You’re only as good as your next thought of yourself.Curtis Tyrone Jones
Two: Remind Yourself Daily of Your True Strengths
Assuming you’re already laying the foundation of accurate, substantive confidence by building the skills required to perform well in whatever you want to improve, let’s now talk about how to translate those practices to an improved self-image.
In a talk I recently attended, Rob MacDonald, former police officer, UFC fighter, and current fitness personality Bobby Maximus warned that this process of changing your self-image doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it takes consistent daily action, possibly for years on end.
Bobby recommends a couple of clever tactics that are incredibly useful for changing your self-perception if they’re done consistently. Provided they’re founded on true information about your strengths (see Part 1 of this article), these exercises will be invaluable in producing a mindset that encourages you to step out and do what needs to be done.
Use Your Space: Set Up Constant Reminders to Affirm Your Skills
I dislike fluffy, ego-inflating mantras that litter social media in the form of attention-grabbing memes. Nevertheless, I believe in the importance of substantive, true reminders of our strengths.
Bobby Maximus talks about “green light thoughts” and “red light thoughts”. Childish? Maybe. But if we’re honest, though we could explain these things to kids, we often suck at doing them ourselves. My thinking? We need things to be as childishly simple as possible if we want to act on them.
Green light thoughts are those thoughts that affirm in your mind the reality that you are, in fact, skilled at whatever tasks you specialize in.
Imagine you’re an athlete who’s put in years of practice, trained and rested well during the off-season, and has plenty of experience in competition. You should remind yourself of your abilities before every game.
Maybe you’re a company exec who gives frequent presentations to the board and now has to deliver a report to shareholders. Run through your track record of excellent presentations prior to taking the platform.
The point is, positive self-talk is entirely appropriate when it’s true and called for. Negative self-talk, on the other hand – the red light thoughts – is talk that’s unhelpful, overly pessimistic and critical, and never called for.
Here are three exercises to help you spend progressively more time and energy on positive, “green-light” thinking.
Write It: Project Success Early In The Day
I got the first two exercises from Bobby Maximus, though he mentioned the ideas were common recommendations among coaches and sport psychologists.
First, you’ve got to begin your day right. Develop a morning ritual, or otherwise carve time in your existing one, and spend 5 minutes or less reflecting on your skills and strengths, as well as the areas into which you’ve recently directed energy for improvement. Let these real positives form the basis of what you do next.
Take a piece of paper (or preferably a notebook you set aside for this daily habit), and list five reasons you’ll be successful in whatever major tasks you have planned for that day. It doesn’t matter if you’re nervous or scared about the tasks. Find a reason you’ll do well and write it down. Do it five times.
That list now forms the basis for the rest of the day’s affirmations.
Speak It: Rehearse Success Throughout the Day
As you go about your day, you’ll need constant reminders to think your “green light” thoughts. After all, we spend most of our time being exposed to negativity and stress. Positive thinking won’t come naturally to most of us throughout the day.
Given that we’re using the term “green light” to denote thoughts that we want to go ahead and think to ourselves as often as possible, we need to use some gimmick that will never really become “part of the scenery” and reminds us exactly what to do.
Go to any stationery store and pick up a pack of those sticky little green dots. Place them in as many places as you can think of where you’ll see them.
Try your desk at work, your dashboard, and the bathroom mirror to start.
Putting them in places where you’re prone to experiencing or expecting stress later in the day ensures maximal effectiveness.
Every time you see one of those green dots, repeat back one of the affirmations you wrote down that morning. It’s extremely simple, but the power of this exercise for elevating confidence and improving performance, when repeated daily for a long period of time, can’t be overstated.
Record It: Remember Success At The End Of The Day
Finally, at the end of the day, regardless of how your day has gone, try this practice of self-reflection.
Keep a small notebook and pen beside your bed. Right before you go to sleep, take a few minutes to think about what went well that day, even if you’d rate the day as being primarily negative. Specifically, record what you did well, not what someone else did well or what good things happened to you. Record your “wins”, however small.
Anything at all can go in your small wins journal – whether related to your fitness, job, relationships, or other – but the most effective points will be those related to your most important areas of improvement.
The practice of recording daily small wins does three things. It:
- Serves as a reminder that not everything went badly and you’re not a failure after all.
- Highlights the fact that real progress is made by consistent, manageable, small steps in the right direction, not major leaps from start to finish.
- Encourages you to keep going and getting more small wins each day as you build momentum.
Taken together, these three benefits are major confidence builders. Plus, recording your small wins each night will provide a continuous stream of new content for your morning projections and day-time affirmations.
To summarize the first two strategies, then, the second really builds on the first: put the work in to develop real reasons to be confident, then find ways to remind yourself that you are capable and qualified all day, every day.
If you need a more immediate confidence boost, and one that may not be so closely tied up with whatever other emotional connections your problem area has, try the third strategy, found here.