One of the biggest obstacles in achieving any goal, is hacking ones own inner voice. Seriously!! That inner voice…self talk, so to speak…is the one thing holding most individuals at arms length away from achieving their goals. The goal may be higher education, dropping a habit like smoking/drinking/binge eating, or implementing a consistent workout routine. No matter what the goal, that inner voice has the power to either drive or divert a person from the path!
Thats all fine and well, and easy to understand right? But what does that mean for real life goals?
Read this short explanation then I will give you 2 simple but effective action steps you can start implementing right now to correct the problem.
There is a growing body of scientific research–neuropsychology–that has helped a great deal with our understanding of the various components and issues around self talk AND the hard-wiring of our brains. There is a very important saying among neurophysicists that goes like this: Neurons That Fire Together Wire Together. Take note of this because it is important on so many levels. What does it mean? Well…every few min you are creating new neuropathways in the brain. The structure of the brain is literally changing by the second! And what are the factors that influence and determine the pathway? Your perception (a.k.a. self talk) about the world and experiences around you.
So why and how do neurons fire together and what is happening to then make them wire together?
Well, lets pretend you have a smoking habit. You may have took up smoking as a social habit. Or, you may have taken it up as a way to avoid over eating. Or, you may have developed the habit as a way to relieve stress. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that all those “reasons” are associated with a relief/solution/reward to certain situations or experiences. Every time you found yourself in a social situation with other smokers, you rewarded yourself by also smoking. The neurons fired in this situation…perceiving your social environment where you wanted to fit in and find fellowship. You lit up. You experienced the rewarding feeling of social acceptance and pleasure. Now that neuro pathway has been wired. You did this week after week, month after month. the pathway is established semi-permanently (unless you take action to rewire it).
The same would happen if you used smoking to avoid eating. You experienced hunger. You inner-voice/self talk perceived the hunger as a threat to your waistline. It told you its a bad thing. Your neurons fired and decided to find a way to ignore that hunger by using a stimulant like cigarettes. You lit up. The huger went away, and you felt a burst of energy. This wired your brain to understand smoking instead of eating will satisfy that hunger and thus the pathway is formed.
Aside from bad habits, neuro pathways also permanently form to make us feel happy or unhappy on a constant basis. It all has to do with what we fixate on, and for how long we fixate. The pathways will form people!!
A lot of these pathways are forged and formed with self talk.
What is self-talk:
Self talk is that inner voice that you have constantly running in the back ground. It creates interpretations or stories about your reality for you. The problem is…its usually wrong. Its usually distorted, exaggerated, catastrophic, and ultimately destructive. Her is a real life example of what self-talk/inner voice is.
You wake up and get ready for the day. You look in the mirror and your inner voice says:
“Ugh. You outfit isn’t great and your having a bad hair day…you have a presentation to give at the meeting today and your not going to feel confident because your uncomfortable with how you look”
Everything about that thought is nothing more than negative self-talk… its not true. Its destructive, but whats worse is you’ve spent several min of your time thinking/fixating on it. The neurons fire as you look at your reflection. Your inner voice starts running away about how terrible the meeting will be and as your imagination spins a story of negativity, the neurons begin to wire. The pathway is formed: feeling like your appearance is bad and your performance is bad.
This is not made up…or based on a silly theory. This process (firing and wiring) has been studied and verified (using negative/positive imaging and simulated environment techniques) at major laboratories using sophisticated neuro-imaging equipment to show the pathways being formed on humans.
Why is it such a problem?
I want you to think about often you create these pathways every day. How often you solidify and reinforce the neuropathways to feel bad and unhappy.
THE GOOD NEWS!!
Thankfully, your brain is the most sophisticated and elaborate instrument that exists. It can be rewired if you so choose to do so…and quickly! Here are the action steps needed to rewire your neurons in a way that helps you reach your goals and feel happy most of the time!
Step 1: Identify and Define your Goals
Step 2: Take Key Moments to Rewire Your Neurons
Because many of my followers are on a journey to lose unwanted weight and improve health, lets use weight loss as an example goal.
The goal is to stop eating foods that spike insulin, engage in a consistent exercise routine, make better life choices all day, and become stronger than every excuse that may deter you from those above mentioned goals.
Ok…easy enough. So do it.
Well…here comes the inner voice…creating a constant 24 hour long web of obstacles that make it so very hard to execute. Its not will power guys. Will power is a myth. Its nothing more than your inner voice. Lets take a look at several daily examples of how the inner voice tries to ruin everything and what you can do to change it in the moment and rewire it:
NOTE: THIS IS WHERE MICKEY MOUSE COMES IN TO THE PICTURE
Your alarm goes off in the morning. You set it early with the intentions of doing a workout. Your inner voice immediately sets in to create a problem.
“Its so early. I feel like I would feel better just getting more sleep and skipping the workout…just for today”
You may have done this before and already have a neuropathway set in place where you allow yourself to skip the workout and lay back down. The pleasure of laying back down is rewarding (for a bit) and thus a long term neuropathway to always skip the workout and lay back down is acting. What can we do different? Create a new pathway by taking time to shift your self talk.
Your alarm goes off. Its early. Your self talk instead goes like this:
“Its a brand new day. Im up. I can move my body. I’m lucky to be healthy enough to move my body. I’m excited to take time for myself, to get my blood moving. To focus and use my energy!”
You workout. A new pathway is formed.
But here is an extra step you can take to help SOLIDIFY the pathway. When your workout is done. Don’t rush off to the next chore. Take time to feel how great it feels. Take time to enjoy how good it feels to have used your body and improved your strength that day. The longer you dwell on how awesome it is, the stronger the neuropathway will be formed so you want to do it more and more, and you have more positive resources lingering in your own mind all the time. This = happiness.
You may be thinking…Emily…its not that easy to just shift your self talk in the snap of a finger to something positive like that. And you are right! Luckily, researchers have discovered an amazing trick to help blast away negative or destructive self talk. Imagine the negative thought/statement/idea being said not by you…..but my MICKEY MOUSE. Thats right…repeat the thought running through your brain in the high pitched, ridiculous voice of Mickey Mouse and see how much water it holds!! See how important/true/real the thought is when its not being said in your tone…but in that of a large, fun loving Disney rodent. It really does work!!!!!! Take another example here and see what I mean:
Its time for breakfast…if you follow this blog, you know something like bacon and eggs cooked in butter will be a great meal to balance blood sugar and help you avoid insulin floods. But…for many…here comes that inner voice to ruin everything.
“I have such a craving for toast. I think ill just have the toast. I know all kinds of people who are skinny and still eat toast. It should be fine…”
Now, say that thought again as Mickey Mouse…
Pretty stupid right. Shut up Mickey…thats dumb. Its hasn’t worked my whole life and it won’t work today. Eat a breakfast you know will leave you feeling good!!!!
You have your bacon and eggs. You feel good. You made a good choice. Take a min to let that sink in. Don’t just rush off. Feel the positive emotion attached to making a healthy choice and sticking to it. Give your inner voice a second to tell a positive story about how good you will feel later because you won’t have a blood sugar crash. Allow a new neuro pathway to form.
Here is another example of how negative self talk can ruin our positive energy and how to turn it around in the very moment and rewire for good!
As your day goes on…you get home from work and you decide that instead of sitting in front of the TV and snacking…you will take the kids to the park. Instead of fixating on how good it would feel to zone out…try fixating for as long as you can on how good it will feel to pay attention to your kids and to be in nature. We are trying to break that old pathway and make a new one. The longer you concentrate, the better the pathway is formed. (side note…this is why meditation is so very powerful).
Your inner voice is going to come out to try and ruin everything as usual. Make no doubt about it.
“I don’t know…today maybe isn’t the best day. I kind of hate the park. I bet there is traffic. It will be pretty tiring to chase after all the kids. It would be so much easier just to stay home and put on a show. Maybe tomorrow.”
Now…say that thought as Mickey Mouse.
How dumb. Tomorrow will be no different than today Mickey…This is my life. Life is not a future event. Its a present moment. Im taking my kids to the park!!
You go to the park. You soak in the fresh air. You feel the sunshine. You hear your kids laughing. You feel your body as you run around and play with them. Don’t be distracted away from these feelings. You need to fixate on them in the present moment to form the new pathway.
All day long, you have to stop the negative self talking mickey mouse BS. You have to intentionally create positive self talk and intentionally pay attention to how good the good choices and actions feel. Don’t blow past them in a rush. You make good choices: Your neurons fire. You feel the rewards of the actions of those choices: your neurons wire.
Thats all there is to it!! I hope this was helpful. These are action steps you can implement RIGHT NOW. How empowering is that?!