In many of my speeches or workshops, I ask the question, “Who is the person you speak to the the most every day?”
This seems to catch people off guard because I can see their minds spinning as they do a mental scan, trying to figure out who they spend the most time with daily. My mother? My BFF? My spouse? I get a few different answers thrown in my direction before someone realizes what I’m really asking. Yes, the answer is yourself. You speak to yourself all the time. You’re doing it right now. As you read this, you’re hearing your voice in your head and not my voice. The voice you hear most often is the one you are most familiar with…your own. A lot of us don’t want to admit this though because of what others might say. What? You hear a voice in your head? Hmmmm.
But there IS a voice. In fact, Peter Moseley from Durham University writes about what neuroscientists refer to as ‘inner speech’. This study shows we actually slightly move our throat muscles every time we speak to ourselves internally. This is an active process. It isn’t just imaginary. When we “talk” to ourselves, our bodies are actually engaged. We create permanent pathways every time we share a message with ourselves.
So what types of messages do we share? Sadly, the negative ones seem to be the ones we remember and choose to dwell on. Maybe we can’t “stop” the negative messages. But, we do get to choose how much time we spend on them and the messages that follow.
If we decide to engage actively with each message, we can minimize the damage done by messages like the following:
1. You’re not smart enough, strong enough, **** enough – Across the street from me, there is a guy who has a Tesla in his driveway. When I think about the car and the engineering that it took to make it happen, it is easy to realize the people who built it are brilliant. The owner of the company, those who market it, all of the elements that go into making people buy this vehicle are brilliantly run. It’s also fairly easy to make the leap to “since, I’m not doing this, I must not be brilliant.” But, that’s just the problem with comparison. We base our current level against others who are differently gifted and not even in our space. Then, we tell ourselves that we are not enough…smart enough, strong enough, rich enough, fast enough, good-looking enough. Enough already!
Instead, tell yourself you are on your own journey. You have made great progress but you are still pursuing growth.
2. You need to keep up – This is a variation of the “not enough” discussion. You believe your validation comes from being on the same level with others. You trick yourself into thinking you will be left behind unless… You deceive yourself by paying attention to everyone else and not fully accepting who you are. I remember when I used to look at people trying to dunk a basketball in high school. Some were short and some were tall. Sometimes, it was surprising who was able to actually dunk. It wasn’t always the tallest. I was baffled by this until my coach explained the difference between slow and fast twitch muscle fibers. Some people are just naturally born with more fast twitch fibers, which makes them more explosive, but they also tire more quickly. We’re just built differently. It’s why Bruce Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger could have done the same workout routine but would get drastically different results. You don’t need to keep up.
Instead, tell yourself, “they may have gotten there faster but I can go further”. You have a different strength. Find it and use it for all it’s worth.
3. You don’t have the right stuff (clothes, material) – The Jones live next door and you look at all they have. You see the opportunities they get and you assume it is because of the “stuff” they have. They get to hang out with celebrities and they get asked to the best parties. You assume it’s because of the clothes they wear and the cars they drive. And maybe it is. But, your “stuff” isn’t the wrong stuff simply because you have it. It’s the “right” stuff for you. You can get better, of course. We all can. But, deciding you deserve entrance to a certain life based on your appearance is always a set-up for a letdown.
Instead, tell yourself, “What I have is right for me and I’m getting better every day.”
4. It’s too late – Success is a young person’s game. Right? If you don’t achieve success by a certain age, then you’re just done…correct? Says who? The reality is things change as you get older. But, your mind has the ability to renew and stay fresh if you will allow it. This is really about the mind. Saying ‘it’s too late’ instills the mindset of settling. What is life about if you already feel like you can’t achieve anything else?
Instead, tell yourself, “There is always room for growth and I’m taking it on.”
5. No one is listening – There are definitely a lot of competing voices these days. But let me share an example. My wife and I love to host dinners at our home. When our children were younger, we would often have a lot of little kids running around after dinner was done. They were yelling and making noise like kids do. But, if one child fell and began crying, without seeing the face, the correct parent would often get up to go find their child. People know the voice of the ones who are important to them even amongst all of the noise. The right voice always cuts through at the right time. Even in the midst of all of the social media noise, you still find something inspiring when you really need it. Someone is always listening for your voice.
Instead of believing no one is listening, tell yourself, “My voice was meant for someone specific and someone special. It’s time to go find them.”
6. You don’t have the right story – As a speaker, one of the things I do is listen to other speakers to see how they perform. I’m always in learn mode when watching a speech on TV or elsewhere. But, there was a time early on when I didn’t feel like I could make much of an impact because I didn’t have a traumatic war story or physical challenge. I felt like only those stories of perseverance, like Diana Nyad, would make a difference in my speech. But, I didn’t have one. I realized not everyone has a traumatic story but they still needed inspiration. My story has some great pieces to it but I ignored them because I felt they weren’t noteworthy. Well, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Some of the things I saw as insignificant…getting a high school degree, a college degree, a graduate degree, forming music groups, writing music, producing a CD project, were all things being watched by other people. Imagine if I told the story with enthusiasm. Who else would be impacted?
Instead of downgrading your story, tell yourself, “My story is mine. It’s unique and someone else needs it just to make it through today.”
7. It doesn’t make sense – You have these great thoughts and ideas. But, you are not sure how you can explain it to everyone else around you who seems to be grounded in reality. It just doesn’t add up. So, you keep it in your brain. You tell yourself, “it doesn’t make sense. It’s a dumb idea anyway.”
Instead, tell yourself, “Most of the things we enjoy now were at one time impossible. You are simply an innovator.”