You vs The Stories You Tell Yourself
Have you ever challenged your thinking?
In the Peak Performance Psychology unit this year at uni, I did an assignment on my own assertion. Specifically, why I find it difficult to be assertive.
A lot of my exploration came back to the way I think.
You could call it faulty thinking.
In situations where I should be assertive, many automatic thoughts pop into my head:
What if they dislike me for speaking up?
They know better, just go with it.
My opinion doesn’t matter
These then become self-fulfilling prophecies. The belief that I’m just not an assertive person digs its claws in even deeper.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: By ‘predicting’ or expecting something, it comes true simply because the person believes it will and the person's resulting behaviours align to fulfil the belief.
I see this alllllll the time with people and their efforts to lose weight.
If someone’s belief in whether they can actually lose weight is 5/10, while their desire and commitment is 10/10, what will inevitably happen is that they will sink to 5/10. Your beliefs ultimately govern what you do and don’t do.
It’s most common in new starters (New Year resolutionists especially). They are super pumped to make this awesome change to their body, health and life. They’re ready to go all in on it.
But in the back of their mind there’s that little voice:
I’ve tried this 100 times before, it never works
I’m just not disciplined enough to lose weight
It’s impossible for me to change anything when I’m so busy
Neuroscience tells us we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. Most of these are repetitive and most are habits. We talk ourselves in (and out) of everything.
You may have heard it before in the form of excuses or justifications…
“I worked hard today, I deserve to let loose with a few beers.”
“I’ve been so good getting to the gym lately, I’ll just have a rest day today.”
What you think matters. A lot.
Three Big Takeaways
1. Police your self talk
If you listen to your self talk you will find a pretty accurate reflection of your behaviours, results and body.
Self-awareness is a skill and takes time to develop. With 60,000 thoughts a day, there’s a lot going on. There are no idle thoughts either, they are either moving you towards your goal or away from it.
Begin to notice your self talk and ask, “Is this helpful?”
2. Question your beliefs
Once you begin to notice your self talk, you can then begin to ask better questions.
It’s been said, “The quality of your questions equals the quality of your life.”
“Why can’t I lose weight?”
“What am I doing wrong?”
“Why does this always happen to me?”
Questions direct your brain very effectively. The above questions aren’t very helpful and direct attention on the negative. Instead, try:
“How can I create my goal body and have fun?”
“What are some healthy foods I can prepare quickly that taste good?”
“How can I be active in a way which increases my metabolism and is enjoyable?”
The right questions can’t help but get a useful response. This is why having a coach is extremely valuable, as they come from an outside perspective and can ask questions you may have never considered before.
3. Build self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is self-confidence but specific to a task - like weight loss.
It is correlated to more positive beliefs and self talk (and we now know how important that is).
Self-efficacy tends to be built upon consecutive successes. It’s better to start small, set realistic goals, make simple changes, and build upon your achievements with bolder targets as you progress.
You can also build self-efficacy through seeing other people like you succeed. If they can do it, and they’re similar to you, then you can do it too. Go out and talk to people who seem to have their health in check, ask them for pointers, absorb their success as your own, then emulate it.
Finally, try and view difficulties as challenges rather than threats. Failure in some aspect doesn’t mean giving up, it means an opportunity to learn. If you go off your plan and eat a pizza and a block of chocolate, reflect on the triggers/environment which caused that to happen. Self-efficacy maintains an edge of optimism and confidence in the outcome.
Going into the New Year, I expect a lot of you to be setting health related goals.
… even more so after the humdinger of a year we’ve just had.
And, I really want you to succeed. More than you know. If you ever need tips, words of encouragement, or help along the way, don’t be afraid to send a message.