Updated: Oct 22, 2018
“Always make your future bigger than your past.” — Dan Sullivan
New clients always come with baggage. Most of this baggage is negative.
When I first ask why they want to improve their health they first tell me what they don’t like about their health and what they want to change.
We are told in the fitness industry that you need to ask people their goals, which leads to more of what they don’t want, than more of what they do want.
“Why do you want to improve your health?”
“I am not happy with my weight and how I look”
“What weight do you want to achieve and what look do you want?”
“ I want to lose 2 stone and not have a big belly”
Did you notice the negative self-talk? Our language dictates our actions more than we realise.
Negative self-talk keeps us thinking of the past and not the future.
Where positive self-talk helps us focus on the success we can achieve in the future. For example;
“ Why do you want to improve your health?”
“I want to be a person who looks good and feels good?”
Focusing on a future self has been proven to be more motivational then focusing on what you want to change about your present self.
As the saying goes ‘What you focus on is what you get”
As a health coach I always try and use positive self-talk and likewise for my clients. As soon as I hear negative self-talk I get the client to rephrase it to positive self-talk.
Instead of “I need to lose weight’ (focusing on what you currently have), change it to “I want to become healthier through losing weight”. Same goal but the focus is on moving forward, not moving away from something.
Our self-talk, either negative or positive, is down to the thoughts we have. 95% of the thoughts you have today are the same thoughts you had yesterday. Just because a thought enters your mind doesn’t make it true. Yet, we tend to believe our own thoughts because they are inside of us.
Your beliefs are not passive, beliefs need consent. You allow your beliefs to take hold. So any negative beliefs are down to you accepting them.
Negative beliefs come about due to uncertainty about whether you can achieve your health goals or not.
To purse any goal requires uncertainty about success and what it will take to achieve it.
This uncertainty about achieving your goal allows your subconscious to create negative and limiting beliefs.
‘I have tried before to lose weight, but I just end up putting it all back on’
‘What if I don’t enjoy the food I need to eat to lose weight?’
‘What if everyone at the gym looks fit and healthy and I look out of shape and unfit?’
Your most negative thoughts will relate to what you have tried to do in the past. You can’t go back and change the past, you can only focus on what the future you will become as a result of the actions you perform today.
Positive self-talk requires you to make a commitment to change who you are today to become your future self. At this moment in time you are not sure what it will take to become your future self. So how do you commit to something you are not sure how to do.
According to Strategic Coach founder, Dan Sullivan, commitment is not doing something because you know the plan. Rather, commitment is not knowing the plan and having the courage to deal with uncertainty.
Don’t Believe Your Limiting Thoughts
Your limiting thoughts and negative self-talk wants certainty and predictability. They want to convince you that changing who you are is a risk not worth taking. Changing who you are is challenging and uncomfortable.
To change who you are, you need to keep growing and learning new things. Neuroscientists call this ‘Prediction Errors’. A prediction error is when you step out of your comfort zone and encounter feedback (positive or negative).
Prediction Error meaning;
One of the most fundamental goals of any human or animal is to make accurate predictions of future event in order to be prepared when this expected future arrives and to adapt behaviour efficiently.
At a very general level learning can be defined as the process of improving these predictions of the future. As the predictions are often not quite accurate, an error in the predictions occurs. These prediction errors are one of the most basic teaching signal that can be used to improve prediction accuracy.
As such, the ultimate goal of learning is to make accurate prediction, thus eliminating the prediction error.
If you are not experiencing prediction errors, you are not actually learning. To bring this back to your health, if you are not learning you are not growing and changing. To improve your health you need to change what you are currently doing, so you can grow and move forward.
So to improve your health you must experience the discomfort of uncertainty of change.
Embrace The Unknown
Not knowing what you will experience when you start to change your eating habits, commit more to exercise, or start to change the people you socialise with, can be difficult and uncomfortable.
This discomfort comes from your belief in the past. Your past is knowledge, stability and certainty. The future is the unknown and unpredictable.
Changing who you are, is creating a new unknown you. What if that new person isn’t what you want to become?
In the book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, Paul Arden said:
“Knowledge comes from the past, so it’s safe. It is also out of date. It’s the opposite of originality. Experience is built from solutions to old situations and problems. This is lazy. Experience is the opposite of being creative. If you can prove you’re right you’re set in concrete. You cannot move with the times or with other people. Your mind is closed. You are not open to new ideas.”
I have heard so many times from clients why they can’t change certain things (negative self-talk), so I keep asking them what they can change (positive self-talk). Only when they start to focus on what they can do, will they start learning and growing towards their goal.
The More Successful You Become, The More Pressure You Will Experience
“Pressure can burst a pipe, or pressure can make a diamond.” — Robert Horry
Negative self-talk isn’t only reserved for new clients. Clients of many years still slip into negative self-talk. Just by achieving a goal doesn’t make things easier. To maintain what you have achieved requires continued learning and growing.
Nothing stays the same. It is either growing (progressing) or dying (declining). Growth and progression is something that constantly needs working at. Therefore you have to keep evolving and learning. Every day is a new day that you have yet to experience and all the challenges it brings.
Another pressure comes from the people around you. They subconsciously want you to fail.
If you are constantly growing, evolving and learning to become a better version of yourself, you will highlight their lack of growth and learning. It will highlight their fixed-mindset and negative self-talk. It is easier for them to bring you down to their level then it is for them to go through what you have done to create a better you.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
It Is Not How Good You Are, It Is How Good You Want To Be
Learning expert Josh Waitzkin explained that it doesn’t matter all that much where a person currently is in their development. What actually matters is the slope of their growth curve.
How steep is your current growth curve?
Has your growth curve levelled-off?
Are your constantly pushing your own boundaries?
Are you challenging yourself to be a better version of what you were in the past?
Or are you settling with the belief that you cannot change?
Your self-talk will determine your growth curve. The more positive self-talk you have the bigger the curve, the more negative self-talk the slower the curve will grow (in some cases not at all).
To improve your health you need to change who you currently are. Change requires growth and learning and accepting the uncertainty of the future and who will become through the changes you make.
You can either embrace this uncertainty and move forward or stop growing, learning and accelerate the decline in your health.
What language you use will determine the direction you will go in.