There's that cliche, "If you think you can't, you can't," or something like that. The idea is that if you decide that you're not going to be able to do something, you'll self-sabotage and be unable to do it even if you have the inherent skill or resources. That's true, but it's only the tip of the self-talk iceberg.
You know those psychological studies where children are given the choice of a small prize now or a big prize later, and the ones who take the big prize end up having better lives in almost every regard? Well, a psychologist did that experiment in my middle school, and I took the small prize. Some people, myself included, have a natural tendency to prioritize the immediate.
So I want to rewire myself to be more long-term focused. To do this, I use self talk. Whenever I do something that isn't immediately satisfying, but is likely to have long term benefits, I pump myself up a little bit. So if I play good poker but lose money, I think to myself how it's good that I'm a profitable player, how well I did making good decisions even when losing money, and how good it is to be able to lose money and not freak out. I actually congratulate myself. If I resist buying a new laptop that I don't really need, I congratulate myself. If I push through a tough workout, I congratulate myself.
All of this seems silly, and would sound really silly if you could hear the internal monologue, but it actually works. The way we talk to ourselves really does affect our subconscious over the long term. That minuscule dopamine spike I get from praising myself every time I do something that is aligned with my goals creates little reward pathways in my brain that makes doing that thing easy next time.
I do this with a bunch of things, but the longest running is healthy food. When I first started eating healthy, I would make sure to take a few seconds after every meal and think about how good I felt and about what a good thing I was doing for my body. Sometimes I'd even imagine eighty-year-old Tynan being really glad that twenty-five-year-old Tynan ate broccoli instead of fries, and that would pump a little bit of dopamine into my system. I know that objectively crappy food often tastes better, but my real experience now is that I prefer healthy food. I consistently make the pro long-term choice.
I've also done the same thing with work. I love work. When I get a good chunk of work done, especially if I had to push myself to do it, I'll sometimes actually look in the mirror and complement myself on doing a good job. This sounds ridiculous, of course, but it's effective, so I don't really care.
I guess only time will tell, but I like to think that these sorts of ongoing habits will turn me into the kind of adult that started as a big-prize-later taker.
Photo is part of the display in the Bellagio Garden... one of my favorite Vegas things.
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