The benefits of mental or psychological skills have been reported by sport psychologists, certified mental performance coaches, corporate executives, elite performers, and athletes. These skills are psychological factors that have been shown to have considerable influence on success in sport and performance. Therefore, identifying the mental skills needed for success in whatever situation you will participate in, measuring the current effectiveness of your practice of those skills, and developing and implementing an individualized mental skills training program can greatly enhance performance. Self-talk is one of those mental skills. Effective use and practice of positive self-talk can greatly influence your end results and progress towards achieving goals. 

Self-talk impacts how you think, feel, and behave. Your thoughts become your inner dialogue and eventually your worldview. This worldview ultimately influences your emotional and mental wellbeing and the actions you engage in that can impact your physical wellbeing.  So how can engage in more positive self-talk practices that will increase self-confidence and enhance your ability to successfully perform? There are some key strategies that can be practiced to help you develop more positive self-talk.

  1. Become aware of your current self-talk. Pay attention to the messages you are saying to yourself and about yourself, others, and various situations. Begin to recognize when you are being negative or positive and how it impacts you. 
  2. Dispute your negative thoughts. Negative thoughts can lead to irrational beliefs that promote unhealthy, negative emotions. These emotions lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. Using cognitive behavioral and rational emotive behavior theory techniques, ask yourself and reflect on the following questions: Is the thought helpful or harmful? Is the thought logical? Where is the evidence to support this thought and to dispute it? Is it really as bad as it could be? Next, replace the negative thoughts with more rational thoughts that will lead to new healthy positive or healthy negative emotions and more constructive behaviors. Unhealthy negative emotions include anxiety, shame, rage, depression, jealousy, or guilt. Healthy negative emotions include concern, disappointment, sadness, or regret.
  3. Develop mantra or positive statements and mottos. Your self-talk shapes your worldview and mindset. A negative mindset can be a barrier to reaching your maximum potential in life and any performance activities. Using positive statements, mantras, or phrases to encourage yourself on a consistent basis can help you develop a positive mindset, especially when used while facing obstacles and discouragement. These can be one word cues or brief statements that help you to reframe negative situations and draw strength from the resiliency that lives within you. “I’m the greatest” might not be the mantra that works for you. The goal is to find the words that will encourage and motivate you and to use them as your motto to prompt yourself when you need to build your courage and will or change your behaviors.
  4. Consider how you would respond to encourage a good friend who had the same negative thoughts. Many times we can be more empathetic and understanding to our friends than we are to ourselves. What would you say to your best friend if they were going through a difficult time and making very critical and negative statements about themselves. What advice would you give them to shift to a more positive mindset? Give yourself that same motivating talk.
  5. Consult with a trusted friend or consider counseling. There may be times when the above strategies might not be working. When this is the case it is important to access external sources of support. This can include family, friends, and mentors who are supportive and provide wise counsel that is rooted in a focus on your positive well being. If the person is no longer with you, reflect on what they would have said to encourage you. It might also be helpful for you to consider seeking professional counseling services. Speaking with a licensed professional counselor, psychologist, clinical social worker, or marriage and family therapist can provide an objective and safe space for you to explore your concerns and develop a plan to accomplish your goals. These professionals can also assist with helping you find effective strategies to counter critical self-talk and practice a more positive, productive way of thinking.

The key to shifting your mindset is awareness and practice. Make a conscious effort to change critical self-talk to a hopeful, productive way of thinking about yourself. In essence, the little engine that could had it right all along.