I don’t need to tell you how many obstacles stand between you and your dream becoming a reality. You know better than anyone the scale of what you are up against.
But, often, and I learned this the hard way, the biggest obstacle you face is you.
Or, more accurately, the biggest obstacle you face is the soundtrack that is constantly running through your mind – your self-talk.
A lot is made of self-talk – the words you speak silently to yourself as you confront the downs and embrace the ups of your journey. And rightly so, because self-talk can be your most powerful ally and yet also your most fearsome enemy, switching roles and allegiance in the blink of an eye.
I’ve seen, and been involved in, many projects that flourished through the power of positive self-talk. And I’ve seen, and been involved in, many projects that stumbled, and even failed, through the impact of negative self-talk. That experience taught me that no hurdle you face – be it finance, building a tribe, or finding backers, time, skills, or whatever – will ever come close to impacting the progress you make into the adventure into your real life as your self-talk will.
And that’s because your self-talk, whether positive or negative, is influenced by, and influences, your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual circumstances.
When your self-talk is positive, the world is a better place: you are better company, and everything follows on – efficiencies, productivity and energy levels all improve.
But, when your self-talk is negative you can quickly disappear into a pit of despair, where the smallest problem becomes an unconquerable mountain and defeat seems inevitable.
So it should come as no surprise that the impact of your self-talk on your mood, your outlook and your general ability to cope, can be profound. And, to manage that impact so that the effects move you forward rather than hold you back, you need to understand what triggers, in particular, that negative voice in your head.
Negative self-talk manifests on the back of many triggers: isolation, tiredness, frustration, failure, knock-backs and criticism, to name just a few. But those triggers are not, in themselves, your enemy: they are merely the hiding place for your self-talk, providing safe-cover from which it can pounce when you drop your guard.
And you can drop your guard very easily, especially when you get tired, encounter issues, have a curve ball thrown into your progress, or receive criticism, for example. And, when your guard does drop, your enemy spies its opportunity: watching and waiting for the perfect moment to break cover from its hiding place and wreak havoc with your day.
And, when your enemy breaks cover and cranks up the negativity in the conversations playing out in your mind – in your self-talk – the only way to beat it back is to invoke its nemesis – the single thing capable of defeating it – positivity.
But not ‘Rah! Rah! Rah! Isn’t the world just the most fantastically sunny and happy place to be’ positivity. Real, genuine, grounded in fact, reach out and touch it kind of positivity.
Easy to say, somewhat harder to do. I get that. I know that. But it can be done.
And, if you are going to do that – combat your negative self-talk – you need to know what triggers it in the first place.
For me, tiredness is a key factor. When I’m tired, I am especially vulnerable to the internal voice that loves to drag me down. I’m also vulnerable to that voice when circumstances and situations stoke my insecurities: failure, criticism, knock-backs all dent my confidence and invite that negative voice to step out of the shadows and speak to me.
What are your triggers? What unsettles you, throws you off track, makes you recoil and scurry for the shadows and safe hiding?
Once you know what triggers the negative soundtrack in your head you can start to fight back. And, to fight back and, ultimately, defeat the destructive voice that so wants to derail your progress, you need a plan to avert the negative soundtrack before it strikes; or, if you can’t do that, to beat it back when it does.
So how do you do you start your fightback?
Well, your first step is to keep a record of every success you have achieved. Those successes are things that you actually did. They are irrefutable fact. Not just hard to argue with, but impossible. And, when your enemy begins to show its face, remind yourself of those successes. Out loud. Scream them at that advancing negative voice – tell it just how good you are. And you can do that because, really and truly, you are as good as your list of successes suggest, whatever the enemy’s voice would tell you.
Alongside that, tap into the relationships you have.
Never under-estimate the importance of having good people around you. And, when negativity strikes, lean on them. You don’t need them to big you up, or blow smoke up your ass (that’s actually the last thing that you need). Often, all you need is an upbeat, positive, forward-focused conversation, again, grounded in fact – no ‘Rah! Rah! Rah!’. So make a call and have that conversation.
But, above all else, remember this one simple truth from Marianne Williamson’s poem, ‘Our Deepest Fear’: in spite of whatever failure or criticism you endure, you – yes, you – are powerful beyond measure. You may not feel it, but you are.
So, as you stare into the chasm before you, remind yourself that getting to the other side is a mere formality: you’ve done it before, you’ll do it again, because you – yes, you – are powerful beyond measure.
When all is said and done, it really is very simple: if the only, or at least the loudest, voice that you hear is your own, you have to make sure you are having good conversations. So, figure out what triggers your negativity, and what, and who, remedies it; and, if you can’t avoid negativity in the first place, be sure to always be within close reach of its remedy.