One time, one of my girls wanted to try out for cheerleader at school, but at the last minute she opted not to try out. I thought that she would have been a very good cheerleader, so I asked her, “Why did you quit? You can’t get into a pattern where you fold and don’t follow through on something you want.”

Then she got mad at me and said, “Well, I didn’t want to try and fail. You never fail. You always win at everything. You’re always successful.”

Her answer startled me because I didn’t think she thought that about me. I started thinking, “She doesn’t see all the times when I fail, all the places where I lose, all the things that don’t go right. She only sees the success of our business or our life.”

I said to her, “All you see are the things that are successful. You don’t see that I start 10 things and lose at six or seven of them. You only see the three or four things that go right. And so now you say, ‘I’ve got to be perfect. My parents are perfect. People around me are perfect. They never screw up.’ But that’s not true.”

What happens to your self-talk, self-esteem, and goal-setting ability if you think others are perfect and you’re flawed? You don’t start things. You don’t go after goals that are worthy of you. If you get that feeling or belief that you can’t make a mistake or that everybody is always successful, you won’t let yourself do things that you’re capable of doing, or you set your goals so close to the end of your nose that they’re easily attainable. You never stretch to be what you’re capable of being.

boost self-esteem

You need confidence or reassurance that you can attain the vision and reach the goal even when you don’t have the slightest idea how you’re going to get there at the outset.

Low self-esteem won’t let you set your goal too far out. If you set a stretch goal, you then think, “I’ll never get there being me, and so I’ve got to override the system.”

Imagine yourself fishing off the stern of a boat that’s heading north. You’re not catching any fish, so you decide to change the boat’s direction. You grab the steering wheel and turn the boat to the east. Then you let go of the wheel and head back to the stern. As you do, the boat starts swinging back to the north on its own because you forgot to adjust the automatic pilot system. You only tried to override it.

You can temporarily act brave if you’re scared; you can temporarily act outgoing if you’re shy; you can temporarily act calm if you’re mad. You can override your automatic pilot system anytime. But if you don’t change the picture of who you are, the moment you let go of the steering wheel, the automatic pilot will kick in and draw you back again. You’ll feel the strain and regress.

There’s a better way. You can learn to turn the boat to the east without ever touching the steering wheel. How? Just change the automatic pilot system, and the boat will automatically go east.

The automatic pilot, of course, is your self-image. It determines the direction you lean east or north, positive or negative.

Smart Talk Gets You There

How do you change your self-image? By controlling and changing your self-talk. Constructive self-talk is what I call smart talk.

Self-talk is the continual dialogue you have with yourself. It is also the raw material from which you manufacture your own self-image: “Oh, I’m clumsy,” “I’m graceful,” “It’s easy for me,” “It’s hard for me.”

Your subconscious believes what you tell yourself, and then makes sure you act according to your belief. Language has power over behavior. If you control your self-talk, you can use your subconscious to help you achieve your goals.

When you observe an event in the external world in your community, your family, your marriage, your career you don’t record the actual event. You interpret it with your own self-talk. You tell yourself what you think is happening: “She was angry, but she didn’t mean what she said. I know what she really meant.” If you know that the world you perceive through your senses is only your version of the world, then you realize you can change it anytime you choose. You can’t change the event, but you can change your interpretation of the event by controlling your self-talk.

Remember: You move toward, and become like, that which you think about. Your present thoughts determine your future. Whatever you repeatedly tell yourself with your own self-talk determines your beliefs and self-image, which affect your behavior. Unless you change your stored beliefs by changing your self-talk, you won’t alter your behavior. Your future will look a lot like your past.

Suppose your boss fires you, and you tell yourself, “I’m worthless without this job. I don’t want to live.” You may choose to kill yourself, directly or indirectly. Who’s responsible for your behavior your boss or you?

Now change the scenario. After being fired, instead of telling yourself, “I’m worthless. I don’t want to live,” you think, “I wasn’t growing there anyway. Now I can find a much better job.” And you look for another job.

Who’s responsible for your behavior your boss or you? You are responsible. Because it isn’t the event the firing that causes your behavior. It’s the way you choose to interpret the event. “I’m worthless” is your self-talk version of what happened to you. “I don’t want to live” is your self-talk “truth.” Instantly, that most obedient slave, your creative subconscious, says, “Okay, whatever you want”even if it means self-destruction.

Thoughts accumulate to build beliefs. Have you ever made a mistake and asked yourself, “What’s the matter with me, anyway?” Each time you and I allow ourselves to dwell on negative self-talk (dumb talk), we add weight to our negative beliefs about ourselves. If you had a friend who talked to you the way you talk to yourself sometimes, would you keep that friend very long?

Be very selective about what you tell yourself. You can talk yourself into or out of, toward or away from, anything. Attitudes are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad except in relation to something you value. Yesterday’s old pictures, accumulated through self-talk, may make you lean away from something that is of great value and benefit to you today or toward something of great harm.

If I only had one thing to teach my grandchildren, I would teach them how “reality” is built. Reality isn’t built just once it’s always being built. You think it was just done when we were children? Sure, in the first five years that reality is strongly formed. But it isn’t over. Our subconscious image of reality is built by the way that we think and talk, especially by the way we talk to ourselves in words, images, and emotions.

Self-talk is the conversation that you carry on in your own mind. Every thought is assimilated in your brain, and every thought accumulates to build beliefs. “So what?” you ask. You self-regulate at your belief level, not your potential level. You build your own beliefs with your own thoughts beliefs about business, about wealth, about relationships, about your potential, about whether you’re a morning person or a night person, a smart person or a dumb person. You do that by how you speak to yourself.

Events don’t need to keep occurring for you to build a belief. You can relive one occurrence thousands of times in your mind. All you have to do is replay the image. Every time you remind yourself about an event with your selftalk, you visualize it as though it’s happening again. Usually, one thought doesn’t make a solid “take” on the subconscious level. There are exceptions, such as one-time affirmations from authority figures, marriage vows, graduation ceremonies, prayers, and sacred oaths or covenants. But, for the most part, it takes repetition. The event itself does not have to recur because when you think about something vividly, your subconscious believes that it’s actually happening.

Any time you imagine something vividly and you feel the related emotions, it makes a solid imprint and becomes “reality.” Every time you remember it, you reinforce the image. You move toward and become that which you think about. Your present thoughts determine your future. Smart talk will mean a better future.