The most powerful influence in your life isn’t a mentor, a parent, a coach, or any one else you look to for guidance. The most powerful influence on you is…you. That voice inside your head is the voice you hear more than any other and it can either be your worst enemy or your biggest ally.
The book we mention is Chatter by Ethan Kross and the podcast is The Allusionist.
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Pam: [00:06] You’re listening to Not Bad Advice, where our goal is to offer perspective that helps you improve one aspect of your life at a time.
[00:13] I’m Pamela Lund.
CK: [00:20] And I’m CK Chung.
Pam: [00:22] And we hope that after listening, you’ll think, “Hey, that’s not bad advice!”
[00:27] The most powerful influence in your life isn’t a mentor, a parent, a coach, or anyone else you look to for guidance. The most powerful influence on you is you. That voice inside your head is the voice you hear more than any other, and it can either be your worst enemy or your biggest ally.
[01:01] We think at a speed that is equivalent to 4,000 words per minute. 4,000 words per minute. That seems impossible, but thoughts are more nebulous than speech. You can have a complete thought without hearing all of the words in your inner dialogue. So that’s why I said that we think at a speed that is equivalent to 4,000 words per minute. Not that we actually think 4,000 words per minute.
[01:28] Not everyone has a personal narrator, constantly reminding them of everything they need to do and every weird thing that they’ve ever said, but most of us do have an internal monologue to some degree, even if we don’t hear all of the words we’re thinking. If yours is as active as mine, it probably sounds something like this:
[01:49] What are we having for dinner tonight? I’m cold. I was just hot five minutes ago. You sound like a judgy know-it0all in this post. Did you reply to that text? Is that a bug or just fuzz? You were too short in that email. They’re going to think you were being a jerk. I need new jeans. Do we need earthquake insurance?
[02:08] If you don’t have that going on in your head, you’re one of the lucky ones. I’m kidding, of course. I’ve made friends with the constant chatter in my head, but the idea of not being constantly interrupted by myself is appealing.
CK: [02:20] That reminds me of a podcast episode of the Allusionist, about a woman who had a brain aneurysm while doing karaoke. When she woke up in the hospital, she had no internal monologue and was left with only around 40 words in her vocabulary. But she didn’t get scared or worried about what was happening to her because she didn’t have a voice telling her to be. She didn’t worry about whether she’d have another aneurysm or even if she had recovered from the first one. She was just completely present.
[02:53] So she was probably in a state like people get into when they’re in a flow state or that they’re trying to achieve with meditation. So over time, her internal monologue returned and she eventually recovered her vocabulary and language skills, but she said that while it was gone, she felt very calm and peaceful
Pam: [03:12] I can only imagine my inner dialogue is so active that I bet it spills over to annoying you sometimes because I’ll bring up something out of the blue that needs to be done, or that could go wrong or whatever it is that my brain has decided needs to be addressed right now.
CK: [03:30] Yup, But I know I do it too.
Pam: [03:36] Other than being annoying, active, inner dialogue can be detrimental, if your thoughts are self-critical or harmful in another way. For example, if you start thinking about something new you want to try and the voice in your head chimes in with all of the ways you will fail at it and how much you suck, so you shouldn’t bother, you’ll talk yourself out of doing something that could make you happy.
[03:59] Not all negative thoughts are harmful or problematic. Research has shown that a large percentage of our inner dialogue is focused on things that could be considered negative, but that’s just because that’s how our brains work through problems and overcome obstacles.
[04:14] So the good news is if you have an active, inner dialogue, like I do with a few tweaks, you can use it to be your own personal performance coach instead of your own worst critic. We’re going to give you some tips to make that shift.
[04:26] A couple of them come from a book called Chatter by Ethan Kross, who has spent his entire career researching inner dialogue. It’s an interesting and entertaining read, so if you want to know more after listening today, pick up a copy. There are also more tactics covered in the book, but we’re only going to cover the ones that I think will have the biggest impact and be the easiest to employ.
[04:48] Before you can use any of these tips, you have to develop awareness of your inner voice. Sometimes I think we should call this show “Awareness, Obviously,” because that’s the first thing we’re always saying you need. But you can’t change something until you’re aware of what needs to change.
CK: [05:04] It’s one thing to be aware of what our inner voice is saying, but in order to progress, we also need to pay attention to when and how it’s affecting us in ways that need to change to achieve what we want.
Pam: [05:18] You’re absolutely right. We need active awareness. Once you’re actively aware of what the voice in your head is telling you, you can decide whether or not you want to listen. I usually like to save the best for last, but this first tip is my favorite because it works so well. And so far it has worked in every circumstance. I’ve tried it in.
[05:38] So the first tip is one from Chatter and it’s to use your name instead of I, when you’re speaking to yourself in your head. So the voice becomes separate from you.
CK: [05:48] Yeah, they refer to that as distanced self-talk, and it works by creating distance between you and what you’re experiencing, so you can think about it more objectively. It also reduces the duration and severity of negative thoughts, which can keep you from spiraling into anxiety or self-defeating thought patterns.
[06:08] You can also ask yourself questions. Like, “why don’t you think you can write a book and answer yourself?” But remember to use distanced self-talk in your replies.
Pam: [06:18] Okay, so if my inner critic was telling me that I couldn’t write a book, I might reply with “Pam, you can write a book… You only think you can’t because you’ve never done it before.”
CK: [06:29] Exactly. That way, it registers as outside input. It takes you out of your problems and gives you a different perspective just by changing how you address yourself.
Pam: [06:39] And it really does work. It sounds a little goofy, I know. But I’ve been using it since I learned about it and it quickly stops the jerky voice in my head. An extension of this tip is to talk to yourself like you would speak to someone else. If your friend told you they wanted to write a book, but didn’t believe they could, would you say, “Yeah, you’re right, you’re too dumb to write a book.”
CK: [07:01] Depends on the friend.
Pam: [07:02] Fair enough. I’ll amend this tip then to say, you should speak to yourself like you are speaking to the smartest, most capable, most amazing person you know.
CK: [07:14] There you go.
Pam: [07:15] Ask yourself what you would say to that person. Who’s having the same thoughts you are, and then give yourself the advice out loud using your name.
[07:25] Tip number two is to be tough on yourself. When your inner-voice starts dragging you into believing unfounded fears, fight back. Tell your inner critic that it’s an idiot. Tell it all of the reasons it’s wrong. Stand up and defend yourself.
[07:41] A couple of weeks ago, I caught myself listening to the voice in my head telling me that I had no business taking on coaching clients and that I would never build up a YouTube channel, like I’ve been wanting to. As soon as I realized what was happening, I used both of the tips we’ve given so far to stop it. I stood there in the kitchen and said out loud, “Pam you’re being stupid… You can do anything you want to do… just look at how much you’ve already done.” And it worked. Mostly because I was then laughing at myself, yelling at myself, but I don’t care why it worked because it did work.
[08:15] After that, I was excited about tackling my big goals rather than defeated by my inner-critic. That doesn’t mean the inner-critic won’t come back, it’s always going to be there. But it’s not about stopping the voice in your head. It’s about having these thoughts and being able to act anyway. The people who achieved their big goals, aren’t magically free from fear or self doubt. They’re able to have the same thoughts you and I do without getting stopped by them.
[08:44] Don’t forget that the language you’re surrounded by will influence the language you think with. Everything external affects everything internal, and vice versa. If you have a lot of people in your life that are negative, or if you consume a lot of media from people who primarily speak critically of themselves and others, you will adopt that pattern too.
[09:05] You have to consciously surround yourself with people who are encouraging and productive. Not people who are all sunshine and rainbows or who don’t live in reality, just people who aren’t on a mission to cut others down and make everyone miserable. Choose your influences carefully. They really do matter.
[09:22] The Tarot card I chose represent today’s message is the devil. When you bring up the devil, most people will think of temptation to do evil things, or as something used to scare people into being quote good. But I want to shift that perspective a bit. I want you to think of the devil as anything that is working against your best interests and as fears that are preventing you from doing what you want to do.
[10:24] The voice inside your head can be the devil, in this sense. It can invite you into fears and stories that keep you in contraction instead of allowing expansion. It can limit you by convincing you of all the bad things that could happen, if you follow your dreams.
[10:40] But the devil is just what you perceive it to be. It can be evil and harmful, or it can encourage you to take chances you might not otherwise take. You can let the voice in your head be the devil that holds you back and causes you to regret missed opportunities. Or you can let it be the devil that pushes you to take risks with the potential for great rewards.
[11:02] Ultimately, the devil in your mind is just you, and you get to decide what kind of influence it has.
[11:12] If you find yourself thinking, “Hey, that’s not bad advice” while listening today, we’d love it if you share the episode with your friends and rated it in iTunes.
[11:20] You can get in touch with us on Twitter, where I’m @Pamela_Lund and CK is @cKdisco.
[11:27] To find us on other platforms, visit ForcesOfEqual.com/Advice. There, you can also contact us if there’s something you need advice about. We’d love to hear from you.