Awareness extends beyond simple identification of the world. You must also listen to the inner voice that guides you. In order to do this, you must become an outside observer to the mechanics of your mind and think about your thinking before achieving true personal success.
Psychologists have termed this process of cognitive thinking metacognition. Metacognition is “you” understanding the thought process behind your decision to grab a cupcake even though you’re trying to lose weight. It is “you” catching yourself making negative statements about you while randomly doing other things.
When I started to think about thinking, I began analyzing every nook and cranny of my brain, questioning its existence and intent. Why did I continue to place myself in the same self-destructive situation over and again?
It was like clockwork. I’d push my projects at work back until the very last minute, and then the perfectionist in me would place stress on myself to complete it right and on time. Meanwhile, my subconscious was telling me that “the project could still be a little better”, or, “you’ll never finish this by the deadline.”
The stress was always overwhelming, and it affected the way I treated others. At times, I avoided conversations or kept them to a minimum.
I realized that I needed to go deeper into ME to gain a better understanding. Once I did, I found that an unconscious voice narrated my actions and thoughts. This voice provided the mental script for my daily life. You will discover the same in yourself.
This unconscious voice—my self-talk—was the narrator in my mind that told me what to do and how to perceive things. It was a James Earl Jones-like voice that directed me based on past experiences, traumas, insecurities, fears, and outside images.
Because it dictates the trends, patterns, and little idiosyncrasies that make up your world, this is more than enough reason to begin thinking about thinking. Who knows what the James Earl Jones voice is telling you every day? You don’t want to replace the guy; you just want him to read a new script. You have followed the same one for quite some time; now is the time to rewrite it. Redefining yourself means rewriting your mental script to achieve happiness.
Listen to Your Inner Voice
I’ll never forget the story my friend Tim shared about the first time he recognized his inner voice.
It was a weekend void of work—and much else for that matter—and Tim jumped in the shower, a seemingly benign and routine activity. The shower was also a time for the idle mind run wild, and this particular day was no different, when the following thought popped into his head unprompted: “I hate my life.”
Tim was worried. Why would he tell himself this? His job and personal life had been great. Was there an insecurity or fear that led to this message? Did someone say it to him? How often did he subconsciously repeat this statement? Did it change the way he interacted with people or participated in life?
A negative message like this tends to stem from insecurities and fears. You too may have developed them as a child or when bombarded with the wrong messages from work-driven, high-pressured teachers, parents or employers. Your inner voice can be very convincing and destructive. It can also hold you back from a goal or rip your self-esteem to shreds.
How does this happen? Tim probably wasn’t filtering the development of these messages throughout his daily life. His mind is a talking parrot repeating whatever was said or seen, building stronger and stronger associations with the world inside and outside of him. Whatever the message, it was probably reinforced or in the process of being reinforced through repeated exposure. It is an example of the messages that our minds learn intentionally and unintentionally.
Pay attention to the messages that you tell yourself. When you practice meditation, mindfulness, and slowing down for a moment to become more aware, this voice is far louder than you ever realized. What does it say? It may have a far more negative influence on how you feel or what you do than you imagine. There’s no doubt that the “I can’t do it” messages that I told myself for years held me back from taking chances in my business or being more intimate in my romantic relationships.
Don’t be mistaken; having an inner voice is a strength as much as it is a weakness. We can be very convincing to ourselves, and this is especially important when we need reassurance or confidence. It will often be your inner coach giving you a constant pep talk to “take a leap of faith”, or, give you advice or perspective when you need it most.
Your new goal is to wake up to life around you—and inside of you—at any given moment. It is during these times that you will be able to take a moment, breathe, focus on the now, and remove yourself from instinct and emotion.
Typically, people begin this transformation process by observing their inner voice, behaviors, and environment. They follow this step with an analysis of their trends and patterns, also known as figuring out ‘why you do what you do.’ You can try to discover the origin of any negative message. You don’t want similar messages from the same source, and you certainly don’t want them reinforced.
It is an intriguing process, but it can also be a scary one. You may open a box of feelings from your childhood that has consequently affected your decision to do something over 20, 30, or 40 years later. It can be a strange, weird, sad, or intriguing experience.
You may start placing blame on others or yourself. You may ask yourself, “Am I a good person?”, or, “Am I screwed up?” It could result in a tailspin of fears and insecurities.
It’s very easy to judge—especially yourself. It takes effort and practice to look at you objectively. Just like other unconscious truths about you, you must decide how deep you wish to go and how much time you spend on each message.
Either way, you’ll need to replace negative messages with positive messages. You may also need to provide proof for yourself that these messages aren’t real.
I am a visual person: I need to see the messages in front of me. If I tell myself “I’m not a good personal trainer,” I look for evidence to dispute this claim. I read positive reviews from clients who enjoyed their personal training experiences with me. This strategy may work for you too. The following positive messages may help you overcome your fears, insecurities, irrational emotional reactions, and more:
- I can overcome this.
- My history proves the inaccuracy of this negative message.
- I will only think rationally about this situation.
- I will always try to be my best self despite my imperfections.
- I am prepared to handle any unknown.
- I can change this situation even though I can’t do it right now.
- I love who I am and accept the little idiosyncrasies of my being.
- Fears and insecurities disappear as quickly as they appear.
- I will be strong enough to face my fear again.
- My insecurities are irrational.
- I have the power to redefine myself.
- I have the control to change my environment.
- I have the control over my happiness at work.
With the right practice, you will develop the power to reinforce a strong message—a message that can drive you to new heights and triumph over your weaknesses.
Looking for other ways to redefine your life? Check out my recent articles 50 Ways to Change Your Life Today or 9 Self-Improvement Books That Will Change Your Life too.
Michael Moody is the author of the self-improvement book Redefine Yourself: The Simple Guide to Happiness and the former fitness expert on NBC’s The Biggest Loser/MSN Chicago tour. The owner of the successful Chicago personal training business Michael Moody Fitness, his fitness and life-structure programs have helped his personal training clients lose more than 2,500 pounds since 2005. Michael has been featured in Muscle & Fitness and Today’s Chicago Woman magazines, among others. During his time as the official trainer for PBS’s The Whitney Reynolds Show, he also produced an inspirational segment about his travels in Guatemala.
Having researched emotion and coping behaviors in university-level studies, Michael has presented various fitness, motivation, body image, and stress-management programs at Illinois State University, DePaul University, corporations, high schools, and workshops.