Do you talk to yourself? Yes we all do. Research shows that on average that we say 300-1000 words every minute to ourselves. That is a lot of words. The big question is what the heck are we saying?
I don’t know about you, but most of the time, I don’t think too much about what I am saying. Since most of what we do on a daily basis is habitual. According to Charles Duhigg in his best-selling book, “The Power Of Habit”. He says that close to 40% of what we do every single day is driven by habit. Meaning, we don’t have to think too much about it, if at all. If this is the case, then we don’t do too much talking to ourselves to get us through those daily actions.
The actions that require us to think are the ones that we must talk ourselves through. The actions that are hard, the actions that are different, the actions that push us more, the actions that are challenging. The conversations we have with ourselves during these daily activities are what require us to have mental toughness.
The Navy Seals. We all know them. We all know they are badass. In an effort to increase graduation rate amongst Navy Seal trainees the United States government commissioned a group of psychologist and neuroscientists to study what do successful graduates of the Navy Seals Academy do versus the ones who drop out?
It has been well documented that most trainees drop out in the academy during the drowning test. This is where the trainees are put underwater with their oxygen equipment on and the instructors then mess with them and create obstacles for the trainees, by turning off their air. By flipping their face masks off. Most of the time spent in the water, the trainees are without air. Their natural instincts are to come up for air, but this would disqualify them. Psychologists state that we as humans have developed a very primal instinct to be fearful of water, because the loss of breath and air, as you know, feels very scary and our natural instinct is to get air.
One of the things that they psychologists and neuroscientists found, was that the Navy Seals who were really good at talking to themselves positively were the ones who could get through the water test as well as the other mental and physical activities. Those trainees that tell themselves that this is only temporary and will be over soon. Those who tell themselves to keep going, you can do it. As I stated earlier, what you are saying to yourself during these moments when you are being pushed and challenged is what makes a great Navy Seal, or someone who has dropped out.
I can speak from my own experience as well. As a runner who has run several half-marathons and other distance races. I have found that a majority of the time when I don’t finish the race in the time I wanted to, it wasn’t because my legs gave out or the conditions weren’t right. No. Instead, it was my brain telling my to quit.
I would tell myself, things like, “Who cares if you hit that time now”, “The conditions today were bad, that can be your excuse”, “You have already accomplished more than most.”. When all of this chatting starts happening in my head there have been times I would push through and have a great race, and there has been other times were I have succumbed to the chatter and didn’t accomplish what I had wanted to accomplish.
Do you want to have more mental toughness? If you have read this far, my guess is you do. Here is what you have to do, to get it.
Whatever it is you are wanting to pursue that will challenge you, you have to start practicing for it. You have to start challenging yourself and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and get to that point where it is uncomfortable for you.
Once you are there, listen to yourself. How are you talking to yourself once you are in this state of discomfort? What are you telling yourself? You have to start creating this scenario for yourself and see how you respond. At the start you will most likely not respond very well. You will shut down sooner than you want to. However, if you keep doing it over and over you will eventually start to build some mental toughness and push through.
Just remember being uncomfortable for a little while is necessary, it isn’t going to be forever. As the great Muhammad Ali said: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Practice makes permanent. If you want to create a scenario of success for yourself, get in the habit of practicing something to create the mental toughness for yourself. We know that things will be hard. Especially when you are doing something you have never done, before. Start preparing yourself today by talking to yourself in a way that helps you push through when things get hard. The key to your success is how you talk to your self when you are being stretched outside the comfort zone. Get ready for it now, so you will be prepared.
To your success and your future.