Sustainers > Change Your Mind

Positive Self-Talk

What kinds of things do you say about yourself to yourself? That is the essence of self-talk as a means of engaging in Change Your Mind activity to help yourself regardless of what is going on with you. Imagine that you are wearing some kind of a jacket with two large pockets. One is full of "I'm OK" messages; the other is full of "I'm not OK" messages. Both pockets are equally accessible. Which one are you most likely to draw from?

This is yet another variation on the theme described in the Labeling and Relabeling section of this Change Your Mind unit. When faced with any event -- from thinking about your upcoming day while eating your breakfast, to dealing with driving situations on the way to work, to dealing with all that comes your way during the work day -- you have the ability to "talk to yourself" (internally) about your competence, skill, and resiliency. These kinds of internal personal dialogues can be of help to you.

Woolfolk and Richardson (1978) write well about it; virtually every self-help book of any value since Norman Vincent Peale's (1987) The Power of Positive Thinking has included it; and Ward and Reuter's (2011) excellent work on strength-centered counseling and Stephen and Sybil Wollin's (1992) work on identifying resiliencies also speak to the vital importance of identifying strengths and competencies in one's life.

Several years ago, one of us learned about self-talk in a very specific, practical way in a workshop with a wise, wonderful man named Ray McGee. Some years earlier, he had attended a training called the Omega Seminar, in which, among other things, he learned the following all-inclusive statements about self-worth and personal responsibility. At the seminar, he was to learn these affirming statements, then recite each 10 times to himself each morning and each evening. Years later, he still recites the statements daily. They are:

    1. I like myself unconditionally.

    2. I never devalue myself through destructive self-criticism.

    3. I have unconditional warm regard for all people at all times.

    4. I am easily able to relax at any time, and every day through every affirmation I am healthier in mood, body, and spirit.

    5. I am a self-determined person and I allow all others that same right.

    6. I am completely responsible for all my responses to all other people and to all events.

The more general application of Ray McGee's powerful learning which we would like you to include as part of your work with us takes the basic format of the Omega Seminar statements, but opens the content to be self-selected by you.

First, we would like you to record several important issues about your life, your work, or yourself which would be well worth a daily reminder. Three to five of them may be a good place to start, and you always can add, delete, or revise.

Second, we would like you to write a brief statement about each one (no more than one sentence), following these structural rules:

  1. Each statement must begin with the words "I like and enjoy..."
  2. Each statement must be positively stated (e.g., if the issue is about having positive relationships with your peers at work, then it could go something like "I like and enjoy having a positive relationship with my colleagues," and NOT "I like and enjoy not being a jerk around my colleagues." Do you hear the very different deep messages in each of these?)

Third, we would like you to record these to access at any time.

Fourth, we would like you to repeat each one to yourself five to ten times in succession, at least once per day.

In fact, these can be reminders of things you already know to be of special importance to you, or they can be reminders of things which you would like to become more important to you (i.e., goals you're working toward). So if you have always wanted to do a better job of participating in regular exercise, but never quite have gotten there, what would hurt with an additional daily reminder like "I like and enjoy taking a daily 20-minute walk." This application of the Omega-via-McGee exercise has had a powerful positive impact on the life of the one of us (Tim Hatfield), who adapted it into the form suggested above. For a closer look at how Tim came to learn about and to implement these issues into both his personal and professional life, click the following link:


What we didn't say at the beginning of this Self-Talk section is that, even though the positive statements are as easily accessible as negative ones, the fact is that some people will have a difficult time believing the positive statements. You might be one of those persons. While we cannot take the time here to go into a major discourse on self-esteem, a truism in counseling is that if a person has heard "I am no good" messages often enough in their life, eventually they're going to believe it -- and act on it. It starts in childhood, and the impact of that kind of negative "programming" is cumulative. If you have heard 1000, 5000, 10000 times a message like "You'll never amount to anything," it's a difficult message to ignore.

The effects of negative statements can be reversed, in part by self, with the help of positive self-talk.

In closing this section, we want to add one more reminder of this powerful concept, which we first learned about from Scott Peck's book The Different Drum (1987). This is adapted from Peck's retelling of an ancient tale in the foreword of his book: