Are you unknowingly sabotaging your goals with self-defeating thoughts?
Words are very powerful. In our politically correct world, we are usually very careful about what we say to others. However, we may not be as selective with our inner dialogue.
The words we use to talk to ourselves can have a powerful effect on our attitude and motivation toward the things we want to accomplish.
Understanding this connection and consciously choosing the words we use will go a long way toward overcoming these self-defeating thoughts.
An Example of Self-Defeating Thoughts
Recently, I’ve been working on a sizeable writing project. It was bigger than anything that I’ve done in the past and it was a little intimidating to me. I had a deadline that I was working toward. This added to my internal pressure to keep making progress.
When I feel overwhelmed by something, I tend to procrastinate on it. I think this is a pretty common reaction. Unfortunately, it is also self-defeating. It was going to keep me from meeting my goal of finishing the writing project on the timeline I had established.
At first, I kept telling myself things like:
- I should be working on my project.
- I need to be getting that done.
- I have to get busy if I want to finish on-time.
Every time I had some free time available to work on it, I’d start telling myself these things. This added to my anxiety and therefore made me avoid doing anything on it. It was a vicious cycle.
The Cause of the Self-Defeating Behavior
I stopped and asked myself, “Why do I avoid working on this goal?”
I realized a big part of the problem was the words I was using. Should, need and have are words that imply an obligation. Essentially, I was trying to bully myself into writing.
I immediately changed my inner dialogue and things improved dramatically. I started saying:
- I want to work on this project.
- I want to get this done.
- I want to get busy so I can finish on time.
It might seem like a small, subtle change, but it made a big difference. The words I used when thinking about working on my project defined my attitude toward it.
When I felt forced to work on it, I refused, but when I appropriately told myself that I wanted to work on it, my lizard brain quieted down and I got busy.
Apply This to Overcome Your Self-Defeating Thoughts
My example is just one specific instance that demonstrates how uncontrolled thoughts can unwittingly work against you. Your situation may be a little different, but you can likely apply the same strategy to overcome similar mental barriers.
You might want to eat better or lose weight or stop smoking or declutter your home or improve your job performance or get on a budget. How you talk to yourself about these things can have a huge influence over how well you progress toward your goal.
We tend to avoid what stresses us or makes us feel inadequate or leaves us feeling confused. During these times, we fallback on old habits. We procrastinate on moving forward and instead start backsliding. Again, this is self-defeating.
Ask yourself, “Is my own thinking undermining my efforts to achieve my goal?” Examine the words you use in your head carefully to determine if you might be falling into the same trap I was. If so, then try changing the language you use and see if it works for you. You’ll likely find that it works wonders.
Photo by Ali Leila Photography