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The Evil Caddie

Can you imagine talking to someone else the way we talk to ourselves? Jeez...We would never be friends with someone who talks to us the way we talk to ourselves. It's sometimes called "Evil Caddie" in the Sports Psychology world and it applies just as well to everyday life. No golfer would ever pay a caddie to walk with them and put negative thoughts in their mind. "You can't win this match." "You can't hit that shot." "You can't make that putt." So why do we let the voice in our head (ego, inner critic, the judge) walk with us daily and talk us down? "You can't make that sale." "You can't ask her out." "You can't get that job." "You're going to make an idiot of yourself." "They're going to reject you."

All day every day we have this voice in our mind, and most of us don't take advantage of it. We can use it for our betterment. Once aware of this negative self-talk we can learn to acknowledge it and move on. We can't avoid it, but we don't have to internalize it either. We don't have to listen to self-talk like just like we don't have to stick our head out of the window and take the full brunt of an ambulance blasted siren coming down the street. We can pull over to the side of the road and roll up the window. Once it passes, roll the window back down and continue to enjoy the drive and the day. We accepted the ambulance and the hellish siren. We let it pass. It's the same with negative self-talk. Acknowledge it and let it pass. Don't let it define you. Don't let it ruin your day. Michael Singer wrote in Untethered Soul, "YOU are not the thoughts in your mind. YOU are the one who hears them."

The flip side of negative self talk is to talk yourself up, just as you would someone else. You compliment other people and build up their strengths. You treat them well. You should do the same for yourself. We cut everyone else slack but we never cut some for ourselves. I’m not talking about letting ourselves off the hook and being lazy. I’m talking about knowing the difference between good effort and being perfect.

Once you’re aware of the negative self talk it's time to track them. Just like a food journal if you’re attempting make nutritional changes. What gets measured gets managed. If you track your self talk for a week or so, you’ll begin to pick up on trends and habits. Does the majority of your poor self talk happen at work? Maybe you treat yourself poorly in meetings and it keeps you from speaking up. Whatever your habits are, they’ll be apparent when you go back and analyze what you’ve written.

Once your habits are identified, ask yourself if there is any merit to them. There might be. If you’re telling yourself that you’re going to miss an important opportunity because you’re a chronic procrastinator, and you’ve missed them in the past, then that is something you need to examine. If you’re telling yourself you’ll never have enough money to go on a vacation, you need to examine that too. Do you have any evidence that you’ll NEVER have it? Do you have evidence that you can NEVER save that amount of money? Have you researched ways to make it happen? If not, then you need to reframe the message you’re selling yourself.

Reframing (sometimes called "thought stopping") can be as easy as asking yourself what you would say to a friend in the same situation. If they were a chronic procrastinator you would likely say, “Yeah man, I’ve noticed you run up against deadlines a lot and put a ton unnecessary pressure on yourself. Your work has to reflect it.”. If your friend said she would never have enough money for the vacation you may ask her if she’s talked to the bank about setting up an automatic draw from her paycheck to put away specifically for the trip. If she hasn’t, she can start there.

It really is that simple. Notice the word “simple”. It’s not the word “easy”. It’s not easy to become aware of your self talk and realize it’s not real. It's only in your head. It’s not easy to realize that it’s ego run amuck. It’s not easy to take the useless sentence “I’ll never be able to do [blank]” and reframe into the useful sentence “What steps can I take to make [blank] happen?” It’s not easy, BUT it CAN be done. And it gets easier and easier the more you practice. It’s worth the effort.

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