By Jai Thade, Head of Content
Here’s something to reflect on: think of an ideal coach. At this point, some of you might be thinking of someone who has previously coached you or someone you know. Others might be thinking of a person they know from afar, perhaps through reading their books or hearing their podcasts. Still others may simply have a general idea of a great coach in their mind.
Now think of the ideal qualities a coach has. How would an ideal coach speak to you? Most people would answer that such a coach would be understanding. Encouraging, but not overly critical. Someone who focuses on how you can improve as opposed to being stuck on what you have done wrong. Someone who describes a situation with clarity and without an overt influence of emotions.
Now think about this – how many qualities like this do we embody when we talk to ourselves?
Often, we speak to ourselves more disparagingly or critically than we would to others. We aren’t as easily encouraging as we are critical. We aren’t always understanding about our flaws and shortcomings. And we end up describing situations in emotional and irrational ways.
To build confidence and mental wellness, it is important to make a shift in our self-talk, to speak to ourselves like a personal coach.
One big piece in doing this is to avoid and counter what are called “ANT”s. An ANT or automatic negative thought is the voice in our head that often leads us to feel self-doubt, hesitation, or disheartened. These thoughts happen to virtually everybody. The trick to working through them is not to fight them or try to replace them with “positive” thoughts. Instead, you work with the thoughts and talk back to them.
Think of it as putting these negative thoughts on a witness stand in court. Interrogate them, cross-examine them, check for evidence. Also, be careful to identify any characteristic distortions in the way you think. Examples of distortions include minimising the positives, fortune-telling that something negative will happen, labelling yourself with a disparaging label (e.g. “I’m a failure”), etc.
Another thing to pay attention to is our mindset. We need to recognize the all-important difference between what is called a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset”.
Those with a fixed mindset think success or failure is a result of innate and unchangeable traits that people have. Either you’re smart, or you’re not smart. Either you’re talented or not talented. This kind of mindset leads people to avoid challenges, as by taking on challenges we risk failure, and failure can make those with fixed mindsets feel inferior or inadequate. Such individuals are also more likely to give up easily when confronted with obstacles, doubting their abilities as soon as they start to struggle, and placing an arbitrary and false boundary on their capacities.
On the other hand, those with a growth mindset believe that success or failure is a result of effort and dedication. They also think that none of our abilities are set in stone and can always be improved through practice. Therefore, they are much more open to seeking challenges because even when they fail, they feel they are growing and improving in some way. This conviction in the power of their effort also leads them to persist for longer despite facing obstacles.
To make this switch in mindset, create the habit of actively seeking out the growth or learning opportunity in any situation, even if you fail. This way of thinking may not come naturally to you but look at it like a muscle that you can gradually strengthen over time!
In this way, being more mindful about your self-talk and working to change your mindset with which you approach situations can help you stay resilient in the face of adversities.
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