THE INC. LIFE

Why Successful People Do This 1 Thing Before Important Meetings

Science shows motivating yourself out loud actually helps–no matter how silly you look.

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BY Amy George - 30 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

You are your own worst critic, the saying goes. Yet, studies have shown negative thinking undermines achievement, while a positive attitude promotes success.

That's why Tony Garshnick, 47, a mortgage planner in Charlotte, North Carolina, gives himself pep talks, sometimes several a day "for any area that I think needs fine-tuning." He wants to succeed at work, be a better husband and father, and make good diet and exercise choices.

He turns to the app ThinkUp, which allows him to record affirmations in his own voice. ThinkUp users can record the app's suggested sayings (I can trust myself to handle anything) or create their own, and have them set to music. Other apps will play pre-recorded pep talks, but I haven't found one that lets you give yourself your own. Still, I'm filing it away for the new year.

"You're conditioned to think one particular way," Garshnick said when we met over coffee to network. "If you're conditioned to go down the negative path, you need to rewire your brain to think more positively."

I looked into what Garshnick said and came across a study published in Procedia -- Social and Behavioral Sciences found that subjects playing basketball made faster passes when they motivated themselves out loud. Other researchers in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology discovered that talking to yourself in the second or third person -- "Lucy is up for the challenge," "You are up for the challenge" -- rather than first person provides some emotional distance and makes you feel less anxious about what you're trying to achieve.

Perhaps that's why I refer to myself in the first person sometimes.

Make it personal (duh).

I turned to others in my circle to ask about personal pep talks and was surprised that many people I know not only do them, but intentionally so. "What matters is that your pep talk is personal to you," said Kristin Daley, a psychologist in Charlotte.

The self pep talk is almost an innate coping mechanism, Daley added. She was struck by that one day watching her five-year-old daughter play tag. Her daughter took a break from the game, came inside the house and said aloud to herself, "You got this."

It reminded Daley of the time a teenage boyfriend broke up with her. She stepped into the bathroom, pushed back tears, stared in the mirror and said, "Are you going to let this guy make you feel this bad?"

A former coworker, Esther Robards-Forbes, 34, has been giving herself pep talks since she was a champion martial artist in high school. They were a natural, instinctual response, starting when she was new to the sport. After seeing who she had to spar with, she'd end up in the bathroom with dry heaves. "I looked at myself in the mirror and said, `You trained for this. You are strong. You've won fights with chicks bigger than this.'"

Now Robards-Forbes, an independent public relations consultant and martial arts instructor in Austin, Texas, gives herself pep talks ahead of client meetings. "You've landed bigger fish than this."

Another friend and former colleague urged me to reach out to Vic Chaney, an executive speaking coach who uses pep talks as a way to get clients to get over their fears of being in front of an audience. Chaney, who lives in San Francisco, encourages clients to begin their presentations with "I'm so excited to be here." After all, if you say it, it's true.

Since nervousness and excitement both run on adrenaline, Chaney, who has extensive experience in public theater, is essentially getting clients to reframe their jitters. That's why so many presenters, performers and artists start their shows with "I'm so excited," he said.

I've found that writing can be the same way. Sure, it's an outlet. But there's pressure to deliver, especially under deadlines and with recurring columns. Writers face differing opinions from a room full of editors, yet they are their own worst critics. I know this.

That said, I'm so excited to be here.

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