“Just stick to what you know and don’t waste your time thinking about the ‘what ifs’ – always trust in yourself.” – Flt Lt Roger Cruikshank
We all suffer from moments of doubt in life and hear the little nagging voice of self-doubt that creeps to the forefront of our minds when the pressure is on. The key to dealing with this is to learn how to overrule the negative inner voice with a positive inner voice using a technique known as positive self-talk.
The Downward Spiral of Negative Self-Talk
Negative self-talk is not only distracting, it keeps you focused only on negative happenings. If you’re under pressure and you make a mistake, the negative inner voice might say, “You’re a total idiot,” but this line of thought can only ever keep you trapped in that moment. With your focus on the mistake and what has already happened (therefore can’t be changed) you’re stuck. Negative self-talk confirms the negative thoughts in your head, generating negative emotions that influence your behaviours and the actions you take, leading to further confirmation of the “fact” that you’re a total idiot… and so the negative cycle continues.
Use Your Inner Coach
Escaping the downward spiral and silencing the negative self-talk is not about attempting to eliminate the voice but using it to promote positive lines of thought, beginning a positive upward spiral instead.
When Flt Lt Roger Cruickshank found himself intercepting a Russian bomber for the first time, the nagging voice of self-doubt in his mind cranked up the volume. Thoughts of, “Don’t hit the lead aircraft, and don’t mess up because you’re the newbie,” threatened to keep him trapped in a negative downward spiral. He realised that he needed to change the inner dialogue if he was to prevent his thoughts from becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.
Through his experience of competing at elite level in sport, he was able to use the sports psychology techniques he’d practised as a skier to help him remain positive under pressure, reminding himself… “Just accept that you will have an inner dialogue/critique, almost like a miniature coach sitting on your shoulder, whispering in your ear and giving a running commentary. However, don’t let it be negative, make sure it is positive.”
Roger switched the negative dialogue to a positive inner commentary that kept his focus on what he needed to do next rather than what might happen if he messed up: “Hold a solid 500ft position from him on the references and stay alert and focused on the next event.”
Trust in Yourself
You don’t need to be intercepting Russian bombers or competing for your country in the Olympics to experience the voice of doubt taking over your thoughts, and mental skills training is not just for the elite. Negative self-talk can rear its ugly head in all areas of life and threaten to stand in the way of achieving dreams at every level, making positive self-talk a skill that anyone interested in realising their true potential can benefit from.
The inner voice of self-doubt doesn’t have all the answers.
To get a copy of Roger and Don’s best seller “Speed of Sound, Sound of Mind” on Positive Mental Health and Personal Resilience on Amazon.
Or drop me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more