Words, Words, Words
By Anthony Gillespie
Words, words words.
They can make us or break us. Let me explain.
You become what you think about (or tell yourself) all day long. In psychology, there is a thing called ‘self efficacy’ which is basically your belief system about how you might perform in a particular situation, i.e. it is about the inner voice that chats away in the background. The good news is that you can change what you are hearing and go from being a passive recipient of some unhealthy internal dialogue to the director of the conversation with a different theme.
Let’s say for example that you have a belief that you are fat and unhealthy and you keep telling yourself that over and over. Guess what happens? You reinforce that belief with the actions of an overweight person, so it becomes even more of a reality. On the flip side, you can turn things around with a little positive self talk.
I remember when I was a kid competing in tennis tournaments and there was this guy from the US, who was really not that great and not really a contender in any of the State tournaments. But gee, if you listened to what he said and his ‘Mom’ kept telling everybody, you would think he was the number one junior in the world! We as Aussies hate talking ourselves up but this guy basically transformed himself into a better and better player. It was like he was creating a champion….. with words! Now, I am not saying you should kid yourself, but I am saying that what you tell yourself repeatedly can have this positive, construction type quality. It is almost as if the incongruence between current words and actual reality is put under so much pressure that balance being restored is the eventual outcome.
It has been said that actions speak louder than words. How true it is! I think we can get caught wasting a huge amount of time ‘waiting for inspiration’ before being compelled to act. You might be waiting a long time, in fact a lifetime, if the law of averages has anything to do with it. It has been estimated that about 5% of the population are on the success curve when it comes to health and fitness. Contrarian psychologist Phil Jauncey encourages the ‘just do it’ rather than the endless thinking and self talk attempts at finding inspiration. This makes perfect sense when it comes to health and fitness. Just trust that moving more and eating healthy is good. No words to yourself in negotiation, just action daily. The prevailing wisdom says the result will be good and mincing words or vacillating about it, certainly a waste of time but may be even a habit with a lethal end result.
Words can be used to distort, construe or convey. It really is your choice how you use them. I studied an area of psychology called ‘Discursive Psychology’ and conversation analysis. It looked at how people use words to create an effect either for themselves or to influence others. There was no guessing at their motivation. It was indeed an interesting area of psychology because it was very much against what most people see psychology to actually be. I studied an interview Shane Warne gave when he was found to have performance enhancing drugs in his blood. It was quite illuminating to see his choice of words. He referred to the banned substances as ‘ingredients’ not as drugs and said that his ‘Mum gave it to him’. You don’t have to be a trained researcher to see how this might convey a picture of innocence and have a certain effect on how this situation may be being manipulated to change how it could be viewed or interpreted.
These little tricks that we use in actual conversations are often employed internally when we might be considering our intention to go the gym and do a workout for example. “It’s really very hot and I have to get this report out the door. I will do the workout I am missing today on the weekend because work is my priority but besides that I definitely don’t want to get heat exhaustion”. It doesn’t matter that you would be working out in an air-conditioned gym and the report COULD wait till tomorrow and you know that health is more important than work. It is the lesser discomfort that you are prepared to put up with. This is where it comes back to values and not words. Values will cause you to act almost on autopilot and that is what you want folks when it comes to behaviours that improve health and fitness.
You just have to trust the WORDS I am saying and then lock in the high return value of health, that you would rather be functionally fit, strong, useful and good looking for the rest of your life (fitter people usually look better! – appealing to vanity works surprisingly well) than make up weak excuses from the word games we play.
B Sp Sc, B Sc. psych (HONS)
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