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The Words we Use When We Talk To Ourselves


Emerging research shows that there are indelible links between what we say to ourselves and what happens to us.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re all engaged in a nearly constant dialogue within our own minds. Our behavior, accomplishments, feelings, sense of self-esteem, even our level of stress, our memory, and our health are influenced by these internal conversations.

The good news is, it’s not too late to change. You’ll be amazed to find out what Self-Talk thoughts and ideas have caused you to become who and what you are today; and how easy it is to eliminate detrimental habits. By modifying the words, phrases and sentences you frequently say to yourself (and others) you can re-program your mental computer in new, more life enhancing ways. Learn to apply techniques that will have a positive impact on your attitude and your outcomes, insuring that you create a more successful and satisfying tomorrow.

In order to discover how to implement more positive, life-enhancing Self-Talk, consider the following:


Let’s take a look at some of the words we habitually use    as we talk to ourselves about our life’s goals, present circumstances, and potential future realities.


If you have something in mind that you’d sincerely like to accomplish, you’ll have to stop telling yourself “I’ll never get there”; unless, of course it is your desire not to ever achieve the goal.


NEVER – “I’ll never be able to quit smoking.”  “I’ll never be healthy again.”  “I’ll never be able to remember things anymore”.  Say these things to yourself, and watch them become and remain true.  The same goes for each goal you say this about.  Never means not ever.


ALWAYS – This word becomes an extremely powerful directive to the subconscious mind.  Your mind will believe what you say if you tell it something is ALWAYS the case, always true.  For instance, “I always forget people’s names.”     No wonder it happens again and again. It may not be the only reason, but it is a very strong contributing factor.


CAN’T – If you tell yourself “I can’t do it”, then it’s almost a certainty that you won’t.  This is a command to the brain that convinces itself that it CAN NOT, that it is impossible, whatever “it” may be.  How many times have you said, “I just can’t stop overeating, I can’t seem to lose weight.”  “I can’t exercise.”  Well, this may be a big part of the reason why you don’t.  Imagine the impact it must be having on your own mind if you have been telling it “I can’t remember anything anymore.”  This is the one to really watch out for; its results can spell disaster for your memory.


Statements that contain “never”, “always”, and “can’t” are absolutes, eliminating any possibility of realizing an alternative outcome.  These words paralyze our own resourcefulness, stifle our optimism, perpetuate self-doubt, and seriously impede our progress toward reaching our goals. 


It’s time to eliminate NEVER, ALWAYS & CAN’T completely from your Self-Talk vocabulary.




Your own mind may be sabotaging itself by asking questions which include these three powerful words.  Self-defeating suggestions come along with questions such as “Why can’t I stop (getting angry)?”  “How come I can never seem to (get things done on time)?” “Why do I always do this to myself?” 


Ask these potent questions and your brain will do it’s best to find an answer which smugly justifies why things don’t, can’t, won’t, never will improve, will always remain just as they are. 


Questions have power; watch out for the ones you ask yourself again and again!




Repetition convinces the mind that what you are telling it is true.  If these types of sentences and questions have come into your mind for years, the programming is deeply imbedded. 

In order to discover whether or not you use this type of self-sabotaging Self-Talk, here’s what you can do.  It’s easy:  over the next few days and weeks, simply pay attention. Listen to yourself. Become aware of what runs through your mind as you chatter to yourself all day long.  Listen to what you say to other people.


Well, okay, maybe it’s not easy.  But it’s well worth the effort.


Begin to notice if you automatically use these words, make such statements out loud, or ask yourself these types of questions. 


If so, be sure not to judge or be angry or critical of your mind or its lifelong habits.  Be objective; be detached.  Rest assured that it’s okay if this has happened in the past.  You didn’t realize the impact your own thoughts were having on you.  And you didn’t know that you actually had the choice to change what you say, how you react, what questions you ask yourself.

Just decide that now the time has come to revise some of your thinking and create the results you truly desire from today forward.




The best thing you can do to begin to change is to write down the words, sentences, questions you discover yourself saying that may be interfering with attaining the results you truly desire. 



Suggestion:  use a 3 X 5 Post-it® Note that you keep somewhere handy.

Keeping Post-it® Notes with you at all times is great since you never know when you’re going to say one of these things to yourself (or someone else) in the future.


Especially catch the statements that include “always”, “never”, “can’t”.  The culprits do not have to ALL be caught right away.  Keep writing down any self-sabotaging words, sentences, questions as you notice them pop into your brain.   Later, place these Post-it® Notes on this page.  My guess is that soon you’ll have accumulated quite a collection.












Now it’s time to choose to STOP using these words, making these statements, and asking these questions when you talk to yourself.  If you sincerely wish to accomplish the goals you have set in motion, you MUST no longer indulge in this automatic self-defeating Self-Talk. 


If you have just been reading up to this point out of curiosity to see where this is going, and you haven’t yet written down any of your own “culprits” begin to do so now.  Feel free to add more to the list at any time. Examine your progress.  Catch all the words, phrases, statements and questions that are getting in your way of being all you can be – limiting you in any way.  Repeat this process as often as necessary until you are actively working towards completely eliminating any Self-Talk that is impeding your progress toward accomplishing the goals you desire. 


(Remember, this workbook is a private place for you to work on becoming the best possible you!  It is your own, personal MindBody TuneUp Do-it-Yourself Tool Kit.)

At any time in the future, if you wish to begin this exercise from the beginning again, place new Post-it® Notes over ones you have previously written, and start fresh. When you do so, notice the progress you will already have made by then in isolating and revising your detrimental, self-defeating Self-Talk.


Be diligent.  Don’t let any of those negative self-imposed suggestions persist.  Striving towards and accomplishing goals is a life-long process.  Daily, we are constantly challenged if we wish to keep improving ourselves while life continues to throw obstacles our way.  Let’s not be the creators of our own downfall and disappointment.  And don’t lose sight of the fact that once we arrive at a goal we have set, the new challenge immediately arises of maintaining that achievement.


The Self-Talk that can subtly influence whether we are moving towards, maintaining, or drifting away from desired outcomes, frequently includes the following potent words. 





NEED”:  If you tell yourself you “need” to start exercising regularly, or you “need” to start improving your memory, or to quit smoking, or to eat better, etc., what your mind is really hearing is that you have a need that is currently unfulfilled.  This serves only to reinforce the impression that you are in a “needing” state, and such statements will insure that you maintain that same “needy” condition indefinitely.  Saying you “need” to do or be something will do nothing to move you forward toward your desired outcome.


WANT”:  The same is true for want.  “I want to lose weight.” Think about it. How long have you been wanting, but not achieving that goal?  If you have said this sentence to yourself often enough to keep it being true, then it’s time to completely eliminate this unproductive word from your vocabulary.  Erase “want” from your mental dictionary!


SHOULD”:  Here’s one that has complex effects on us psychologically and emotionally.  When we were growing up, a parent, teacher, or some authority figure may have told us what we “should do” and we may have resented and rebelled against such directives.  Now, when we say “should” to ourselves, we may, without realizing it, react the same way.  Try saying to yourself, “You should __________________” (clean up your room, eat better, quit smoking, exercise more, get along better, work harder, stop complaining, or whatever) and see how it makes you feel? 

For the majority of us (at any age), we cringe when we’re told what we “should do”.  So if you are making statements to yourself that “I should” or “You should”, consider whether this may actually be setting up  sub-conscious resistance to moving in that direction.


Once you become aware, you can simply STOP saying these words – NEED, WANT, & SHOULD – to yourself.  Modify your Self-Talk now to work for, not against you.






When you ask most people if they are on track moving steadily toward their goals – or not – you’ll find many have not yet really made a commitment, a choice, a decision.  Accomplishing goals requires firm resolve, especially these days when life is chock full of activities, responsibilities, distractions, endless to-do’s, health issues, other worries and concerns.  It’s easy to lose sight, make excuses, and put off long range goals when just getting through the day is a constant struggle. Isn’t it?


That is precisely why we must frequently take a look at where we are heading (keeping our eyes on the goal) and notice where we will end up if we remain on the track we’re currently on.  If we’d really like things to change for the better, we must “make up our minds”, make a decision, maintain the firm resolve to be moving in the direction of the goals we have chosen.  Every day is a new beginning!


Be patient. Things often change gradually, almost imperceptibly, over time.  There are no quick fixes.  Rest assured that one of the most powerful influences on the progress we make is our own Self-Talk. What we say to ourselves is a true reflection of our degree of commitment, as you’ll soon see.


Have you decided to STOP giving negative directives to your subconscious mind?

Okay. So, now that you’ve decided to commit yourself, are you one of the millions who say: 



What does it mean to try?  Haven’t you noticed that when other people say they’ll “try” to do something, it usually means that it (whatever “IT” is) will never get done; “IT” somehow just won’t happen.  “I’ll try” is the weakest possible commitment a person can make.  It’s one of the worst words we can use because it leaves the brain confused.  Do you mean you’ll do it, or you won’t? 


Do you recall what Yoda said to Luke as he attempted to raise his starship out of the swamp on Tatooine in the first Star Wars movie?


“Do or do not.  There is no such thing as try.”

- Yoda  


Maybe you’re not really committed, you just want or think you need to be, or feel you should!  Nothing will happen until you’ve made a choice and you’re absolutely resolved.




Until you are to the point where you choose to say to yourself, “I must”, you haven’t yet harnessed your full mental and emotional resources.  Sometimes this requires a great scare, a dose of the reality of the consequences of what will happen if you don’t get moving.  There’s nothing like a heart attack to wake you up to health issues; nothing like the loss of a relationship to cause self-examination; when work was no longer satisfying and rewarding, we sometimes would linger dissatisfied for years – however, when the job was lost, didn’t we realize that our heart wasn’t in it anyway and we had secretly been wishing we had made a change ages before?

Instead, choose to say “I must ______” or be receptive to the voice of authority inside your brain that says, “YOU MUST ______” and see what transpires!


Don’t allow your own Self-Talk to contribute to your lack of progress.  When you want something to get better, change, resolve, become rewarding, the following words have the real power to influence your subconscious mind to contribute all it can to move you in that direction.


Remember:  “It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it that really counts.”                                                                           - Tony Robbins






The words, “I will” creates such a strong, positive, powerful impact on the subconscious part of our thinking minds that it’s nearly irresistible.  Making statements to yourself (and to others) using this affirmative phrase is like an insurance policy protecting your future.  Also, say YOU WILL to yourself and notice how good you feel listening to the voice of authority in your head reinforcing your determination.




This is another one of the best things we can say.  It reinforces the impression that you are capable of reaching the goal.  It reflects the belief and trust that it is likely for this desired outcome to be realized.  Remember the little engine in the storybook who, despite all odds, and nay-sayers, kept repeating “I think I can; I think I can; I think I can.”  And what happened? He did it! (He reached the top of the hill with the whole heavy train full of circus animals.)  Say this to yourself often, about all areas of your life. “I know I CAN do it” will work wonders in accomplishing results.  “I believe I CAN do it” can work miracles. Say YOU CAN DO IT” and that voice of authority reassures you in immeasurable ways.




Finally, stating “I AM doing it” is utterly convincing.  By asserting, “I am becoming healthier every day” for example, even if it’s not yet entirely true, paints a great picture, conjures up a powerful mental image causing the brain to search avidly for ways to cause this scenario to become what is actually happening in your life. 


Some authorities today on Neuro-Linguistic Programming (the study of how language affects our nerves and programs our behavior) believe that by saying “I am ___________________” and filling in the blank with what you wish to be true, does more to cause the brain to act as a resource for finding the way there than any other technique possibly can. Remember, don’t say “I am going to do it”; say “I am doing it and it is happening now!”


Notice that “I am” is the same as “You are” with a shift of the voice of authority. Saying statements to yourself, such as “YOU ARE getting there” will reprogram your thinking and your beliefs as if someone who really knows what’s true is telling you about yourself.  Say these powerful statements to yourself often and with conviction, and watch the transformation in your outlook and your outcomes.


Believe and trust in your own innate abilities and inner resources to help you to achieve anything your heart desires.

Ask yourself frequently “Can I __________________________________?”

Answer, emphatically “YES, I CAN.” (Or, “Yes YOU can!”)


Ask yourself, “Will I __________________________________________?

Reply, YES, I WILL.” (Or, “Yes, YOU will!”)


Ask yourself “Are you ________________________________________?

Respond without hesitation, “YES, I AM!” (Or, “Yes YOU are!”)



Here is the list of some of the most powerful words we can use when we talk to ourselves.  Review this List frequently for awhile.


Key Self-Talk Vocabulary Words



Never – Always – Can’t


Need – Want – Should


– Try –


– Must –


Will – Can –





Copy this list of words; write them on a Post-it® Note.  Keep it with you for a few days (or weeks – or months – whatever it takes) and closely observe the impact of these words (both negative and positive) as you (and others) use them everyday.



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