Does Your Internal Dialogue Damage Your Success?

Kathy said to me, “If anybody talked to me they way you talk to yourself, I would never get out of bed!” My wife said this months ago, and I can’t stop thinking about it. My negative self-talk is a bad habit.

Maybe it comes from bad parenting, bad coaches, or bad teachers. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I made it a part of who I am, and that’s bad.

This Is Insanity!

Here I am writing this article and thinking, “This isn’t going to help anyone. Negative self-talk is my problem. No one else talks to themselves this way. Just trash this, and write about something else.”

But I have learned in life, I am just like everybody else. I am not alone. So I am going to believe you do this, too. You, like me, don’t talk nicely to yourself.

You say things like:

“I’m so stupid!”

“I’m hopelessly disorganized.”

“I don’t deserve to be successful.”

“I don’t have the natural talent they have.”

Three Ways Negative Self-Talk Destroys

First, future success becomes present failure. Negative self-talk stops me cold even before I have a chance to succeed. I tell myself, “If I am too stupid to change, then why try?” So I fail, and I didn’t do the first thing to succeed. My life becomes a fait accompli.

In January 2009, I gave a presentation called “How startups can succeed and grow in this economic collapse.” I did a lot of research from which I determined the markets would bifurcate and the middle market would disappear. The message was, “If you are selling to the middle market, you’ll die.” Then I watched it happen.

I remember thinking when the Dow was at 6,500, “If I invest in the stocks used as my examples, I’ll realize terrific financial returns over the next three years.”

Then I said to myself, “What do you know about the stock market? You always lose money.”

I didn’t invest in those stocks, and today I realized I would have had 6x returns in some of those investments. Instead, I failed without the chance of succeeding.

Second, good ideas die in place and are forgotten. I have had lots of great ideas in my lifetime. I just can’t remember any of them.

When I get a good idea, the analysis engine kicks in. I start getting excited about what the new idea could mean to me and others. I start talking; then I hear the negative feedback.

“That’s been tried before.”
 “I don’t think there is a big enough market for that.”
 “It’s not worth your time.”

Then I start on myself.

“What do I know? There are so many smart people out there. They would have done it already.”
 “I am too old to pull this off.”
 “I don’t want to risk this much. Why do it?”

So the idea dies and with it a bit of my idealism. This is criminal.

Third, life becomes a series of routines with no excitement. The negative self-talk ultimately eliminates all idealism. If I continue this self-talk, I may find myself no longer willing to succeed. Worse yet, I may find myself not willing to fail. When I get to this stage, all that’s left is a life of routine.

This is my greatest fear. Every day is void of the big idea, the big vision, the big raison d’être. This fear will have me traveling, playing golf, giving advice, eating, and sleeping.

No risk.

No success.

No impact.

All of this happened because of a negative self-talk narrative.

I’m Going Positive!

Here’s my plan for the next 30 days. Join me.

  1. Listen to your self-talk.
  2. Ask for help from loved ones to stop and correct your negative narrative.
  3. Correct yourself by stating out loud what you would say if a loved one said what you just said to yourself.
  4. Carry index cards with you, and write down the encouragement you or your loved one gave to you.
  5. After creating a new index card, read every one in the stack.

One final note: As I was finishing this article, I received an email from a very successful entrepreneur who is doing volunteer work for a ministry organization. Here is what he wrote to me, “Charlie, I stink at writing these but…” Enough already!

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