Today, I’m going to simplify a powerful mental training strategy that will help you accomplish any difficult goal in life, such as losing weight, running your first marathon, or starting a business.
The example I’ll be using to explain the exact procedure is an event that happens to most people every day.
So, let’s start with a status update that I ran across on Facebook, which was posted by a man who is having trouble losing weight:
Why I have trouble losing weight:
(On opening fridge to select a snack)
Smart part of brain: Man, I really should watch my diet better. I bet if I did, I could lose weight. How many calories are in yogurt, anyway?
Appetite: Hey, there’s icing in the fridge – I wonder what Pringles dipped in icing would taste like.
Smart brain: Shut UP!
(The smart brain did win this round.)
I don’t know the person who posted this, but I had a chuckle when I read it, and I couldn’t help but notice that they shared a universal truth about succeeding in weight loss (or overcoming any difficult challenge), perhaps without realizing it.
That truth is this: your thoughts will determine your behavior, which in turn, will determine your results. And if you learn how to control your thoughts through positive self-talk, you will also learn to control your actions, which will lead you to the results you seek.
Mahatma Gandhi understood this truth and eloquently stated it as:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
So, if you want to change your destiny – or your body, if you prefer – you must first change your thoughts.
Note: if you think that you can’t or won’t succeed, you may also need to change your beliefs (this video will help with that).
You see, so many people who want to lose weight go looking for a new diet or a special workout program to help them achieve their goal. And while that’s often a good idea, and is usually part of a successful transformation, most people simply aren’t ready for these things. They have to get some other details in order, chiefly among them, their mindset.
Those who ignore this essential step rarely succeed. Quite the contrary, in fact, as they often spend years or even a lifetime jumping from one program to another with little to show for it. Needless to say, this concept will make or break your success.
So, how do we make use of this truth that Gandhi clearly understood?
Well, let’s dissect that little mental conversation the gentleman had while looking through his fridge and see what we can learn from it.
He starts off strong – using the “smart” part of his brain (AKA the positive/helpful/courageous part of his mind) – to affirm that he needs to watch his diet if he wants to lose weight. The fact that he’s even thinking this way is a HUGE step in the right direction. He knows what he wants (i.e. to lose weight), and he knows that he has to control his diet to succeed. So, he’s off to a great start…
Then he sees the icing. And that’s when the not-so-smart part of his brain speaks up (AKA the weak/passive/monkey-brain part of his mind)…
Mmmm, Pringles with icing?
And for most people, that’s the moment when everything falls apart. You make a choice to give in to the monkey brain, to go against your intentions, and just do whatever you feel like doing at the moment. And we all know where that road leads.
But this guy didn’t let that happen. His smart brain kicked in and said, “SHUT UP!” And that was enough for him to win this small challenge.
So, what can we learn?
Well, we can have the best intentions, but sometimes, a temptation – whether food or otherwise – gets the best of us. So, what do we do when we’re faced with a temptation that is going to lead you away from your goals?
You nip it in the bud.
You catch that thought, call it what it really is (i.e. a negative, unhelpful, weak thought), and throw it away.
You say, “shut up!” Or, “not here, not now.” Or, “I’m better than this.”
You arrest it on the spot. Then you interdict it. That is, you ban it from your rational, conscious mind.
Your kind isn’t welcome here. So, get out!
Finally, you reinforce your decision with positive self-talk. You say – in your mind, or better yet, verbally – “I did it.” Or, “that was worth it.” Or, “I’m getting better every day.” You also remember your goals and why you have them. You remember your purpose and what you have to do to live in alignment with it. You remember your values and why being healthy, fit, and strong is important to you.
In other words, you take that negative thought, cast it away, and replace it with an abundance of positive thinking. You don’t let those negative thoughts dwell in your mind. Don’t even give them a moment of your attention because they have a tendency to take residence and become your dominant thoughts and beliefs, which wreaks havoc on your behavior and negatively impacts your destiny.
That is a simple formula for applying the power of positive self-talk.
So, when you recognize a negative thought arise – anything that will conflict with your goals:
- Stop it immediately by asserting yourself with a powerful statement such as “No!” or the other suggestions listed above.
- Redirect the negative thought with pre-planned, positive self-talk, such as, “I’m better than this.” Or, go all out and say “I’m making the hard, right choice instead of the easy, wrong choice because my family is depending on me to be the best man that they need and deserve. I am that man. So, I’m doing this NOW.”
It doesn’t have to be that long or elaborate, but you get the idea. What matters is that you do whatever self-talk is necessary to shift your mind to a positive focus – one of faith, courage, and strength.
I believe in my heart of hearts, that this one strategy can change your life. It takes practice – regular, mindful practice. With time, you’ll develop an innate, automatic habit of positivity, which will have long-lasting implications for your life. I’ve seen it in my own life, and in many others.
And the best part: anyone can do this, and those who do will notice instant results.
Food for thought (and action!): how are you going to apply this procedure of strategic, positive self-talk? What are you going to DO now that you’ve read this? Perhaps this was a new concept for you. Or, maybe it was a good reminder. Regardless, it will be useless if YOU don’t do something with it. So, act accordingly.
Note: Obviously, many people do use positive self-talk and still struggle to achieve their goals (including the guy who posted the his fridge fiasco story on Facebook). So, while positive self-talk may be a vital component to success, it isn’t the only component. If you’d like to learn the rest of them, please sign up for my free weekly newsletter to join a success-minded community of fitness enthusiasts. I’ll send you regular updates to help you with your health, fitness, and quality of life.
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Did you like this article? You’ll probably like this one, too: What It Actually Takes to Succeed With Fitness.