Use your self-talk to give yourself instructions in tricky situations

Sometimes we need to have a talk with ourselves to make sure we are paying attention, that we are focused. Even if you know something well, reminding yourself about it in detail brings it to the attention of another part of your brain. It enhances your chances of succeeding in tasks small or big. It also sets the tone for what you will do. 

I cut my finger pretty badly this week while chopping cauliflower. Wherever I was in my head when it happened, I certainly wasn’t focusing on chopping the vegetables. 

I was careful not to criticize myself. I was hurt enough. In fact, I apologized to myself for the cut. I figured that if my cells hear everything I say, they may appreciate a little sympathy after being hurt. 

When I picked up the knife again, I told myself “Now pay attention. Bring your awareness to this and this only. This is all you need to be doing right now.”

I can also instruct myself in other loving ways. Like when I decide to give myself a break, or I decide to stand by myself. I can decide that's what I'm going to do and tell myself about it. 

Instructional self-talk can be used in all kinds of tricky situations where full attention is needed. 

I interviewed an emergency room doctor and he told me that doctors frequently talk themselves through what they need to do. In that way, they minimize the chances that they will forget a step in the procedure.

My friend Cecile is a former professional athlete who was trained to use her self-talk to enhance her performance. She still uses these self-talk skills today. For instance, when she’s driving on a dangerous road, she will tell herself to be careful, to drive slowly, to only focus on the road.  

My self-talk:

  • Just focus on this my love. 

  • One step at a time. 

  • This is what we will do….

  • I am going to fix this and this is how I will do it….

  • I am standing by you. 

  • I know your intentions are good.

Photo by Ran Fuchs