Yesterday, we talked a bit about what we can do when adversity strikes. There is one more piece that needs to be added to the conversation – and it is a “conversation.” It’s the one you have with yourself, 24/7/365.
That conversation we have with ourselves is commonly called “self-talk” – or as it is referred to in today’s neuroscience circles, metacognition. This conversation we have with ourselves goes on all the time. In fact, self-talk provides the catalyst for hardening the concrete (our beliefs) that forms the foundation upon which we build our lives.
Now, when adversity strikes, no matter what form that adversity takes, if you can, take a moment and really listen to the words you use to describe the situation. Are you talking about what you can’t do, or what you can do? Are you talking about the finality of the situation, or are you talking about the possibilities for turning it around? Is the conversation fixed, or flexible?
The question really is this: Are you positive or negative in your approach to your future? Most of us don’t really listen to the words we use, but we probably should. We choose words out of habit, sometimes, more than intent. The words we use cause pictures in our minds, and those pictures are flooded with what we are feeling – most likely from memories of similar past experiences. These feelings color our moods, our relationships with those around us – everything that makes up our lives.
So, when adversity hits – whether it is senseless violence, a job loss, a loved one diagnosed with a disease, or something as everyday as a traffic jam – stop. Take a moment and listen to what you are saying, either out loud or to yourself. Is this conversation making things worse, or is it making things better?
Earlier, we referred to this control of what goes on in our minds as a learnable superpower, one we can attain with a little mindful attention. So, remember, if you will, two things: Your words, out loud, affect not just you, but those around you; and also, the first person those words affect is you.