This is the fourth and final part of a series.  It started with Thinking Time, then Decision Time, followed by Coping Time.  We’re concluding with Next Time, and the star of this article is YOUR INNER VOICE.  It belongs to the person who’s done the thinking, the deciding, and the coping.  Now, it’s time to reflect upon what you’ve learned, and possibly try something new.

The learning part is first, so I’m going to ask the obvious question.  What have you learned about yourself while going through the journey from thinking to deciding to coping?  Did you discover that you’re an over-thinker?  A worrier?  A second-guesser?  Next Time, be aware of what you say to yourself.  And while you’re at it, try observing the way others around you talk to themselves.  Do they appear to be negative?  Disgruntled?  Limiting?  Unhappy?

By way of example, I have a friend who frequently asks me to weigh in on her relationship with her mother.  She’ll describe a scenario, tell me how she handled it, and then ask for my advice.  Instead of telling her she said the absolute wrong thing, made a terrible choice, or caused unnecessarily bad feelings (which I am tempted to do because, after all, I’m human), I’ve learned another strategy.  I’ll say, “Next Time, what do you think would happen if you . . .?” 

Rather than berate my friend or embarrass her, I’ve stated my opinion by suggesting that Next Time she might consider handling it another way.  And at the same time, I’m imprinting that strategy upon myself.

While it’s without question that your inner voice has a tremendous impact on your thoughts, decisions, and coping mechanisms, are you aware that you can change the way you talk to yourself? 

Next Time, listen to what you’re telling yourself.  If you are in the habit of diminishing your abilities or your dreams, be aware of those thoughts.   The first step towards changing is recognizing the negative self-talk.  Once you’re aware and if you’re willing, take a moment to write down the words you’re using.  “I’m never going to save money.”  “I’ll always be alone.”  “I will never lose weight.”  You get the idea.  Once you’ve recognized those types of statements, you’ll be in a position to tell yourself, “Next Time, I’ll say it another way.”  

While you’re rethinking the words you’ll use in the future, try your best to eliminate “always” and “never.”  Those absolutes are limiting in pretty much every scenario, and I often observe others using those words.  I wish they’d try saying it another way.  Next Time, maybe I’ll kindly point it out.  

And please don’t think I’m immune to this.  I also have moments when I tell myself things that may be limiting.  When I catch myself in that trap, I think Next Time I’ll shift the negative into a positive in the hopes of reframing that particular thought.

I hope you can do the same.