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Self-talk matters

Most of us are aware that we talk to ourselves on a daily basis, we replay scenarios in our heads, we prepare for potential meetings and sport competitions. But I'm sure you will be surprised if I tell you that according to research on average we have anywhere between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts a day. However, what surprised me the most was that approximately 80% of those are negative and approximately 95% of our thoughts are repetitive meaning that they are the same as the day before! To me that says, if we change our negative thoughts to positive ones then we can repeat the same positive thoughts day after day! So how do we go about changing them? 

1. Noticing them!

Start to notice the things you say to yourself by writing them down. With that being said, if you were to write every single sentence down you would probably write a book a day! Instead, what I am suggesting is to focus on specific events at a time. For example, a swimmer might start taking notes of the things they say to themselves prior to/during/after a race:

  • "Everybody else looks so calm and I am so nervous I can't stop sweating"

  • "I should have went to bed a little bit earlier last night, I should have warmed up a bit more, I shouldn't have eaten that snack bar 30 minutes ago"

  • "I can't do this, my body hurts"

Journal your self talk in accordance to whether it was positive or negative, whether it happened before/during/after a race.


2. Changing them!

Grab the piece of paper that you have written your thoughts down on, and change those that are negative. For example:


I've never done it before. - › This is an opportunity to learn something new.

This is too hard. - › This may take some more time and effort to master.

I made a mistake. - › What have I learned from it?

3. Implementing them!

Now that you have practiced noticing your thoughts, and you practiced changing them to positive ones, all that is left to do is to implement the whole process in action. Whenever you notice a negative thought pattern creeping in, say "STOP" and immediately replace it with a positive thought so that it can generate a positive thought pattern!


If this seems too challenging at first, try asking yourself some questions in regards to those negative thoughts as if you were to interrogate yourself. For example:

  • What if [insert worse case scenario] happens?

  • When have I had an opportunity like this before?

  • How can I ...?

You can then trick your brain to face challenging situations with curiosity rather than fear. It will keep your brain active by generating a thought pattern rather than freezing. Remember to keep that thought pattern full of positive thoughts though!


"See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort."- Dalai Lama  

Lastly, Remember to focus on progression, not perfection!