Speak To Yourself Kindly

It’s not enough to visualize something to truly believe it. Our biases, our subconscious programming, our BOO can interfere with this process. You may have a natural negative disposition, unmanaged anxiety, or a feeling of inadequacy. Your self-talk, reactionary emotions, and lack of self-belief prevent your imagery from forming a strong foundation. Any dissonance between thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and imagery will put out conflicting signals that cancel each other out. We practice daily concentration skills, and we journal to overcome this. But here’s another technique to add to your arsenal….

Visualizing a different future starts with initiating new internal dialogue. 

Back in the eighties, before I met Kaicho Nakamura or knew about visualization or any of this stuff, I happened upon a motivational tape. (Yes, it was a cassette I had to listen to on a tape recorder!) It was by author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy. At the time, any imagery I did have was colored by a small-town upbringing and hostile family dynamics, and my story was absent of any empowering visions for my future.

I learned a few important things from this audiobook, but one simple tool stood out. Tracy suggested practicing a positive mantra to change your relationship with the most important person in your life… you! His advice was to simply say this over and over: “I like myself. I like myself. I like myself.” I started to do this every morning on rising. I know it sounds kind of silly, but it had a powerful effect. Several months later, I started to see myself a little differently. This daily mantra was pushing out old emotions and I was feeling better about myself. It was lifting me up. Ironically, it is still with me to this day, showing up whenever my brain regains consciousness every morning!

Tracy didn’t suggest imagery to rewrite my old story. He basically said: “Hey, give this a try. It helps to talk to yourself kindly.” If you struggle with self-esteem, as I did, and many people do, then I recommend you start doing this today.

Armed with growing self-confidence from this simple technique, Zen meditation training, which started a year or so later, was the level of my mental development. After practicing Zen for about six months, I began to get a clearer sense of how my stories had limited me. I started to see the potential for someone different emerging—someone compassionate, competent, and courageous— so I decided to trust that new intuition and run with it. My mantra evolved and became: “I am a warrior and a leader, and I like myself.” I want you to know this process of speaking a new reality internally was difficult at first because the old storyteller in me kept interrupting! But I stuck with it…. 

When I finally got to the SEALs, I wanted to continue the power of mantra, so I created a new one: “I’m looking good, feeling good, oughta be in Hollywood.” The constant repetition of a mantra had a powerful effect to keep me positive and focused. And I began to really see myself as the kind of guy who was worthy of being in Hollywood. Keep in mind, I knew nothing of Hollywood, and I wasn’t shooting for that as a career, but it activated in my body-mind powerful imagery and emotional states that propelled me through the intense challenges of BUD/S training. 

If you’ve ever told yourself that you’re, for example, a klutz over and over and continue to be klutzy, then mix it up. Decide you have the power, grace, and balance of a member of the Shaolin Monks. Test that new mantra with the imagery for a few months and get back to me. You can change any story by telling yourself the opposite, even if you don’t believe what you’re crooning. 

It took several months of faithful practice of Mr. Tracy’s recommendation before I really started to like myself. I’m glad I trusted him and did that work, and hope that you’ll decide to give positive, emotionally charged internal dialogue a try.

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