Hearing Voices in your Head?

Hearing Voices in your Head?

"Think you can, think you can't; either way, you'll be right." - Henry Ford

As much as we’d all like to pretend we don’t hear voices inside our head, we all do. The good news is that it’s you talking to yourself (So chances are you’re not crazy). The bad news is that you probably only know a small bit of what you’re saying. This internal monologue or self-talk can have a significant impact on how you feel about yourself and how well you perform.

Learning to control your self-talk is an important step towards developing a consistent, successful mental game. But to start steering that ship, you need to first become aware of what exactly you are saying, and how often you are saying it – Content and Quantity. In this post, I want to focus on one characteristic of the content of your self-talk. Specifically, the function your self-talk serves. It’s something to pay attention to when you’re tuning in to your internal monologue. While all my examples will be using positive self-talk statements, negative self-talk is another important factor to consider. I will delve into that topic with my next post.

Instruction versus Motivation

Your self-talk can be broken down into two general groups based on the purpose or function you use it for. Your self-talk can be used to provide instruction on how to complete a task or provide motivation prior to, during and after a task.

I find I do a lot of self-talk for instruction, especially when I’m working on my computer. I like to use the keyboard more than a mouse or trackpad so I’m constantly using different key combinations to perform the actions that I want. I probably say to myself 50 times a day “control-x, control-v” for cut and paste. Yes, I do cut and paste a lot.

Strategy self-talk also falls into this category. Reminding yourself to keep your eye on your dog while you’re running agility is a great example of instructional self-talk. And I think there are few people who haven’t said to themselves “Keep your eye on the ball” at least once during their lifetime. This is another good example of instructional self-talk.

Motivational self-talk generally comes in three different flavours; arousal, mastery, and drive.

  • Arousal self-talk examples include things that either help you relax (decrease arousal level) or get you pumped up (increase your arousal level). You can check out my post on why you may want to do either here.
  • Mastery self-talk includes things that help you stay confident and focused on the task (e.g., I deserve to be here, I earned my spot, Nothing phases me, I’m in the zone, etc.).
  • Finally, drive self-talk is mostly about increasing effort and overcoming barriers to success (e.g., I never quit, take it to the next level, etc.).


So here’s a little challenge for you to do over the next day or two. I’ve put a poll just below and I want you to let me know what type of self-talk you think you use most of the time – instructional, motivational, mixed, or none. Then, the next time you’re training, actively pay attention to your self talk and come back here and leave a comment. Were you right with your initial choice? Was it different? Do you think knowing about the different types of self-talk made change the type you used?

[poll id=”10″]

Leave A Reply (4 comments so far)

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  1. Mike Gooch
    7 years ago

    I believe, with practice, it is possible to make motivational self talk a simple thought (visual or verbal). That when practicing the positive Motivational self-talk long… and hard enough throughout life… that it is stored in our sub-conscious as a foundation to everything that we do in life, and any challenge that we may face. And once we achieve that foundation, we are then allowed to place much more focus on our Instructional self-talk. Just a thought.

  2. MRB
    7 years ago

    Mostly I have to deal with the negative talk, that I’m not good enough, I don’t know what I’m doing etc.

    I’m not top level, I’m just starting out. But I went to a Susan Garrett seminar and got her to autograph her books for me, and in one she wrote “Believe” so everytime the bad stuff creeps in my head I think of that. “Believe”. Believe I can do it. One step at a time.

  3. akz
    7 years ago

    I use both kinds of self-talk when running road races, and when training, but curiously I haven’t transferred it to agility as much as I should. I mostly use it to calm nerves before competing, but I really like the idea of using it for strategy (instructional). My next trial is in two weeks, so I’ll report back then!

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