Image by beate bachmann
Narrated by the author.
Early in my eighth-grade year, my dad suggested that I attend a large, all-boys high school across town from where we lived. Although I definitely wasn’t excited at first—especially at the prospect of leaving my friends and not having girls in my school—he left the final choice up to me. Ultimately, I decided to go, largely because the all-boys school had a highly successful basketball program and basketball was my favorite sport.
In an ironic twist, I got cut from the basketball team that first year. I was extremely disappointed and lost. I seriously considered going back to my previous school where I knew I already fit in and could easily make the team. That would have been the simple and easy route. But I also wondered if I could dig deep and overcome this obstacle.
Was I going to believe that I wasn’t good enough to compete at my new school? Or, could I find a way to dig deeper, work hard and make the team next season?
Positive and Negative Self-Talk
We all experience positive and negative self-talk like this on a regular basis. Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably having the same internal conversations over and over every day. These two opposing voices compete for our mindset every day and every minute.
For example, when something bad or disappointing happens, we can easily be swayed by our negative self-talk. We all know this voice well. It’s the one that told me I wasn’t good enough to make the basketball team my freshman year. That negative voice told me things like: You’re a failure. Life isn’t fair. Stretching yourself is too risky.
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On the other hand, there’s a positive voice that can join our internal dialog. It encourages us to focus on the good aspects of every situation, chalking up the negative ones to learning opportunities. When we decide to listen to this voice, we refuse to let our bad experiences define us and bring us down, and we’re encouraged to wonder what we can learn from the situation. Focusing on the positive can help us grow to become even better despite our challenges.
When I listened to this positive voice during my freshman year of high school, I imagined not giving up, working hard all summer to improve my basketball game and eventually making the team my sophomore year.
Internal Conversations Are Crucial to Success or Failure
I’ve learned that these internal conversations are crucial to the success or failure of everything I do, large and small, from my business ventures to my daily activities. The internal dialogue I have with myself—and whether it’s largely positive or negative—has played a pivotal role in my ability (or inability) to overcome difficulties and achieve success in life and work.
The reason is simple: when I let the negative self-talk win more often than the positive self-talk, I begin to allow my bad experiences to define my future. I can develop a pattern of being afraid to take risks in both big and small decisions, if I’m not careful. When I let the negative experiences I’ve had define and drive me, I lose confidence—and more importantly, I lose hope.
On the flipside, the world is full of examples of others who have gone through enormous trials and somehow maintained enough faith in themselves to eventually experience incredible success.
Why do some people rebound and find success while others shrink away from working hard to achieve their dreams and goals? The difference is this: those who succeed have worked to allow positive self-talk to triumph over negative.
They have won the “battle in their head” by not allowing their negative thoughts (which are always present) to drown out the positive. They have refused to let bad experiences define or drive them. Instead, they have turned those experiences into learning opportunities.
This is exactly what I finally chose to do when it came to playing basketball during my sophomore year. I decided to believe anything was possible, and then I put in the long hours that entire summer to become a better player. I certainly knew there was a chance I would fail again, but I decided to try anyway. I decided to believe I could become good enough.
And sure enough, my sophomore year came, and the belief in myself and the extra dedication paid off and I made the team. I didn’t play much, but I kept working hard, and as a junior I made the varsity team. Then, in my senior year I was elected captain by my teammates.
This was one of my first experiences where I learned the vital importance of winning the battle in my head. It was a crucial learning moment for me and a foundational experience that I later was able to draw upon, time and time again, when facing even more difficult challenges.
Do you listen more often to positive or negative thoughts?
How might your future look different
if you actively seek out positive perspectives
on your situation and reframe the
negative thoughts to become more positive?
Which Lens Do You Use?
One of the most important lessons we can learn in life is that we always have the ability to choose which voice we listen to. Each one of us gets to choose whether we want to have a positive or a negative outlook on ourselves and our future. No one else gets to decide this for us. We ultimately make this choice. It is up to us.
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, says we all go through life with one of two dominant mindsets: a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their talents and skills are fixed and don’t really change over time. Those with this mindset focus on doing only what they believe they can do well and accomplish successfully. They usually think their worth resides in their successes, so they tend to play it safe, rather than challenging themselves, taking risks and potentially risking failure. They are often paralyzed when it comes to taking action, especially if the action or activity seems risky. Because of this, they usually choose opportunities that seem “doable” over those that stretch them and help them grow. They also worry about being judged, and they easily see failure as a setback, rather than a learning or growth opportunity.
Those with a fixed mindset choose to let their negative voices dominate their thoughts. They tend to stay in a “safe zone.”
Those with a growth mindset believe the opposite. They know that with focus and effort, they can improve their intelligence, skills and talents. Success for those with a growth mindset comes about as they focus on stretching and developing themselves. Their passion for stretching themselves, even when things are not going well, is a hallmark of this mindset and allows them to thrive even in the most challenging times of their life. This is because those with a growth mindset see every failure as a potential learning opportunity, rather than a devastating and permanent setback. Because of this, they prioritize learning and growth opportunities. They embrace opportunities to get better and smarter.
Those who consistently foster a growth mindset embrace their positive voices, even in tough times.
Are you winning the battle in your head?
What steps can you take to ensure that
the positive inclinations win out
more than the negative ones?
It’s Your Choice
Whether your current mindset is more fixed or tends more toward growth, it doesn’t matter. The important thing for each of us to realize is that we have options, and we can change our mindset. We have the ability to set the tone for ourselves and get to decide whether the positive conversations in our head get to speak louder than the negative ones.
Starting our career and life with a positive mindset can be a game changer. According to Carol Dweck, the view we adopt for ourselves profoundly affects the way we lead our life. “It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”
It’s tough to win in life until you win the battle with yourself. And the first step begins with realizing you have a choice. You can actually choose to win the battle in your head. Training yourself to do so starts with each decision you make during the course of a day—from the smallest to the largest ones.
Practical Steps Toward A Positive Mindset
1. Choose positivity
Realize that awareness and choosing to practice a positive mindset is the first and most important step to future success. We have to understand and deeply internalize that winning the battle in our head is the most important thing we can do. Winning here is where it all starts. You have to believe in yourself first.
2. List positive thoughts
Begin to build a list of your personal accomplishments and positive traits. No matter how much we struggle or how often we let negative thoughts speak too loudly, it’s important to also remember the accomplishments that have made us proud and the personal characteristics that have helped us along our journey. It will be helpful to remind yourself of this by writing it all down and revisiting your notes regularly.
3. Learn the art of reframing
Every time you start thinking negative or unhelpful thoughts, catch yourself. Become aware of the thought and introduce a counter argument that can reframe it into something more positive. For example, reframe the thought, “I’m a terrible public speaker,” into, “With a bit of practice, I bet I can grow into a better public speaker.” Once you become more aware of these patterns and proactively address them in the moment, you will slowly start to change.
4. Realize you’re not alone
Accept that EVERYONE has had their own self-doubts and everyone has failed . . . a lot! Don’t let failure define you. Too often, we think only we experience failure or have weaknesses. But everyone has failed. The key is how we respond to these failures.
5. Don’t let the past define you
This is a choice everyone can make. Only you can allow the negativity of your past experiences, relationships and treatment by others to define your future. Your brighter future starts right now if you choose to reframe. By choosing not to allow your past to darken your future, you can begin to see and create the life you dream about. Let this be the mindset that drives you forward into the future.
6. Dwell on your daily victories
At the end of every day, write down three things that went well (your “victories”). Keep a log. Fill your mind with those positive thoughts and beliefs. The more you do this, the more you’ll see change.
Ultimately, winning the battle in your head results in self-confidence. If you allow it, this self-confidence builds on itself and will carry you leaps and bounds into the future.
* List some of the negative self-talk that you’ve experienced (fixed mindset). What does it say? When is it the loudest?
* Now list some of the positive self-talk (growth mindset) that you have used. How do you react when you decide to face your day with a positive rather than a negative viewpoint?
* What happens when your negative voice wins?
* What happens when your positive voice wins?
* Which voice wins most often?
* What are three or four specific steps you can take to increase your acceptance of your most positive inclinations and attitudes?
* What internal reminders can you use to notice the negative voice and then “reframe” your thoughts when things aren’t going well?
The most powerful weapon on earth
is the human soul on fire.
—French WWI Field Marshall Ferdinand Foch
©2020 by Peter Ruppert. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Publisher : Credo House Publishers
Limitless: Nine Steps to Launch Your One Extraordinary Life
by Peter G. Ruppert
This book was written for those, young and old, who simply don’t want to settle for the status quo or for “good enough” and have dreams they want to chase, not give up on. Based on research of accomplished people and his own personal experiences of successes and failures, Peter G. Ruppert provides a step-by-step guide to help readers positively impact the trajectory of their own future. Filled with real life examples for each step, extra learning resources to dig deeper, and a workbook style recap after each chapter, Peter Ruppert provides a simple yet powerful program so readers can launch their own limitless life.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as an Audiobook and a Kindle edition.
About The Author
Peter Ruppert is founder and CEO of i-Education Group, which operates over 75 Fusion and Futures Academies for grades 6-12 in one student, one teacher classroom environments. A 20-year veteran of the education industry, he’s opened over 100 schools and acquired more than 25 others. He’s been president and CEO of organizations in the private school, charter school, and early education industries, and sat on his local public school board for 5 years. He lives with his family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Learn more at https://peteruppert.com/