I was in a coffee shop the other day. A lady, ‘T’, who was sitting at the next table started to chat. Not long into the conversation, she told me she was a single mother with financial responsibilities who, until recently, had been working in debt collection for the council. The job had become impossible in the current climate. It was emotionally draining, in some cases heartbreaking, and she had no job satisfaction. She decided to quit even though she had nothing to go to.
‘That’s fantastic, well done’ I said. She looked surprised. Everyone else had told her she was crazy to leave a secure job and pension. She had already got interviews for new positions. So far so good.
Apart from it wasn’t. In the space of 5 minutes, it became very clear to me that unless things changed, T was unlikely to get the job she so desperately needed and deserved.
‘I am not great at interviews’
‘Selling myself is not what I do best’
‘I have only ever worked for one organisation so my experience is not very broad’
‘I didn’t go to university’
T had no idea that it wasn’t her skills and experience that would let her down, but her own thoughts and the language she was using. She is not alone. Although the words may be different, we all have our individual dialogue that can very easily sabotage whatever we are trying to achieve.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change on the basis of the messages it receives. Everything we think, feel or do has an impact on the process. It is happening constantly. Just like a computer, it stores information and references it when faced with similar circumstances again. It does not have the ability to determine the quality of that information or whether it is right or wrong. If the same messages are received often enough, then it assumes they are true and will direct operations accordingly. As such, we effectively have the capacity wire our brain for success or failure.
If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right Henry Ford
Those who are more spiritual, would refer to the Law of Attraction which states that like attracts like. It says that everything and everybody is a bundle of energy vibrating at a particular frequency. Just like a magnet, you attract what you put out. It is believed that we can learn to raise our frequency by controlling our thoughts.
Whether you are spiritual in inclination or more grounded in science, the message is clear: by managing the brain, we can affect outcomes.
In T’s case, she has probably spent a lifetime thinking that she cannot, or maybe even should not, sell herself. Maybe it was driven by a long-held belief such as being told as a child that boasting was bad. Whatever the reason, left unattended, T chances of getting the job she wants are severely diminished.
However, it’s not all bad. In fact it’s hugely exciting. Armed with this knowledge, we can use it to our advantage.
Listen and learn
The first step is to monitor your dialogue. How often do you make negative statements about yourself or your perceived abilities? ‘I am rubbish at…’, ‘I hate my…’, ‘I wish I was…’, ‘That always happens when…’, ‘I can’t…’, ‘…is so much better than me’. And so on.
Once you look out for it, you will find that it usually happens very regularly. Keep a record of how many negative thoughts and messages your brain is receiving on a daily basis. Try and establish which areas of your life they play out in and watch for patterns. It can help to write them down. When internalised, thoughts have more power to control. When they are out in the open, that power is diminished and you can see them more clearly for what they are.
Sometimes what you discover can be quite shocking. Imagine the impact it would have if you said the same things to a friend. Yet, that is exactly what we do to ourselves, relentlessly. Not a recipe for success and happiness.
Once you get used to recognising the signs, you can start to change the focus and the language used. For T, ‘I am not great at interviews’ becomes ‘I am getting better all the time at interviews because each one is a chance to get feedback that will help me improve.’ Immediately the heat is taken out of the situation. Fear and negativity are replaced with a more balanced and realistic perspective. Not only is a more positive outcome much more likely, but the boost to confidence and self-esteem is huge.
Giving yourself a hard time serves no purpose. Mind your language and go easy on yourself and you will be amazed how different life can feel.