Last summer, my daughter and I took a ten day road trip through the American southwest. The road trip, planned by my daughter, included not only the classic southwest destinations like the Grand Canyon and Antelope Valley, but also odd locations that only a 19-year-old could ferret out of the most obscure Pinterest and Instagram boards. We visited places such as Austin’s Hope Outdoor Gallery, Sante Fe’s Brontosaurus Family, the underground Caverns of Sonora, the Space Murals Museum in Las Cruces, the funky town of Marfa Texas with its Prada art installation and Chinati Foundation modern art statue garden, and, of course, Las Vegas where we toured the Neon Sign Graveyard Museum.
Along the way, we hiked through some beautiful but unique natural places as well, such as Hamilton Pools and Reimers Ranch along the Pedernales River, White Sands National Monument, the amazing Monument Valley Navajo Nation Tribal Park and Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.
It was at Tent Rocks that I ran into a two-year-old boy who could teach the wisest of adults a lesson in motivation. Hiking down a very steep and challenging section of the tent rocks slot canyon trail, we happened upon a father and his two young children who were hiking up this very difficult terrain. The young son was working his way up, grabbing boulders as he passed with one hand and holding his other hand in a tight fist all the while talking to himself, “I am the greatest at this. I am the best. I am the bravest.” Think of the little boy with the fist meme (You know the one. Don’t make me break copyright laws!).
Down the trail, the father stood watching me laugh while I waited for the young boy to pass. He raised his arms and said, “I don’t know where he gets that,” to which I replied how much I loved it and that it was wonderful because he was giving himself positive, motivating self talk, a lesson that many adults have forgotten.
Many of us are guilty of listening to the doubting Thomas perched on our shoulder spouting negative self-talk filled with doubt and fear. Here this young child had learned to turn that off. Or, perhaps he had never learned to turn it ON! Instead, he coached himself with a stream of motivating self talk as he conquered this hike. Sport psychology studies show positive self talk enhances performance in athletes. Not only does the positive self talk increase motor performance, it reduces stress and depression.
Next time you are listening to doubt and negative self talk, stop the panic and consider the actual thought. Write it down on a piece of paper — called a crap board –and say, “OK this is what I am thinking.” Then analyze it. List why it is wrong or why it is illogical. If it is needless worrying about a possible negative outcome to a pending event, write down what would be a positive outcome. Change your question to, “What if something good was going to happen instead?” Something better? Start thinking about the good things that can happen and tell yourself you can worry about the negative in a few days.
Write down how you will feel when everything turns out to be ok. Then decide not to worry about it for, say, three days, or whatever is suitable. Chances are the negative outcome will never happen and you won’t have wasted time worrying. Moreover you will have enjoyed the positive and the uplifting feeling of reaffirming and constructive self talk. Try it.
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