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Mammy: How Come I Can Hear My Mind Talking To Me?

Yikes! Was my initial reaction when my six year old sprung this one on me during a walk back from the shops. “Errr… what does it say to you?”, “well you know, I just think about how great of a sister I would be to my friend Ellen, how funny I am and how much you and dad love me… and then… well my mind gets tired and I go asleep!”

How great would that be? Going to bed and contemplating all the positives, lulling yourself to sleep with comforting thoughts. Now, this particular child of mine is brimming with self confidence – she is outgoing, gregarious and believes everything she says and does should be marvelled at- all without a trace of arrogance. When she makes a mistake – spills something/writes somewhere she shouldn’t/ gets her homework wrong – she simply acknowledges it and starts looking for a solution – she doesn’t ever dwell on the negative but rather how she can fix things, there is very little self reproach and heaps of optimism – “Not to worry Mom, I will get 10/10 next week”

Our conversation put me in mind of Tim Gallweys – Inner Game of Tennis, a fantastic little book that uses the medium of tennis to highlight life lessons that should be considered and taken onboard by everyone. The book was written to enable the reader to improve their performance on the tennis court but every insight is applicable to life and business. The first such lesson and one I believe is fundamental to how we move forward and achieve success involved this notion of self-chatter – or as Saoirse eloquently puts it – your mind talking to you.

We work in a world where as managers and leaders we are coached to encourage and motivate our teams. The use of negative language is frowned upon, even in the case of poor performance or costly mistakes the law binds us to investigate rather than castigate. Years of studies have told us that encouraging, positive and curious language will motivate people and drive performance – thereby adding value.

Tennis is a solitary sport – there is no team, your coach isn’t on the court roaring encouragement at you – so what happens when you miss a shot? – Well that all depends on what your mind is saying to you. Generally we do not show ourselves a fraction of the respect we show others – the same rules of engagement don’t apply it seems.

Think about it– what happens internally when you make a mistake – your mind starts chattering – judging you, chastising you for making the mistake, calling you names, and shouting at you in a manner which you would not accept from others – how on earth are you meant to perform with all this going on in your head?

In the case presented by Gallwey the consequences of this are that the confidence in your ability drops, the head drops, your play gets worse and you lose the game – instead of actually focussing on the task at hand, you are too busy telling yourself how useless you are, entering a rather vicious circle – mistake – self reproach – loss of focus – another mistake – move vehement self reproach – loss of confidence – more and bigger mistakes…

If you could eavesdrop on the internal conversations that occur when you have made a mistake and assume it was between two people what would your reaction be? I made a conscious effort to do this and I was horrified – bloody idiot I wouldn’t be long about telling them where to go so why was I accepting it on a regular basis from myself?

The short tete-a-tete with Saoirse really drove home the benefits of positive self chatter – yes she is six and doesn’t really have a care in the world but she has a wonderful happy disposition that touches everyone she meets – she is proud of herself and most importantly she tells herself this. And you know what, she achieves – she does get the 10/10 the next time! So give yourself a break and allow your mind to say some nice things to you – you may be surprised at the outcome.

A qualified Executive coach and experienced HR Professional with a passion for leadership development and team coaching.

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  • Great opening post JulieAnne. Welcome to Bloggertone!
    The “worldview” that each person has would always play a crucial role… and many times it’s very difficult to control. I guess the trick would be to take mistakes on board in a constructive way, so when the red light goes off in the future and we remember that mistake, it doesn’t feel as painful as it used to 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Hi Julie Anne. Welcome to Bloggertone. Great first post. Really inspiring, and a lesson for us all to turn down the volume on that negative voice in our heads. I know that I certainly suffer from this, and at times I make a conscious effort to control it, and the results are fantastic. At the end of the day we all make mistakes in life. It’s how we react and most importantly learn from them, that sets people apart.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Julieanne Lawler

    Thanks so much Frank – mistakes are a crucial part of development but only if we acknowledge and learn from them!

  • Anonymous

    Great post Julie Anne – really enjoyed reading it!!

    We are often our own harshest critics and worst enemies in life – continually chipping away at confidence and self belief. The beauty is that we can harness these inner chats and thoughts.


  • great post Julieann, we all to0 often focus on the negative as appose to the positive

  • Brilliant! I laughed so hard when Jules first said this to me, and it’s even funnier reading it here. The follow up is even better though – a really good read JA 🙂

  • Julieanne Lawler

    Thanks CH, Brian, Paul and Fred!!

  • Fidelmayore

    My god that brought a tear to my eye she is the business well done Sis!!!

  • Gordonhatch

    HI Julieanne, Fee just directed me to the blog. Fair play and great analogy. Dr. Bob Rotella (Probably the best known sports psychologist to the golf world!) gives the same analogies. I see it myself on the PItch&Putt course – us adults constantly approach things cautiously and if we mess up we then tear ourselves apart – the young members get up, hit the ball and if they don’t hit the shot they wanted they will just carry on without making a fuss and correct it on the next shot.

  • Gordonhatch

    Im getting carried away but here’s an example. I was playing PnP the other day, non competitively, so I hit two shots to the green, one just makes it on and the other doesn’t – I give out to myself, I approach the green. I decide to putt the ball on the green and forget about the ball off the green. I miss the putt, I get more angry and but just before I walk away I say (just hit the second shot off the green, you’ve made loads of these shots before.) – so I walk up, line up the chip, hit the ball and it goes into the hole!!

  • Julieanne Lawler

    Thanks Gordon – Gallwey has also written – The Inner Game of Golf! – Same principles apply

  • Julieanne Lawler

    Thanks Emily – will try to keep it up!

  • Juleser

    Excellent work chica.
    I already look forward to the next post.

  • Denise

    Welcome to Bloggertone JA. Love the post and The Inner Game of Tennis. You recommended that I buy that book last year and you know what, I still haven’t.

    This post has made me put on my coat and wander over to Waterstones. More to come….

    Keep up the blogs. We all want to read more.

  • Welcome to Bloggertone JulieAnne, what a fabulous post to open with. I’ll be looking forward to your next one. While it is difficult for many people to stop their inner voice, there are some really good techniques for diminishing the effects they have on us – one being hearing that negative voice talking to you underwater – the criticism suddenly loses it’s effectiveness.

  • niamhmci

    Nice Julieanne…I enjoyed that…and I am loving Saoirse. I think herself and Isabelle would be a fantastic pair.

  • Anonymous

    JulieAnne, Welcome to Bloggertone! While I agree with you on avoiding over-the-top negativity, I recently read an article by Dan Pink ( that caused me think that we can avoid diminishing ourselves and yet acknowledge when we have doubt. It is a lot more productive to flesh out the questions and thoughts that accompany our doubt than when we chastise ourselves brutally for our uncertainty.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome to Bloggertone and thank you for a wonderful post.

  • Hi JulieAnne – welcome to Bloggertone,
    I got a present of a beautiful little illustrated book using insights from Eckart Tolle – it reminds us of how pets (animals) can help us heal and just BE in the moment.

    Kids are similar – they are mini adults, without the conditioned inhibitions and learned habits. We should endeavour to learn from them continuously, as we were once 6 also, and were invincible and self-confident.

    A great reminder, thank you!

  • Hi JulieAnne, great post! welcome to Bloggertone. I often try to step outside of myself and evaluate myself from slightly further away (If that makes sense) From inside one’s own head can often be the the most obsecured viewpoint so I find it useful to attempt add more balance where and whenever I can. I think we can all learn from your daughter 🙂

  • Shell H

    Hey Julie Ann. Loved the blog. I know you told me to read that book – even got it out from the library, just never read it. Will do, will do. Promise. You paint a lovely picture of Saoirse… she doesn’t get it from the wind!

  • Dedra

    I had to read this straight away when I saw you had a blog 😉 Loved it. You have nailed the positivity and attitude of your little person so well! Blog on sista!

  • Claire Mcdonald

    Hi Julie Ann. I really loved this blog. In total agreement with both yourself and Saoirse. While gaining some insight from mistakes made can be of value, the tendancy to wallow achieves nothing. Congrats on an excellent first blog.

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