As you move toward your goals, how do you encourage yourself? Are you a “cheerleader” who treats yourself with love and kindness, celebrating your successes and acknowledging your slip-ups with forgiveness and empathy? Or are you the “bad coach,” who prods with negative thoughts like “What a loser!” and berates you anytime you don’t perform perfectly?
Your internal thoughts about yourself and your abilities can have a huge impact on your progress. If you treat yourself like a failure, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without the support of your most important champion—yourself—it’s easy to feel demoralized. And that might just cause you to give up trying. After all, if you’re truly that hopeless, why bother to change?
Think of how you might offer positive words of encouragement to someone else and then use the same approach on yourself. It can, and does, work.
Put a positive spin on setbacks. If you work to replace negative internal thoughts with positive ones, you can turn a minor setback into a small victory. For example, instead of gnashing your teeth over those two pounds you gained, focus on the 10 pounds you’ve already lost, and learn from the experience: “I gained two pounds this week, but my net loss is still eight pounds. And after all, it was a stressful week at work. Next time, I’ll hit the gym rather than the cookies.”
To put a positive spin on a negative thought, try these tips:
• Be conscious of potential problems so you’re prepared to deal with them.
• Identify the negative thoughts, and train yourself to listen for them.
• Counter the negative thoughts with positive counter thoughts.
Here are a few examples of how this process works:
Potential Problem: Burnout.
Negative Thought: “I’ve been on this program for weeks, and I still have a lot of weight to lose. If I don’t see some big results soon, I’m going to quit.”
Counter Thought: “I know that effective weight loss isn’t easy, and it isn’t fast. It took a long time for me to gain this weight, and it will take me a while to lose it. But if I quit now, I erase all the progress I’ve made. If I’ve lasted this long, I can stick with it!”
Potential Problem: Self-Criticism.
Negative Thought: “If I’ve lost weight, why do I still look huge in these pants?”
Counter Thought: “I still have some distance to go, but already my pants are feeling looser. And I don’t get out of breath when I walk up the hill to my office anymore. I’m making progress both inside and out.”
Tip: You wouldn’t urge your friend to “move it, fatty!” So why would you use that language to chide yourself? Treat yourself with kindness and with an upbeat attitude—like a friend—and you’ll have a much better chance of success.