This lesson of 21-Day Mindset Challenge is my favorite lesson, yet it is the hardest for some to grasp.
First, let me point out to you a commonly ignored fact.
YOU talk to yourself.
YOU talk to yourself constantly.
In fact, in having read that sentence you most likely answered the question in your mind. Proving that you are talking to yourself, constantly. Studies have assessed that we talk to ourselves somewhere in the realm of 300-1000 words every single minute.
So with this constant self-talk, why not make it positive and constructive? Why not, instead of passive thought, you proactively think and talk to yourself in the way you want?
Sounds like a no-brainer.
For some of you, you will take the words as they are written and simply start positive self-talk.
The rest of you will say to yourself, being positive in my head isn't going to do anything...and you will discredit positive self-talk. You may have the mentality of, you can either do something, or you can't and no amount of internal banter will change that.
That is why we have to get a bit scientific. For the doubters.
In your brain you have the amygdala. The amygdala is the structure in the brain most associated with fear. You know...When you are afraid, you are likely to have worried thoughts, physical sensations like a faster heart rate, sweating, increased respiratory rate, and behaviors like trying to escape the situation that made you afraid in the first place!
Yea...all that stuff.
Well, recent studies have shown that humans, in general, are very optimistic creatures. Even if you aren't an optimistic person it doesn't mean you aren't an optimist is some way. A small part of you is hoping for that better future. You work a job you don't really like for a salary you wish was higher, and you believe deep down, you will get the easier, higher-paying job.
Or...You workout in a belief that there is a better version of yourself on the other side of all the pain and sweat. If you didn't believe this, you wouldn't do it.
This constant optimism of the future-self has proven to be incredibly powerful. When you think of positive future experiences, things not achieved, but things that you KNOW you will achieve, i.e. a goal. Your brain operates at a different level of optimism.
Why does this matter?
This new level of optimism actually helps the amygdala to downplay negative emotional responses. Now, you are taking a substantial amount of fear and anxiety out of any situation. Nervousness is decreased and your mental focus can now increase.
All that with a little positive self-talk/visualization. Let me repeat in a better way, positive self-talk (mental) has a direct effect on the amygdala (physiological). So you are doing way more than being the guy pumping himself up in the mirror before a date. No, we are actually reducing physiological responses that hinder performance.
However, it isn't as simple as saying to yourself "You are awesome", over and over. No, you need to talk to your self positively while imagining, or visualizing the accomplishment of a goal.
Navy SEALs recently instituted an extremely simple mental training program focusing on the following:
Goal Setting (that's coming)
Mental Rehearsal or Visualization (that's coming)
Self Talk (today)
Arousal Control (that's coming)
And they took their pass rates from 25% to 33%, which is huge in one of the toughest physical training programs in the world. A bigger milestone was that it showed that achieving success and being mentally tough is not a born trait, and it does not need to be a complex process. Just a small amount of practice with these simple tactics and boom!
Let's work on self-talk. Let's see how you do, but first, before one can speak, things need to get quiet.
What motivates you during a workout? Is it the people who surround you, the music blaring in your headphones or the clock ticking away?
These things are great, but they may also be a crutch or a true limiting factor to your success. If extrinsic motivators (artificial motivators) become a necessity, what will you do when they are gone?
Well, let's take all of them away and see what happens.
In which of these scenarios would you perform better?
Scenario 1: You are in a plain white room with a barbell and the clothes on your back...that's it. The decision to workout, to start or finish or even to push yourself or slack off is completely up to you. How would that workout go?
Scenario 2: You are standing in a room with some of your best friends all doing the same workout and going through the same pain. You are listening to your favorite playlist as you lift rep after rep staring at a clock and your friends; because you either want to beat them or the clock on the wall. How would that workout go?
Chances are, for most people, scenario two will have the better outcome - but why? Mental toughness is mental toughness...right?
The human brain reacts to these extrinsic motivators. They can be helpful in competition and when you really need to push yourself. I am not denying this fact. However, most people haven't truly met themselves. They haven't found out who they are in a workout. Well let's find that person.
Today, we perform a no-motivators workout while practicing the mental toughness technique of positive self-talk.
No-Motivators Workout, what you'll need:
Space for a workout
What to practice:
Focus on yourself, your voice
Be in control
The Physical Training:
Complete the following as many times as possible in 20 minutes...
After you complete the first round, add 10 reps to the push-ups, sit-ups and squats. After you complete the second round add another 10 reps to the push-ups, sit-ups and squats. By the fifth round you should be doing the following:
Keeping moving, keep completing rounds and keep adding repetitions until 20 minutes is up.
Positive Self Talk:
This workout most likely will not cause an extreme amount of anxiety or nervousness before you start, but it may. However, I can guarantee if you are moving as fast as YOU can, not some mediocre, 'I'll pace myself' pace, this will be a very tough and challenging workout. Eventually, your brain will start with negative emotional responses. Your brain will start with 'slow down', then it may suggest 'maybe only do 15 minutes'....Don't listen. This is where you start with positive self-talk.
Remember, we are not just saying to ourselves over and over 'You can do it!'. While that is perfectly acceptable positive self-talk, you also need to visualize yourself completing the workout. Even though it may be painful now, think about how rewarding it will be when you are finished and you know you have taken it to the limit. Think about how good it will feel to relax and catch your breath after you finish. Think about how much your mind is actually improving, how it is becoming tougher and how much better you will be after this workout. Couple those visualization techniques with those 300-1000 words you say to yourself each minute with ALL positive talk.
At most, you will say 20,000 words to yourself, which is almost as many words as all 21 days of the Challenge...in one workout!
It does not matter what kind of positive self-talk you use, but use it! The second you aren't in control of what your brain is saying, is the second your brain starts to say whatever it wants, which will most likely be a psychological response to a physiological stressor - which will most likely be negative as you get further and further away from comfort.
The Mental Training:
Keep in mind this is not just imaginary angels and devils on our shoulders. No, we are actually targeting a part of our brain, the amygdala, and we are flooding this portion of our brain with positive and emotional thoughts and feelings. Doing this will help your brain to decrease its natural negative emotional responses, thus increasing performance by stonewalling your biggest limiting factor...you brain.