How self pep talk conditions your brain

What you say shapes what you do (DJ Khaled edition).

We all know that the glass is either half empty or half full.
An expression that perfectly explains how the same experience can be viewed in a totally opposite way by different people.

Wake up. Get dressed. Have breakfast. (Don’t forget to wipe the microwave). Walk to the train station. Your train is cancelled.
The train being cancelled is a fact. But some people will see it as an opportunity to work from home, others as evidence of “things” going against them.

We look at the same facts, but the way we interpret life shapes the way we live life.

The consequences of your outlook are many.
A positive view of the present and the future will justify taking action into your own hands, and actually make things more positive.
The body follows the mind too: scientific studies have shown how a positive outlook enhances your physiological functioning and lowers your stress levels. If you see your life as positive, it will become even more positive.

What most people don’t realise, is that it doesn’t matter whether the glass is full or empty. The glass is refillable.

You can change your outlook on life by using principles of positive psychology and linguistic programming, in order to notice what’s going right and set yourself on “the pathway to more success”.
The more you get used to where you want to go, the easier it will be for you to accept positive change and spot opportunity when it comes up.

No one has mastered this game as well as DJ Khaled: he talks the talk, and then puts in the work to make it happen. So we’ll use him to illustrate each point with an example.

Here are the principles to make sure your self pep talk game is “accruate”.

1. Use positive language

Let’s play a game.
For the next minute, don’t think about polar bears.
Got it? Don’t think about polar bears.
One rule: no polar bears. One minute.

It’s tough right?

This is because the brain thinks in images: even if you’re reading characters or listening to somebody talking (your own voice included), the brain turns everything into images. What image comes to mind when I say “not a polar bear”? A polar bear.
You cannot negate an image without bringing up that same image. This is why thinking “I don’t want to be ill tomorrow” makes you feel worse, not better. The brain can’t deal with negatives very well.

Avoid negatives, and make sure you use positive, constructive language.
Describe what you want to move towards, not what you want to move away from.

2. Be grateful for what you have

Gratitude is very powerful, and it can change your life in a few days. The more you practice it, the more reasons to be grateful you’ll have.
From better health and more happiness to better relationships, practicing gratitude has many, long-lasting benefits you can easily integrate into your day.

Where to start? Gratitude just means noticing things in your life, and appreciating how truly remarkable they are.
Are you reading this off a smartphone? Think about how amazing it is that you have a piece of technology that connects you to people and ideas around the world. It’s never happened before in the history of the world. I certainly feel grateful for you reading this right now. Thank you.
Did you meet someone today? Be grateful for their smile, be grateful for your smile!

Too often we take positives for granted, and give way too much power to transient negative aspects of life. Keep your gratitude simple and you’ll become the luckiest person on the planet!

Gratitude goes beyond spelling mistakes.

3. Use positive affirmations to create opportunity

Now, another important element of that self-pep talk is that it reminds you of where you’re going. The future is possibility. It doesn’t exist yet.
Reminding yourself of what your future will look like keeps you focused on what will bring you closer to your goals without losing your way, or getting distracted by other opportunities.

Affirmations keep you positive and focused, but they have another great effect: they create opportunity. Or rather, they help you see opportunity.

Do you know when you decide you’re hungry, and you’re walking through town and suddenly all you can see are restaurants and supermarkets?
Or when you want that new iPad and suddenly everyone around you has one? Take the metro, someone’s got one. Go to a café, someone’s got one. Walk past a shop, they have one in the window.
And it’s the colour you wanted.

The brain filters through A LOT of information all day. It didn’t start this century, it’s always been like that. Quite simply, the brain’s processing power cannot cope with the incredible amount of information around us: the sounds around us, the patterns of that wooden table in from of you, the rich smell of the air, a variation in temperature. We cannot do it all at once, so the brain has to decide what to ignore and what to register.
When you set your direction with positive affirmations, you tell your brain to notice.

Have you noticed how some people can sleep through loud traffic?
Or that, even when you’re immersed in a conversation at a loud event, you still notice someone calling your name from the other end of the room?
That’s the Reticular Activating System doing its job: a series of neuronal circuits connecting the brainstem (where the nervous system and the brain meet) to the cortex (the part of the brain handling attention, perception, and awareness), and deciding what to filter and what to pass on to the brain.

This is why positive affirmations are so important: when you get used to your future, you see opportunity to create your future.

4. Surround yourself with people that believe in you

People? Wasn’t this about self pep talks Matt?

Sure. But if you’re surrounded by “the glass is half-empty” kinda people that do not believe in you, have no desire other than watching TV all day, and ridicule your efforts, that’s going to damage your pep talk game.

Make sure you surround yourself with people that support you and inspire you, so you can even share your pep talks with each other.

Khaled says it best:

Now you know. Apply the 4 principles to your daily life to make sure that your glass is always full, and then put in the work to make intentional change happen.

They don’t want you to win, but I do.

— Matt

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