To perform at or above our potential, we have to learn how to talk to ourselves about ourselves in a positive way.
When it comes to performance, it is very important to understand three basics about how the mind works. The first is something called Problem Centric thought (PCT). PCT is the biological tendency to focus on our failures or the negative. Think about it this way--at work, you do a hundred things right during the day and one thing less than perfect. When you are driving home, what does your mind have a tendency to focus on? It's totally normal for our brains to focus on the negative. That's PCT.
The second principle is called expectancy theory. Expectancy theory is really the root of all psychology. The definition of expectancy theory is that which you focus on expands. We as humans are made up of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Science tells us that the thoughts we allow ourselves to have end up controlling the way we feel and behave. Because of this, whatever we focus on will expand.
The third principle is self-confidence. Self-confidence is the number one variable for human performance. If your confidence is genuinely high, this is a really good sign that you will be performing or playing at or above your potential. If your confidence is low, it will be very difficult to perform successfully.
Now consider how these principles work together. Remember that it is totally normal to focus on the negative. That is PCT. In fact, the more you focus on the negative, the more negative you will have. That's expectancy theory. The more negative, the lower your self-confidence, which makes it more likely to have poor performance. That's self-confidence. Poor performance makes it easier to focus on the negative. The more you focus on the negative, the more negative you create, and so on... This is called a negative cycle, and unfortunately, it is totally normal.
So what do we do about it?
The identity statement is a tool based on the research by Maxwell Maltz. In 1960 Maltz wrote a book called Psychocybernetics, a groundbreaking book in the field of mental health and performance. He identified for the first time, self-image. Self-image is essentially how people view themselves, and what they believe they are capable of achieving.
What Maltz found regarding self-image was that a person does not outperform nor under-perform his or her self-image for long. Maltz also found that people develop their self-image through what they consistently say to themselves about themselves.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to talk to ourselves with a very negative slant. Much of this comes from PCT. Because of this PCT tendency, most people are walking around with a low self-image.
Maltz also found, however, that self-image doesn't have to be determined by current reality. It can and should actually be determined by desire. Simply put, it doesn't matter what you are achieving today; what matters is what you want to achieve.
The Identity Statement
A proven way to attack negative thinking is to develop a proactive positive statement, sort of like a personal mantra. I call this an identity statement. The following are three examples of identity statements:
- I am healthy and strong, I am the fastest and most dominant back in the league. No one stops me.
- I am a challenger and a machine, I have no equal.
- I outwork the competition everyday, I am the most effective CPA in the country, and I experience true love as a wife and mother..
When it comes to creating your identity statement, it's okay to dream big. Develop something that wakes you up and energizes you. Take 60 seconds now and write out your identity statement. Don't worry about getting it perfect. Get something now, and then over time you can improve it. At some point, you will start to believe what you are telling yourself. It's then that your competition had better look out.