I was saddened to hear him say: “I am too old, I’ve made too many mistakes, and I can’t do the things she needs.” After years of struggling, his wife had informed him that she needed things to change, or she was prepared to leave the marriage.
As a last ditch effort, he had reluctantly agreed to see me once before throwing in the towel.
Many people believe that they can say whatever is on their mind (about themselves, their marriages, their finances, their future), with little to no consequence. However, they are quite mistaken, just as this kind man was.
The truth is, our lives will move in the direction of our words. There is an old proverb that says, “We are snared by the words of our mouth.“ It is so true.
Early in my practice when I had an inpatient treatment center, an outpatient treatment center, and my private practice, I went to see my doctor because I was so fatigued. She was just wonderful.
She ran every test possible, and everything came back perfect regarding my health. As we sat together and she went over the test results, she asked me how long this fatigue had been going on. I told her about three months.
She asked me if anything significant had happened three months prior to seeing her. I told her of several personal challenges I was facing. She asked me what I said out loud when trying to take care of the challenges.
At the time my business partner was one of my best friends, so I considered what I was saying to him. I told him the situation and we discussed logical next steps. And I remember saying to him, “I am just so tired!”
I recall him laughing at me because everyone in our treatment centers called me “the energizer bunny on steroids.” Then he asked me, “What do those words really mean?” I responded, “I really just don’t want to have to deal with all of this!”
My doctor said, “Did you keep saying those words?” I confessed that I did. I did not want people in my professional life to know what was going on in my personal life, so when they would ask if I was OK, I would just respond with, “I’m so tired, but I will be fine!”
At that moment I knew the answer. I had spoken tiredness and fatigue over my life consistently for three months, and my body delivered.
I immediately understood the power of my words, and began taking the steps that I will give you below to direct them appropriately. For the years since, I have learned to consistently speak a bright future over myself.
I was reminded of this just recently when I asked someone to stop talking about how old they were and about being in the winter of their life when around me. I asked them, just as I asked the man who was in my office, if they realized that talking about being old was an order to their brains. Neuropsychology says when we speak things about ourselves; we are setting our neurons in order to fulfill what we speak.
A study at Yale University revealed that those who spoke about being old and being in the last quarter of their lives lived 8 years less than those who did not speak about getting old. (And those who spoke positively about growing old outlived the others by an additional 10 – 12 years).
This blog is not about growing old. It’s about what we say about ourselves. Our brain hears our words, and takes them as orders to fulfill.
Countless studies have been conducted to reveal that those who speak about a great future when recovering from cancer have a survival rate that is 70% greater than those who speak negatively. Studies have covered the power of words on test scores, promotions, relationship success, and on and on.
What do you say about yourself? You might want to pay close attention to those words, because they are ordering your future and your destiny.
I did an exercise that I do in my office often with my client who only planned to come once. I informed him that I was going to ask him the same question 20 to 50 times. And I wanted him to respond with what first came to his mind.
The question was: “Who are you?“
Although I use many assessments and psychological tests for diagnosing, I find the repetitive asking of that question is the greatest diagnosing tool ever!
I encourage you to pause reading right now and do this exercise. Ask yourself out loud: “Who am I?” Then jot down a quick answer. Then pose the question again: “Who am I?” And write down the next answer.
The first few answers will come quickly, then you will find yourself pause. You will have to reach deeper. Repeat the question until you have at least 30 written responses.
Not long ago, I had a long tall Texas cowboy and his fiancé in my office, and I was doing this exercise with them. When I asked him the question (after she had given 30 responses to the question for herself), “Who are you?” … He looked at her and sweetly sang the lyrics to Chris Young’s song: “Who I am with you, is who I really wanna be. You’re so good for me. And when I’m holdin’ you; it feels I’ve got the world in my hands. Yes, a better man is who I am with you.” It was a sweet moment.
But if you have a partner, you might answer the question both ways: “Who am I?” and “Who am I when I’m with you?”
When you look at the answers, ask yourself this: “If I keep saying and believing those things, who and what will I be in in a year? In 5 years? In 10 years? In 20?”
Then answer this question: “Is that who I hope to be and where I hope to be?” If so, that is so awesome for you. If not, let’s look at how you might speak different things over yourself.
But before I get to sharing some steps, let me share with you why you do not want to keep speaking negative things over yourself. Research tells us that these are the consequences of that habit:
- It creates distance in our personal relationships.
- It gives us excuses to not change or become our best.
- It diminishes our sense of purpose.
- It increases the propensity for depression and anxiety.
- It invalidates y\our worth and confidence.
Most of us do not realize the effect that speaking negatively about ourselves, even in a fun ways, has on our lives.
I have had years of experience with hundreds of people (both clients and personal relationships) that have made me so aware of the power of our talk about ourselves. If I had to summarize what I see in people as the result negative talk about themselves, it would be this: “With your words, you set your limits … or blow the roof off of limits. With your words, you annihilate your potential … Or propel your potential. With your words, you dampen your purpose… Or ignite your purpose.”
I would like to help you blow the roof off your limits, propel your potential, and ignite your purpose!
How on earth do you do that? I’m so glad you asked! If you follow my work, you know that I almost always outline action steps.
I have been to hundreds of workshops, inspirational talks and great church services that had fabulous messages. I always loved the concepts I learned. But I usually emerged with the same question. How do I do what they were talking about?
It is also the most asked question in my office. How do I change? How do I do it differently? My clients want action steps. So I have become very committed to delivering action steps.
This week is no exception! To limit negative talk, and begin to speak in ways that remove limits, tap in to your potential, and launch your purpose, here are some steps that will help you get there:
1. Assess how much negative talk about yourself that you do.
When I had about 30 answers to the “who are you?” question from the man I spoke about in the opening paragraph, I think all but three or four of them were negative.
His answers contained things such as:
- I am old
- I am past my prime
- I am a failure in my marriage
- I’m still fairly good at golf
- I am a father who doesn’t really even know my children
- I’m not any good at talking about feelings
And the list went on.
I was so saddened. His future, based on his negative self-talk, did not appear to have a very happy future.
What about you? Even if you are saying them in a joking manner, what are you saying about yourself? You have to realize you are doing this before you can break the habit.
2. Commit to absolutely no negative self-talk for the next 30 days.
Of course, when you are speaking with a mentor, coach, accountability partner, you will want to be 100% open and honest. But save that kind of talk for those situations only!
When I challenged the man in my office with this, he grinned at me sheepishly as he responded, “I guess that means I’ll be silent for the next 30 days.“ In retort, I responded, “Better silent then speaking failure over yourself as a father and husband, and losing your marriage.”
When I personally began this process (developing it as I studied, read books and interviewed mentors and leaders), I wore my graduation ring on my pinky finger. I knew I had to do something to pay attention to my words and to correct them.
Each morning I would read my proclamation aloud powerfully. One of the sentences in it said, “I will speak victory, purpose, and fulfillment over my life in all of my verbal communications today!”
It set my reticular activating system in my brain to paying close attention to my words. When I realized I had spoken something that was not filled with victory, purpose and fulfillment, I would take my pinky ring off of my finger and hold it in the palm of my hand until I corrected what I had said verbally.
At the time I was putting together my first Coach Training and certification program. When someone asked me how it was going, I responded, “I’m not sure anybody will be interested.” I immediately realized what I had done, and I took my pinky ring off of my finger and put it in the palm of my hand. Then I said, “Actually I believe there are many people out there who have a yearning to help others and this will be life altering for them.”
I had planned for a group of 10 to 12 for my first program, but I ended up with over 20.
What will you do daily to remind yourself to note what you speak over your life, and what little thing (like a pinky ring) can you do until you correct what you have said?
You can do this! I know 30 days seems like a long time when you’re looking at a challenge such as this. But it will literally change your destiny! Isn’t that worth investing in?
3. Revise your “who am I?“ responses.
In the meantime, go back to your “Who am I?” responses. Re- write them … remove the excuses, whining, self flagellation, blame and Debbie/Donnie Downer talk!
And with the kind client that I was speaking of above, here is what we crafted from a few of the “who am I” responses he had given.
- Instead of “I am old“ … “I am young at heart!“
- Instead of “I am past my prime“ … “My best days are just ahead.”
- Instead of “I am a failure in my marriage“ … “I am a work in progress becoming the husband my wife needs!”
- Instead of “I don’t even know my children“ … “ I am spending time getting to know each of my children individually.“
- Instead of “I’m not good at talking about feelings“ … “I am learning about emotional intelligence and increasing my score.”
- Instead of “I am fairly good at golf“ … “I am upping my game, watch out Tiger!”
Yes we even made the semi positive one better.
Revise your list, and say them aloud daily. You will literally be setting your brain for an amazing future. Your brain wants to be your partner in crime for a great future, but it can only do what your words tell it to do. And if you speak defeat, lack, and doubt … it will deliver.
Program it for the great things you were meant to become and do! Reading this revised list aloud daily will take you one or two minutes, and it will make all the difference in the world!
4. Practice speaking positive things about yourself and your future (with humility).
I know it’s often difficult for people to begin to do this when their speech about themselves has been primarily negative.
I was always under the impression that if I spoke positive things about myself, that it would be regarded as arrogant. When I spoke with my awesome mentor, Dr. Pat Love, about this, she gave me the piece that gave me peace to actually do this.
She added… Do it with you humility. Speak it powerfully, with humility.
Because we had about 40 things on my client’s revised list, I asked him to not only read them aloud daily, but choose one each day to focus on. And to look for three opportunities to speak them aloud.
Later, he reported that when he spoke to his wife about being a work in progress to become the husband she needed, she jumped up and hugged him!
Choose one from your revised list today, and look for three opportunities to speak it out. With humility.
5. Embrace that you can be your best you and that your greatest days are just ahead.
To begin the step, you must acknowledge how you use your negative speech to be an excuse so that you don’t have to invest in yourself, your relationships, or your future.
My client said that he was not good at talking about feelings and stuff like that … but to get honest, it was just an excuse. When I informed him that it was an excuse, and challenged him with reading about emotional intelligence, he said, “I can’t get away with anything with you, or with my wife for that matter!“
What excuses are you hiding behind with your negative talk about yourself? Own your excuses and embrace your potential. You can become a better you, you can become the best you.
Your spouse, your family, your friends, your coworkers and others all need that best version of you! Take some of the time you spend on Netflix, sports, news, and social media, and invest in becoming the best version of you. You can do it! If you have no idea where to start, message me, and I’ll give you some reading ideas, some things to watch, some workshops to attend, etc. Start today!
Your best days are just ahead. I believe that, and I say it every day. And truly each day is better than the day before.
Do I have setbacks and challenges? Of course I do! But I know without any doubt that I will look back and see that my setbacks and challenges made me a better version of me.
As for the client that I opened this blog with … YES! His marriage survived and his wife is delighted. I met his adult children when I encountered the family at the wedding of a mutual friend.
At public events, I greet people who are my clients appropriately, but never make reference to coaching, or counseling, or our work together. When the mother introduced me to their adult children, they immediately recognized my name. They said, “Oh my God! We don’t know what you did to our dad but thank you so much!” Obviously he was getting to know them just as he proclaimed.
Speak carefully; speak powerfully about yourself, your relationships, your family, your finances, and your future. Blaze a trail with your words to blow the roof off of the limits, to propel your potential and ignite your purpose!