Archive for the ‘Inside The Mind’ Category

Managing Self Talk – Part 2

Back after a really long break! Used some self talk to get over my writer’s block!

Last post on this topic talked about how Self Talk is the fundamental process through which we interpret and respond to situations. When the talk is negative, it makes us interpret situations negatively and creates unhappiness. Modifying self talk is therefore an important technique for happiness.

This is what we will talk about in this post.

It only works if you work on it
Before we proceed, a word of advise. None of what is being in this blog or elsewhere is of any use, if you do not try out the ideas suggested. If you merely read this blog and move on, you are no better than earlier. It only makes a difference when you diligently practice some technique that works for you.
Change and personal growth is hard, there are no shortcuts. The path is fraught with failures. It is only by staying the course can one expect to see results. It is best to not believe claims of self help books that promise miraculous results. Such expectations often lead to disappointment.

For me, meditation has been the fundamental instrument of change. It has made me keenly mindful of the self talk busybody within. I directly experience the connection between my self talk and my mental state. Such powerful experiences were the by-products of meditation and have vastly helped me change, over time.

Modifying Self Talk
Shad Helmstetter, in his book, “What to say when you talk to yourself” suggests the following techniques

  1. Silent self talk: As soon as you get up, tell yourself in your mind the one positive statement that directly attacks the problem you have chosen to solve. It could be “I feel energetic today”, “I can handle this!”, “I am finishing to write that blog post today!” and so on. Repeat this to yourself several times in a day.
  2. Choose a clear, vivid positive statement and say it aloud several times in a day. Put up that statement next to your mirror, bed, workspace.
  3. Self conversation: Engage yourself with conscious self conversation that is positive. This will override the subconscious self talk that is happening. You can do this every time you have a few minutes free.
  4. Tape your positive self talk conversations and listen to them several times in a day.

When you construct your self talk statement, keep it specific and in the present tense. For example, “I have quit smoking. My lungs feel clear and healthy.”

Use the language you think in.

Initially it may feel silly. Don’t let that discourage you.

Modify your statements till you find one that works best.

But be kind on yourself. Don’t scold yourself when your feelings don’t match your self talk. Keep going. Keep trying.

Sometimes, managing self talk may require work at a deeper level. Other techniques such as REBT,CBT and NLP may be of use. But they require a trained practitioner.

Here are some reference sites:





Managing Self Talk

A friend sent in this comment: “Despite knowing what you say, we are unable to stop feeling unhappy.”  So true.  There is no easy or quick way for us to change our mind.  It requires years of diligent practice. Failures are common.  But one needs to stay the course.  Experts feel that to become really good at anything we need to have 10,000 hours of practice.  It’s no different for the practice of happiness.

Which means that you must really really want to overcome unhappiness.  Indeed my experience and that of many others is that, it was a crisis in our lives that impelled us to take action. Here is a motivational podcast from Steve Pavlina.  He talks about this lucky moment when he was caught for shoplifting at the age of 19.  It completely changed his life. He is an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who is passionate about personal development.  A must hear.

The good news is that we can benefit from as much we practice.  It is not as if, we will get the rewards after reaching some difficult milestone. Every step on the path pays back.

Now to the main subject of today’s post: Self Talk

In the last post we talked about how we feed and nourish unhappiness in the mind. Driving this cycle of negativity is the self talk we engage with in our minds.  The nature of this self talk determines how we feel and how we perceive the world around us and in turn our behaviour.

Try this simple exercise.  Sit down in a quiet place. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Do this for about 15 minutes.  Try to stay with the breath. It becomes clear and apparent that we are unable to stay focused on our breath as the mind interrupts every few seconds.  There is a LOT of talk happening inside.  And this is happening continuously.

Constant self talk tends to reinforce our beliefs. In his classic “What do say when you talk to yourself” Shad Helmstetter says that 70% of this self talk is negative –  “I can’t”, “I wish”, “I ought to but can’t”, “I am no good” and so on.

Here is a structure for what is happening.

  1. Core beliefs drive irrational operating beliefs
  2. Beliefs drive our evaluation of the situation
  3. Evaluation creates feelings
  4. Feelings determine action (this is behaviour: the part that is visible to others)
  5. Action create results

It is through this self talk that our mind processes situations. So when the mind tells us to do something, it rapidly runs through LAYERS of processing.  Feelings and beliefs are a key part of the decisions we arrive at.  We may think that we have logically thought through a situation.  The truth is that feelings are involved and we selectively look at data that support our predisposition towards a certain decision.

Here is an example from my own experience.

The Situation

My colleague shouted at me in a meeting where several of my juniors were present.  I felt hurt, angry and walked out.  I wanted to resign. But a reality check held me back and I swallowed the insult.  I came back with coffee to make it look like I had just taken a break.

Now, here is a more detailed look at what happened in my mind
My Mind Under The Microscope

Self Talk Feeling Action Operating Belief Core Belief
I don’t need to take this shit. Let me walk out.
I should leave this organisation. All I have got is insult.
Angry, hurt I walked out Bad things must never be said about me. I have an undeniable right to feel nice.
I need the money.  Let me just hang in. Fear Had second thoughts. Irrational fear1:
It is better to flee than fight.
Irrational fear2:
I am responsible for the well being of my juniors. I will scare them by showing the enemity between partners of the company.
I can’t fight!
I am not good. I keep up appearances.
I don’t want to be seen as weak by my juniors. Anxiety Planned to come back to the meeting gracefully I must be seen to be competent by others at all times I am not good. I keep up appearances.
I will return to the meeting. I will take revenge later. Grudge Came back with some coffee to show that I had just taken a break. Rational belief: I will reconcile
Irrational: I must not show my weakness to others
I am not good. I keep up appearances.
Planning ways of taking revenge More anger My hurt will be compensated by giving him hurt. I can’t fight!
And I hate myself for it.

Here is the point: Most of the beliefs mentioned are irrational, can be refuted and have no factual bases.  Yet the mind habitually plays them out as if they were undeniable fact.   My unhappiness was the resultant feeling.  If I had acted on my feeling of revenge I would further hurtled towards even more unhappiness.

So What Do We Do

The first step is to become aware of this process.  Second is to practice being mindful of what is happening at the level of body and mind.  The third is to then change the self talk in ways that will lead us to happiness.

We will look at these steps in more detail in the next post.

Am I A Slacker At Work?

 “Make work your passion!”

“Follow your dreams!”

“Aim high!”

“Do something different.”

Motivational quotes about work-success seem to leap at us from every blog.  Inspirational speeches from successful business persons are being read with the fervor once reserved for religious texts.

Should my work consume me? Am I a “slacker” if I am anything less?  I don’t think so.

Especially if life-happiness is what you are looking for.  Happiness comes from enjoying the small things in life.  The chirping of the birds.  Watching your toddler laugh.  Teaching your teenage daughter a new concept in Physics.  Helping your aged parents. Random acts of kindness…

Happiness need not come from work.  Our work life could be a means to happiness.  Work gives us the money required to live life happily.  But happiness is to be found in the things that occupy are ordinary lives.  Let us not lose sight of that.

We need to be competent in our work, so that we feel satisfied about our contributions.  Beyond that I would think twice about losing sleep.  My company wants me to be ambitious.  Chase the next promotion.  Manage more people.  Aspire for a better car. I would choose to be suspicious.

 How I want to live my life is really my choice. That choice could lead me to an “unambitious” career.

So let know no one convince you that you are any less, because you do not chase what others think you ought to achieve. 

Life is elsewhere.

I Am Unhappy At Work, I Want To Quit

Unhappiness at workplace seems to be a common experience.  Indeed, all of us have experienced unhappiness one time or the other.  One feels that quitting is the only way out.  If you have that feeling, think again!

Changing jobs can come with huge costs for yourself and the family.  And there’s no guarantee you will be happy at the new job.

Where Art Thou, Happiness?

One small study published in 1978 showed that lottery winners were no happier one year after receiving their prizes than were other, similar non winners. Accident victims who had paralysis conversely seemed less unhappy than expected, reverting to a baseline level of happiness, not much different from others! (Source:  Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative?, 1978, Brickman P, Coates D, Janoff-Bulman R.)

What does that tell us?  You can be happy in spite of many reasons to be unhappy.  Try swapping your bad boss for paralysis! 

Happiness is not the absence of troubles.  Happiness is the RESULT of a set of attitudes and character strengths such as Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance and Transcendence (See: Positive Psychology)

Take a moment here to think about what is being said…………. 

Some Practical Steps To Happiness

The first step in our search for happiness is to find out whether we are really unhappy at work.  Simple as this may seem, most people do not get it!  We go about our daily chores thinking that this is how life will be.  We believe that our work will always be unfulfilling and unhappy. That is so not true!

 Telltale signs of workplace unhappiness

  1. You have to drag yourself to work every day in the morning.  Not occasional blues, but persistent disinterest is manifest.
  2. You are losing interest in the projects you are working on.  You are no longer bothered about the outcomes of the project that you are responsible for.
  3. You find it a burden to read a single email from your juniors.
  4. You complain constantly to your wife about your work situation.
  5. You can’t stand the sight of your boss.

Introspect. If any of the above is true, you are unhappy at your workplace. 

Simple as it may seem, recognizing that “I am unhappy inside” and accepting that “I need to change”, is the most important step towards happiness.

YOU alone can make the changes in your life towards happiness.    

 Here are some ideas for you to think consider and implement

  1. Become part of an informal group at work that seems happy. Happiness is contagious.
  2. Focus on the work that you love, rather than the recognition for it
  3. WHATEVER the reasons for those “99 year wars”, close them now and make peace with foes at office.  Don’t make professional disagreements into personal battles.
  4. Get a sense of your own contribution to the organisation’s success.  Understand the entire chain of the business process and your part in it.
  5. Make a list of your achievements and share the list with friends and family.
  6. Make peace with your failures and with your ambitions.
  7. Compare your own troubles with those of others.  Talk to your security guard or the maid who cleans the office.  Feel lucky and happy for what you have.
  8. Find a life outside work.  Engage with social service organizations. Find a hobby.  Develop interest in music, art, culture. Get a sense of context about your office life.
  9. Stop comparing yourself with others.  You are unique as is the other person.  Each of you has to find your own way ahead.

This list could go on and on.  Why don’t you write down some of your own and post them on this blog? 

In short, work actively towards identifying and solving the source of your unhappiness.