Language is Everything.
There's something to be said about Henry Ford's quote:
"Whether you believe you can or you can't, you're right."
Internal self talk is one more arena in which language is everything. Often, however, it all happens so fast that we don't slow down or thin-slice it enough to catch it when it happens. It's important to understand yourself because if you can't, then no one else has a chance at all. Think about it. We value experts' opinions, but what makes them an expert. Usually comes down to the amount of experience or achievements in a given field. Well, when the field is YOU, no one will ever come as close as you to being the expert.
There is a gap between intention and action sometimes. There have been countless books written on this subject, and in fact there's probably going to be countless more written in the future. It's something that no matter how prepared we are, and how well-read we are on the subject, we still get stuck on it.
I think about when my kids were learning to swim, and ride the bike. Something I would say to them is, "We are Crawfords. Crawfords never give up." I recognized the need early on for them to see themselves positively, and the need for language to help reinforce the thought and keep it alive. Of course I would think this way. I create brands and marketing messages for a living. So, I branded the Crawford name to my kids. At the time, it was something I wanted them to have to push themselves as they learned how to swim. I wanted them to be prepared in case they fell in water (we live in FL, there's lots of water). I also wanted them to be able to enjoy the thrill of swimming and not be afraid of it. But first, I had to get them to learn it and get them to push past their fears.
So, I would also have them chant things like:
"I feel fear, but that's not stopping me and that is being brave."
I didn't know how deeply this impacted them until I heard them using it on each other. They would get stuck on something like...being afraid to walk through the house in the dark, or getting stuck in a video game. Touching a lizard outside, and then running away screaming - you know, kids stuff. They would repeat those things to each other, and I could see that when one of them would say it the other one would be bolstered. The words went internal, and then they would power through whatever moment they were stuck on.
Language is a central part of how we motivate ourselves. There's no silver bullet. There's no grandmother's recipe. There's no magic phrase. The things that motivate us vary greatly, and are subject to change. Me personally, I think I'm very easy to motivate. If you tell me I can't do something, I'm going to make it happen or collapse trying.
When I go to the gym, I like to go with a workout partner. I feel like I get so much more out of my time in the gym when I do this. I will push harder, lift heavier, and grow. So, when I hit a moment when I can't push another rep, or I've got one more set to do and I can't seem to muster the energy to push 6-8 reps. I'm getting gassed out by 4 or 5. I will tell my partner to shit-talk me. But they have to be into it. I will ask them to chide me and tell me that I can't do anymore. I need to give up. Tell me I can't even lift one more, just quit. If they commit and do it convincingly, it boils my blood and I will push out more reps, even if I was stuck.
This is why it's so important to understand the people around you, and not take for granted that we all communicate the same way. We have to challenge ourselves to keep our minds open because we are not all communicating with the same needs, desires, or realities. I have come to accept my reality. I need the friction. It wakes me up. It challenges me. It competes with me. It calls me out and I accept it.
When you're struggling with how to motivate yourself, or get yourself going. Reflect on your mind's language log. What words or phrases are present? Does it work? When does it work, and when does it not? Do they have anything in common or do you see any patterns?
There's a lot of research that's been done on self-image and self talk. Some suggest that using the word, "I" can stress you out versus saying your name. Sometimes, however, this can create a third person sense instead of a personal ownership. Honestly, there's many theories. Take a look and interview them. See which one would work for you. But the importance of this is that we understand that the language matters.
When something happens, if I freak out and start talking negatively to myself whether in third person or first person - I will succumb. The more time spent this way, the more paralyzed I stay. The momentum of the negativity becomes harder and harder to break. So, whatever it is that breaks that for you, go for it. It's not about scripting the silver bullet. It's about breaking free. Whatever the mire is, resist and do the opposite.
When my kids were tiny, they would watch this cartoon show with a girl named Peg and her cat. Peg would encounter a problem. Then she would stop and say, "I'm totally freeeeaaaaaaeeeeeeaaaaaaaking OUT!" I immediately banned that show from our house. I did NOT want my kids programming their minds with the initial reaction to stop, and talk to themselves and bask in a moment under a deluge of emotional pressure. I wanted them to have a different response as their immediate response. I wanted them to ask questions. I wanted them to start experimenting and learning from trying, failing, and going at it again.
This isn't to say that I was scared they would stop long enough to feel emotions and that this was bad. I believe that all emotions are important and worth feeling. Feel them, invite them in - funnel them into what you're doing. Much like what I taught them when learning to swim. I feel fear, but that's not stopping me and that's being brave. Feel what you feel and go next. Or, as Will Smit would say, "It's ok if you're scared. Then just do it scared!"
Language is everything. The momentum in our lives flows us forward, or pulls us backwards and there's almost always a linguistic component driving that force.