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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Why you should talk to yourself (and make friends with your mirror): The 10 Commandments of Career

Ever felt like there is something missing or that a part of you has been left behind as you progressed in life? You can sometimes reach a cherished goal in your life or career only to unearth a nagging feeling that it’s not quite the end of all striving... This is in fact a good sign. It suggests the empire builder/evolutionary impulse/life force is very much alive and kicking in you. It’s nudging you towards the next stage of your life and learning. However, this sense of something missing can result in confusion. You’re not quite sure why life isn’t perfect yet. The sense that there is something wrong can easily translate into a sense that there is something wrong with you/people around you/the world. Tap into your metacognition and self-talk That’s why it’s important to tune into your metacognition to detach from the emotions and confusion. It’s important that you learn to talk to yourself in the right way.

Plenty of evidence exists on how positive self-talk including reframing interpretations of events from negative to positive, can improve performance, for example, in athletes; and can help to manage your emotions, reduce anxiety and improve your wellbeing in general. The approach is used in cognitive behavioural approaches. See simple examples of reframing interpretations here. Evidence also shows that the pronoun you use is important. Talking to yourself in the 2nd person (addressing yourself using “you” or your first name) is more effective than using “I” e.g. saying “you can do it” rather than “I can do it”. It seems that the self-distancing effect of talking to yourself is enhanced by using the second person pronoun and helps to anchor into your metacognition rather than identify with any particular state or emotion. See this Harvard Business Review article. Use language as a tool for creation and transformation Beyond emotional management to prevent strong emotions from derailing your work and relationships, self-talk can be seen as a powerful tool to create a dream or achieve goal in your life.

Self-talk can not only help you look at things more objectively and tell yourself the more balanced version of the story but also: 1) literally speak out the future that wants to emerge through you in the form of ideas and visions; 2) live into the identity or character traits required to bring about this new future by allowing new ways of being to be articulated (this is where you can connect with that forgotten part of yourself and counter that feeling of something missing). One of my clients, whose career intention is to be a successful entrepreneur who provides for his loved ones and contributes to African development through job creation was getting increasingly overwhelmed with the endless tasks that faced him as he juggled a full time job and several companies.

We started working together to shift his identity from a people-pleasing employee to a thriving business builder and leader. This enabled him to improve his focus and hone his decision-making, and helped him complete a number of milestones in his business this year. He shifted his identity and that changed his reality. Words form thoughts that become your actions Identity and reality shifts illustrate the importance of concepts and words in affecting how we see ourselvse and how effective we are in the world. In Transformational Coaching, language is seen as a bridge between our inner- and outer-worlds with the power to affect and shape both. This principle is found in Tony Robbins’ Strategic Intervention coaching, neurolinguistic programming, hypnosis as well as in religion and any context that seeks to influence personal motivation and behavior (i.e. pretty much everywhere except nature). Language is used to influence the psyche by creating physiological states (e.g. relaxation) as well as helping to reshape existing, unhelpful beliefs that are limiting the person from reaching their goals. You can self-hypnotise, ramp up your motivation or hold yourself back by using language. A single word can trigger a particular emotional state like fear (e.g. death, rejection, Trump) just as a single word can be the antidote (love, belonging, fill in the blank). In fact, the word “Abracadabra” associated with incantations and magic spells is thought to derive from Aramaic to mean: "I create like the word" or "it came to pass as it was spoken”! Get yourself a mirror So if you are in the midst of a career transition or any kind of life change, it’s important that you take control of the creative change process consciously and avoid leaving it to your default habits of thinking, especially if you feel that nagging feeling that something is missing… Remember that change usually takes you outside your comfort zone and the uncertainty can amplify fear and anxiety. The part of you that you feel is missing is the part that can get you through. Speaking out your internal experience and using your metacognition to remain detached will help you to reshape any unhelpful beliefs and articulate the traits (e.g. bold, brave, generous, loving, open, etc.) that you need to call on in order to reach your career or life goal. This will be the most powerful and effective method you can use to move forward. The most important element of any adventure including career change is what you learn along the way that you can reinvest into the process. To do this you need a practice of daily reflection and speaking the future.

If you find it hard to talk to yourself, practise talking to your reflection. A mirror can help you switch on your metacognition. Use the mirror to look yourself in the eye as you speak regularly and it could become your new best friend on the transformational journey.

Have a great week.


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