Do you talk to yourself often? My self talk is usually... question -> answer. Another question -> new answer.
Mistakes make me think:
- "What's wrong with me?"
- "Why am I so stupid?"
But I have been practicing something new these days, inspired by a book I heard about.
What if I changed the questions I asked myself? I had never thought about it before, that I could decide what questions to ask, and then think about answering in my own head.
Instead of the negative ones I usually tried, I began with a simple question:
- "How could this be a good thing?"
Writing A New Story
A few days into reading this book (no spoilers yet, you will have to read to the end to get the name), and thinking about my inner dialogue, the chance to try it out dropped into my lap.
It was Tuesday, and I was in "Monk Mode". All my browser windows closed except the one I was focused on. All social media was blocked thanks to Freedom App, and my phone was in the bedroom, at least 20 steps away from my office.
My pomodoro timer went off, meaning I could take a break, so I decided to check my phone. at 3:59, I saw the notification to meet up with my buddy at 4pm, and a 25 min drive separating us.
My brain went into panic mode, and the questions flew:
- "Why are you so irresponsible?"
- "How can I make this up to him?"
- "Don't you care about your friends?"
- "Why do you keep making dumb mistakes?"
But then I stopped. I realized I was the one coming up with these questions. I could choose a different internal voice.
My text to him went something like:
"Hey man, I am running VERY late, just came out of Monk Mode. I was really looking forward to getting together with you. If you don't mind waiting, want to hang out there till I get there?"
He agreed, and I hopped in the car, and dreaded the negative self talk I always put myself through in these situations.
Pulling out of my apartment complex, the questions came roaring back to my brain... but I paused.
"How can this be a good thing?"
I had to force feed myself this question, ignoring the other louder voices and paying attention to this one.
Could me being late really be a good thing? That didn't seem possible... but I decided to let it roll around for a while.
My buddy had said yes. He did want to get together still, and would wait. Man, we must be good friends if he was ok waiting. He must really care about me, about us, to hang out waiting for me.
Being late helped me see how good a friend he really was. It was actually a good thing I was running late, or I might never have realized the degree of our friendship.
I don't want to be late all the time, but I no longer had to fear being late, just accept it, and pay attention to what I could learn from the situation.
Hmm... there might be something to this!
A Positive Mindset
I have often heard "Look on the bright side of things." But that seemed fake, insincere. I can't lie to myself.
The bible talks about focusing on the positive things too:
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
But I still didn't know how to do that well, or consistently.
The change in me happened when I used questions to trick my brain into answering those questions.
Public speakers know that asking questions helps to engage your audience. When you ask a question, people immediately start trying to answer the question themselves. Our internal programming is just built to start answering a question when we hear it, or think it.
Change Your Questions
I mentioned the switching question above "How can this be a good thing?". I first read that question in "Change Your Questions, Change Your Life."
(Well, actually I listened to the book, but same difference).
Will not try to summarize the book here, but if you are anything like me, and struggle with the negative self talk, I HIGHLY recommend you check out the book. It is not going to cure everything in your life, but I have found it super helpful at breaking the negative cycle of beating myself up when I mess up.
So much of the daily battles we fight are in our own head, against ourselves. Imagine how much better life would be if you could learn to stop fighting those battles.
I wish you the best! May you find peace, and rest.