Monday Mornings with Madison

Untying the K”nots”

What is standing between you and success?  Is it a person, place or thing?  For many, a person is the biggest obstacle to achieving their greatest dream.  It might be an enemy or nemesis.  Or perhaps it is a competitor.  Or it could be a coworker.  It might even be someone much closer, such as a friend or family member.  But for some, it is someone even closer than that.  For some, the most daunting impediment to achieving their goals is their own face in the mirror.  That’s right.  For some, the biggest barrier to achieving their dreams is themselves and the negative self-talk inside.

For some, the knots binding them from achieving their wishes and dreams are in their mind and heart. They are bound by the have nots, can nots and do nots in their own minds.  They are anchored by the will nots, may nots, and might nots that have affixed themselves to their hearts.  They are tethered by the could nots of the past, the should nots of the present and the anticipated would nots of the future.  The “nots” in their thinking become the actual knots that bind and obstruct their path to happiness and success.  Most importantly, the am nots, especially thoughts such as “I am not good enough” hold people down.  And if you think that positive thinking and positive self talk is just a bunch of nonsense, think again.  There is scientific proof that positive thinking has a powerful positive effect and negative thinking has a powerful negative effect.

The Powerful Effect of Self Talk

Positive thinking starts with thinking that the best is going to happen, not the worst.  Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that runs through a person’s mind every day. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions created because of fear or a simple lack of information.  There are several reasons why some people become consumed by negative self-talk… knotted by the nots.

1.  Focusing on the past or future.  ‘Not’ letting go of mistakes or poor performances takes thoughts and focus away from where they should be–on the present. We only ever have control over is right now.  That is where thoughts need to be.

2.  Focusing on weaknesses.  ‘Not’ believing in one’s own abilities is debilitating.  While it is necessary to identify and work on weaknesses, there is a time for that… during preparation and training.  After that, it is imperative to stop dwelling on weaknesses that erode confidence.

3.  Focusing only on outcome.  Many people in sales will focus on the outcome of a meeting, which is something they have little control over.  Instead, what they should focus on is on something over which they do have control:  performance. Self-talk should be directed toward what needs to be done to be successful . . . and trust that the outcome will take care of itself.

4.  Focusing on uncontrollable factors.  Thinking about uncontrollable factors, such as the pricing of a competitor or the relationships of an opponent, are a waste of mental energy. Not only are they out of one’s control but they also distract thoughts from where they should be. Focus thoughts on controllable factors, such as doing the best job possible or delivering the best presentation.

5.  Demanding perfection.  It is appropriate to work towards perfection but unrealistic to expect perfection from anyone.

The Effect of Self-Talk on Health and Performance

Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive and negative thinking on health. On the one hand, studies have shown the health benefits of positive thinking include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

It’s not entirely clear why people who engage in positive self talk and positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook empowers a person to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on the body. It is also believed that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — including more physical activity, a healthier diet, and not smoking or drink alcohol in excess.

Just as positive thinking and positive self-talk have a positive effect, negative thinking and negative self-talk has a detrimental effect.  This was proven in a study conducted by Christine Peterson, a graduate student, and Dr. Andrew VanSistine at the University of Wisconsin.  In their study, students aged 12 to 15 years who attended a school within in a rural Midwestern district participated in a self-report on the topic of negative self-talk. Results were correlated with factors including grade point average, absences, disability status and socioeconomic status.  Results obtained from this study indicated moderate to large negative correlations between various subscales of the Negative Affectivity Self-Statement Questionnaire and grade point average, and moderate to large correlations between negative self- statements and student absences in the sample population. The findings revealed that with increased levels of negative self-talk, student grade point averages decreased and students missed more school days.  Clearly, negative self-talk has a profound impact on performance; one that is unlikely to vanish in adulthood.

It seems clear that negative self-talk is harmful.  But it takes mental discipline to keep certain thoughts out and retain other thoughts.  It requires conscious control, practice and repetition.  In time, it can become habitual to keep negative thoughts out or identify negative thoughts and retain positive ones.  Try it and see what happens.  It may be that by eliminating all the k’nots’, success is just around the corner.

Quote of the Week

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either one is probably true.”  Anonymous


© 2013, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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