughts are not just something that happens with challenging physical endeavors. It’s something that will happen when we apply for a new job, when we go out on a date, when we try something new or anytime we’re doing something unfamiliar.

Shame “speak” protects us emotionally. We know that if we feel bad enough about something we might have the motivation to change it. If we feel bad about ourselves, we’ll stay small, we won’t take risks and we are less likely to get hurt. As far as our brain is concerned, that is always the goal (to stay SAFE) so it really thinks by putting these thoughts through your head when you’re trying to do something difficult, it’s helping. It’s trying to be a buddy! This is something we subconsciously do – and there’s no way to stop those thoughts from appearing. But that doesn’t mean we have to let them be the star of the show or in control.

When these thoughts show up, if we take a minute to step in and use the part of our conscious mind that we have access to, we can add our own spin to motivate, to encourage, to inspire.

You are not your thoughts. And just because you think something doesn’t make it true.

If you have a date with a new person coming up, your go to thought might be something like: “Ug, he’s not going to be interested in me. I should cancel before he rejects me. This is going to be awful.”  When that shows up, so what? Add to it by telling yourself something like this instead: “I can’t wait to meet this person. I hope we have lots to talk about. I’m excited to see if we have chemistry. I’m a good catch and this will be fun!”

If you have a job interview, your go to thought might be something like: “I don’t know what I’m talking about. I answer every question so badly. I can’t sell my best qualities. This is a nightmare and I’m not going to get the job.” Well, when that shows up, so what? These thoughts aren’t you. Add to it by telling yourself something like this instead: “I am going to be relaxed and be myself. I know my field and I have a ton of great stuff to say about it. I am going to blow them away and if I want the job, it’ll be offered to me.”

You can even try this with the negative thoughts you have about your body, or about the food you eat. Add your own positive or neutral spin on those thoughts.

This isn’t magic. You can’t make things happen that weren’t going to happen otherwise, but you can change how you show up in life, how you interact with your world and how people perceive you. The most important thing is be more proactive with your self-talk will change how you perceive yourself and over time that will add up to a little less of the bullshit self- talk and more confidence and surety in every area of your life.

Because you ARE amazing, valuable, talented and worth it, even if sometimes you don’t believe it.

Some stuff to get your journal out for:

Where do you keep giving up on yourself when you hear negative self-talk thoughts?

What stories are you telling about yourself based on intrusive negative thoughts?

During those times, what are some more motivating things you could tell yourself?

What do you need to hear from yourself?

Just try it. I promise it will change everything for you.

Do you want to learn more about feeling confident in your relationship with food? Are you just in the beginning phases of trusting yourself? If so, click the image below and grab my copy of “You Have What it Takes“, a guide full of questions to help you improve your relationship to food.

How Expectations Affect Your Experience

How do expectations in life color your actual experiences? Do you think one has anything to do with the other?

The picture above drove me crazy as a kid – it was in a book we had on optical illusions and while I could see both women in the picture easily, the fact that the picture told you that there were two women in the picture right off the bat gave me the expectation to see two women. This bothered me – I wanted to know what I would see if I hadn’t been told ahead of time that there were two people in the drawing.  Who would I have seen? The “wife” or the “mother-in-law”? No idea but an expectation had been set and I’m pretty sure it affected my experience of the “trick”.

We have expectations for everything in life. Many of them are unconscious ones – we don’t purposely try to set up expectations but it is something that happens over time from early experiences or things that are taught to us. To give you an idea of just how pervasive expectations in our life are, think about a random day in your week.

Before you go to bed at night, you have expectations about how your day will go tomorrow. You have expectations for the quality or quantity of your sleep. You have an idea of what your commute will be like or whether your boss will be in a good or bad mood. A meeting being run by a co-worker who drives you crazy is likely to be a meeting that drives you crazy. A lunch date with a friend you are excited to catch up with is likely to be a happy point in your day. By mid-afternoon you’ve already made an intention as to how your evening will go – maybe you’ve decided to hit a class at your gym or maybe you’ve decided what you need is happy hour and a big plate of wings. You may already be dreading a meeting at your son’s school or a dentist appointment later in the week. Or you may be excited about a concert you’re going to when the weekend finally gets here. Your whole day, week and month is filled with expectations.

Our expectations wholly affect our experience.  And while often our experience is where we developed those expectations in the first place, it doesn’t mean we have to accept every expectation as permanent and unchangeable, especially if it’s inviting a whole bunch of negative feelings and thoughts into our lives. Yuck. Who wants that?  Our brains are incredibly powerful machines and if we repeat a story over and over, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our beliefs influence our behavior – we make choices that can make something true that may not have been likely in reality.  If you want a happier life, you have a responsibility to question the expectations you have that are repeatedly causing unhappiness or negativity in your life.

Expectations that can cause negative experiences
If you see other people as being out to “get you”, if you think that only bad stuff happens to you or that everything in the world is black and white – that’s exactly what you are going to get.

If you think there is a big conspiracy, there is. If you think life is hard, it absolutely is. If you think you don’t deserve love or will never find it, you won’t.

The same can be said for lifestyle or diet changes – if you think you can’t do it, you can’t. If you think it’s too hard, it is. If you think getting healthy, fit or losing weight is for someone else, it is. If you think cooking is a pain in the arse, it is!

If you think everything that happens to you is set in stone and out of your control, it is.

Expectations that can cause positive experiences
But the reverse is also true!

If you think most people are generally kind, they are. If you believe that there is a lot of good in your life, there is. If you think you deserve love, you do. If you think working out is worth it, it is. If you think eating healthy can taste and feel good, it will.

If you think you have a choice in creating a life you will love, you do!

Question expectations
We can choose to question the expectation that are causing a negative affect in our life even if most of our previous experiences in that area caused us to have expectation to begin with. We come to accept things as truth, often from just one or two experiences – and that’s not always correct. Questioning the stuff we don’t really need in our lives gives us the opportunity to change it. When we question a belief or expectation, what we are really doing is deciding whether we want to play the role of victim or champion/hero in our lives.

For example, is it really possible that every person in your life is out to “get you”? It’s highly unlikely. What’s more likely is that a past experience has taught you to look for the negative in people close to you (making minor flaws major ones) or by causing you to choose to get close to people who are the type who will take advantage of you. If you expect all people want to see how they can benefit from you, those are the type of folks you will attract into your circle. You can change this story by setting some boundaries. Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t joking when she said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” No one can take advantage of you if you don’t let them. Set boundaries and start looking for people who want to lift you up.  They are out there – I swear.

Another example, do you really think it’s absolutely not possible for you to get fit?  Why do you think this? Unless you have an extreme medical condition, it’s highly unlikely. What’s more likely is that you’ve tried diets in the past and failed on them because they were either too restrictive or because you weren’t able to follow the plan as outlined for as long as required. Or you couldn’t get fit because you only did exercise that you hated or was too advanced (leading to injury). This type of thinking (that it’s not possible for you) often leads to poorer health, as our belief that there’s something inherently lacking about us gives us a carte blanche to go to the other extreme. You can change this story by questioning your earlier experiences (ok, did I really try that hard to get fit?  Was I honest about how much effort I put in?) and by choosing more reasonable / less restrictive approaches in the future, so that you can have success and stay on the path for long term.

One final example as to how our expectations can influence reality:  you think you’re going to have trouble falling asleep tonight as you’ve had trouble falling asleep for weeks. While not sleeping is a concrete experience – it usually has a cause that can be mediated. What’s likely happening is you’ve now developed an anxiety or fear around bedtime because of a few sleepless nights, that now leave you too amped up to actually fall asleep, which causes you to have another crappy night, and expect yet again another crappy night! It’s a horrible cycle to get into.  There are many reasons why we have trouble sleeping – but there are lots of things that can be done to help us get back to sleep.  Maybe because of the anxiety you’ve developed around bedtime you’ve found yourself laying in bed playing with your smartphone until the wee hours.  The light from the phone can actual signal to your brain that it’s not time to sleep – furthering your inability to sleep! You can change this story by questioning all your activities leading up to bedtime (chocolate after dinner? exercise before bed? smartphone?) and by creating a bedtime ritual that allows you to relax (epsom salt bath? breathing exercises? regular book reading?) and by letting go of the fear around it.  It takes some practice (like the other examples) but you can be successful changing this situation.

I urge you to take a look at areas of your life that you have repeated negative thoughts or feeling about and think about how you can change it. Do you want to feel like a victim in your own life (I have no control in this situation.) or like a champion (My actions influence the outcome.)?

I don’t know about you, but I never want to feel like a victim! I want to have good experiences as much as possible and I think deep down you do too.

Are you aware of negative expectations in your life? What do you think you need to do to change this? Share in the comments.