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The Importance of Self-Talk
by Jim Will, Ph.D.

Q: What do a rodeo barrel racing champion, a Hall of Fame inductee, an executive chef in a world-renowned restaurant, the number-one salesperson in a technology company, and a topflight forensic psychologist have in common?

A: Each has learned the importance of managing and controlling "self–talk." These are just a few of the diverse group of professionals I have been privileged to work with over the last 25 years, and yet thousands of people just like you and me in everyday walks of life have also seen dramatic changes in their world as they learn how to manage and control their self–talk.

Let's go deeper into this subject by understanding how our own self-talk, or as I like to call it, "the little voices inside of our head," literally affects all aspects of our world.

From the moment we wake up in the morning to the second we go to sleep at night, we are all thinking, daydreaming, wondering, worrying, and having conversations with our self whether we realize it or not. And the harsh reality is that most people's self-talk is rather brutal. People constantly ask themselves the wrong types of questions. They beat themselves up or occasionally find themselves in total denial of reality. I am not saying we should simply think positive and suddenly all of your challenges will be resolved by this time tomorrow. There's more to it than that.

The foundation of this article and those to come will be based on the power of self-talk. Let me put it into perspective. We are all conversing with ourselves at an incredibly fast rate of speed – perhaps 10 to 20 times faster than we can speak out loud. The average person tops out around 500 words per minute. Our internal thinking, our self- talk, is oftentimes running on nitro, going many times faster than we can talk out loud. Unfortunately, it is estimated that the average person's self-talk is between 60 and 85 percent negative, where the subject is thinking about what he or she doesn't want to occur in his or her world.

The analogy I came up with years ago to help people understand this concept is simply asking yourself if you would go to a grocery store with a list of things you don't need. Of course not! However, when we think about what we don't want in our lives, then it is every bit as absurd as going to the grocery store of life with a list of things we don't want to get.

Because most of the people reading this article are interested in barrel racing, let's look at some examples of how this could apply to your competitive world. How many times have we heard contestants ask the wrong questions? Things like, "Why can’t I relax?; Why aren’t the ground conditions better?; Why is it I can't ever seem to make a penalty-free run?; What will the other contestants think of me if my horse doesn’t run here like he runs at home?; Why doesn't my family understand the pressure I am under?”

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