E Is for Enneagram

enneagram_small

The Enneagram is a straightforward, yet rich and complex system that describes our individual strengths and weaknesses, deeper-level motivations, and most importantly, the compulsions that often rule our lives. Although we’re wired to operate under the impression that we’re consciously choosing what we do, most of the time we’re at the effect of unconscious impulses. We’re living our lives on autopilot; asleep at the wheel, doing the same things over and over again, expecting different outcomes.

As I wrote in A Is for Autopilot:

Estimates are that close to 80% or more of what we do every day we do on autopilot, which means without conscious intention or volition. It’s not just what we do, either. The majority of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are the result of automatic brain processes.

As neuroscientist David Eagleman says:

Our brains run mostly on autopilot, and the conscious mind has little access to the giant and mysterious factory that runs below it.

When you look outward at the world—or even inward at yourself—you see things not as they are but as you are. You view the world through your own set of filters, biases, opinions, judgments, personal experiences, and temperament. You act and react as you do—and not as someone else might—because you’re looking out from within your own model of the world. Your model of the world influences what you pay attention to, how you interpret and react to events, the meaning you assign to them, and most of what you think, feel, do, and say. When it comes to trying to change the status quo, your preexisting model of the world is your most formidable obstacle.

In order to create and sustain positive change, you have to change your model of the world. But how can you change something you can’t see—the very lens you see through?

That’s where the Enneagram comes in. It offers each of us a window into our particular model of the world so we can develop the self-awareness that’s essential for creating change.

The Enneagram is the most practical and accurate tool I’ve found for describing our basic temperament or personality, and therefore our habits of thinking, feeling, and behaving. (Other typing systems include the MBTI, OCEAN [a/k/a Big Five], DISC, and Social Styles.) The Enneagram is comprehensive and multifaceted, so it requires some effort to fully grasp. But it’s worth it. When you identify your type, you may find that the Enneagram knows you better than you knew yourself. It isn’t the personality equivalent of a Theory of Everything, but it gives you a place to look, a way to pay attention to what you’re doing, thinking, and feeling.

In a Nutshell

Enneagram is a Greek word that means nine points. The Enneagram symbol is composed of a triangle and a hexad within a circle. The triangle connects points 3, 6, and 9. The hexad connects points 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8.

The 9 points represent 9 basic, or core, personality types, each of which has a unique perspective and approach to life. We tend to polarize near one of those points, as a result we overdevelop some areas and underdevelop others. That polarization strongly affects how and what we perceive of the world around us—and how we respond to what we perceive. Our perceptions and responses become so much a part of us that they occur automatically, without any conscious thought.

alphabet-changeOne way to think about the Enneagram is that each point represents a particular kind of imbalance. (It’s easier to spot imbalances in others than it is to recognize them in ourselves. So it can be tempting to “helpfully” point out those imbalances to friends, family members, and co-workers. It is also tempting to stereotype people because categorizing is an automatic process of the brain.)

The Enneagram can make you more aware of your particular autopilot behavior. It can show you how you tend to operate, in both positive and constructive ways, as well as in negative and sometimes destructive ways. Your core personality type doesn’t change over the course of a lifetime, but as you become aware of your tendencies and imbalances, you gain the ability to moderate them. You’re no longer run by them.

Some people believe that being typed diminishes them somehow, that typing puts them into a box. But typing doesn’t put people into boxes; it identifies aspects of the boxes we’re already in. It points out what’s inside the box and what’s outside, both of which are equally important.

The Nine Types

Very briefly, these are the nine types:

Type 1: The Good Person, the Achiever, the Reformer, the Perfectionist. Principled and responsible, but can also be rule-bound and critical.

Type 2: The Helper, the Giver, the People Pleaser, the Partner. Compassionate and altruistic, but can also be co-dependent and manipulative.

Type 3: The Performer, the Succeeder, the Motivator, and the Status Seeker. Self-assured and accomplished, but can also be competitive and performance-driven.

Type 4: The Individualist, the Tragic Romantic, the Artist, the Sensitive Person. Creative and inspiring, but can also be overly dramatic and fault-finding.

Type 5: The Observer, the Investigator, the Knowledge-Seeker, the Thinker. Perceptive and curious, but can also be cold and detached.

Type 6: The Loyalist, the Questioner, the Guardian, the Devil’s Advocate. Organized and hard-working, but can also be indecisive and overly-vigilant.

Type 7: The Adventurer, the Epicure, the Generalist, the Enthusiast. Cheerful and multi-talented, but can also be acquisitive and thrill-seeking.

Type 8: The Challenger, the Confronter, the Leader, the Asserter. Courageous and magnanimous, but can also be combative and domineering.

Type 9: The Peacemaker, the Preservationist, the Mediator, the Universalist. Deeply receptive and serene, but can also be disengaged and inattentive.

When it comes to creating change, the greatest benefit of learning about your Enneagram type is discovering how you repeatedly get in your own way. Without that knowledge, your efforts are likely to lead to frustration more often than to success.

For more information about the Enneagram, visit ninepaths.com.


Part of the series A-Z: An Alphabet of Change.

Z Is for Zombie Systems

What could zombie systems (also known as alien subroutines) and blindfolded cup-stacking possibly have to do with behavior change? Quite a bit, as it turns out. But first, what exactly are these zombie systems and alien subroutines? According to David Eagleman in Incognito:

We harbor mechanical, “alien” subroutines to which we have no access and of which we have no acquaintance. Almost all of our actions—from producing speech to picking up a mug of coffee—are run by alien subroutines, also known as zombie systems.

Eagleman uses the terms interchangeably. He says the term zombie emphasizes the lack of conscious access, while alien emphasizes the foreignness of the programs.

Some alien subroutines are instinctual, while some are learned; all highly automated algorithms become inaccessible zombie programs when they are burned down into the circuitry.

Cup-Stacking Smack-Down

Cup-stacking, at least as performed by Austin Nabor, is an example of a highly automated algorithm—and thus a zombie system.

Nabor has been practicing all the moves involved in cup-stacking regularly for several years. As a result, physical changes have taken place in his brain to hard-wire cup-stacking. He can now perform it automatically without thinking about it, which is why he can do just as well when he’s blindfolded as he can when he can see what he’s doing.

In the video (link above), 10-year-old Nabor faces off against David Eagleman mano-a-mano, as it were, and hands him a resounding defeat. Eagleman said of the contest that he wasn’t even an eighth of the way through his routine when Nabor finished. During the competition, both were fitted with skull caps to monitor electrical activity in their brains. Instead of burning more energy to complete his complex cup-stacking routine speedily and flawlessly, Nabor’s brain used considerably less energy than Eagleman’s brain used to perform the routine much more slowly. In fact, Eagleman described Nabor’s brain as serene.

Eagleman’s brain burned more energy because he had to think about what he was doing and conscious thought burns more energy than zombie systems and alien subroutines burn.

When a professional baseball player connects his bat with a pitch that is traveling too fast for his conscious mind to track, he is leveraging a well-honed alien subroutine.

Your brain rewrites itself based on the things you repeatedly practice, such has hitting a ball with a bat, driving, or swimming. Some of those things could be classified as skills while others might better be classified as habits. Whether they are skills or habits, once they become “etched into the circuitry of the brain,” you lose conscious control over them. Your brain doesn’t particularly care what skills or habits (good or bad) are turned into zombie systems. The purpose of the process, as Eagleman says, is to free up resources, allowing the conscious you to attend to and absorb other tasks.

Because you lose conscious control of zombie systems and they run automatically, it’s quite difficult to change them—to put it mildly.

Learning to Ride the Backwards Bicycle

Engineer Destin Sandlin, creator of the website Smarter Every Day, was challenged to ride a bicycle that had been modified so that when you turn the handlebars to the right, the wheel turns left, and when you turn the handlebars to the left, the wheel turns right. Watch him try—and fail—to ride the bike, and then offer to pay other people if they are able to ride the bike 10 feet.

“Once you have a rigid way of thinking,” Sandlin says, “you cannot change that, even if you want to.” Riding a bicycle, for most of us, is a hard-wired zombie system. Since we don’t have conscious control over the bicycle-riding algorithm, knowing that the bicycle has been altered has no effect on our ability to modify the algorithm—at least not right away.

It took Sandlin eight months of regular practice to learn how to ride the backwards bicycle. However, he noticed that the old pathway was still there and minor distractions, such as a cell phone ringing, could cause his brain to “jump back on the old road it was more familiar with.”

Sandlin’s young son, on the other hand, who had been riding a bicycle for three years, required only two weeks to get the hang of the modified bicycle.

When Sandlin attempted to ride a normal bicycle again after having more or less mastered the backwards bicycle, he couldn’t do it at first. But after about 20 minutes, his brain slipped back into gear, and he was able to remain upright. Think about that when you’re struggling with changing a habit you’ve had for years or maybe even decades. It takes a great deal of repetition and persistence to master a replacement behavior but very little provocation to revert back to the old path.

Consciousness on the Sidelines

Having the knowledge, information, or even will to change your behavior are all System 2 (conscious) processes. They’re certainly useful and even desirable. But a habit is a System 1 (unconscious) zombie system that is not immediately responsive to your conscious intentions or attentions.

In fact, those System 2 processes can sometimes get in the way. Eagleman says:

Not only do we run alien subroutines; we also justify them. We have ways of retrospectively telling stories about our actions as though the actions were always our idea. As an example…I mentioned that thoughts come to us and we take credit for them (“I just had a great idea!), even though our brains have been chewing on a given problem for a long time and eventually served up the final product. We are constantly fabricating and telling stories about the alien processes running under the hood.

Essentially we come up with conscious explanations for unconscious systems we have no access to. When we think we understand something, but we don’t, we’re likely to also think we know what to do about it. But we don’t.

If your brain is running an alien subroutine or a zombie system you don’t want it to run, you have to make like Destin Sandlin and practice the new routine over and over and over again. And you have to be prepared to have your brain “correct” you back to your old behavior at the least provocation.

When that happens, it’s far more productive to get back up on the horse—or bicycle—than it is to create a story about it.


Part of the series A-Z: An Alphabet of Change.

Y Is for Yesses

Your unconscious shrugs off neutral or positive news or experiences, sometimes barely registering them, and hones in on the negative. You have a stronger emotional reaction to negative stimuli, which increases the likelihood you’ll remember it. Since it takes less time for negative experiences to get stored in memory, your unconscious has more negative memories to draw on than positive ones when it’s evaluating information. And negative experiences affect you longer. As Rick Hanson famously says:

Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.

That’s because your brain’s main concern is your survival, so it’s primed to detect threats. Positive things may indeed help you survive. But negative things can kill you. It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s better to expect and prepare for a possible threat than to be surprised or ambushed by one.

It’s easy to forget you’re operating with essentially the same brain your ancestors on the savanna had—a brain that doesn’t necessarily deal effectively with the stimulation, stressors, and sheer volume of information you have to contend with in modern daily life.

The brain is, first and foremost, a survival tool, and the way that it has found to be most effective at guaranteeing survival is through the threat and reward response. Put simply, your brain will cause you to move away from threats and move toward rewards. —Dr. David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work

This may not seem particularly problematic until you realize that, in additional to actual survival needs (food, water, shelter, etc.) and actual physical threats, each of us has personalized our threat-detection system to include situations we have defined as threatening. And once your brain gets the idea that something is a threat, it responds as if it is facing a literal threat to your physical survival.

Your brain automatically looks for what isn’t working: the threats, the slights, the hurts, the things that fall apart or don’t go your way. And because the unconscious part of your brain uses associative thinking, it is all too easy to get on a negative track and stay there. One thing leads to another, or one similar thought reminds you of another similar thought, and before you know it, your mood and your attitude have soured, and your ability to refocus your attention has evaporated.

Count Your Yesses

You can’t stop your brain from noticing the negative, and it wouldn’t even be a good idea to try. But neither do you have to give in to it. The advice to count your blessings comes to mind, but I find blessings to be a loaded word on several levels. I prefer to count my yesses. It’s an effective way to turn the tide when I notice I’ve mentally starting traveling along that road to nowhere.

Although I tend to be pretty optimistic and upbeat, the first thing I noticed when I began this practice was how much easier it is to count my nos. Because the nos are brought to our attention by System 1, the part of the brain that is always on and processes 11,000,000 bits of information at a time, they come to mind immediately and automatically. Counting yesses, on the other hand, requires intention, which is a function of System 2, the conscious part of the brain that is slow, lazy, and easily depleted.

That’s why when you’re tired, stressed, or sick—or when life has dealt you some kind of blow—you simply have less System 2 attention available. It’s easy, then, for the nos to get the upper hand. I remember when I experienced a bout of food poisoning. For several days, the nos were abundant. While I observed the downward trend in my thoughts, I understood what was happening. I was pretty sure my perspective would shift once I got better (which it did), so I didn’t let the nos carry me too far downstream.

It’s easy for one no to outweigh many yesses, so much so that we may not even notice the yesses when they occur. A Facebook friend used to post what she called “The Daily Yes.” It was a good prompt for me because it was my cue to pay attention to what’s juicy and zesty and working in my life—to who and what has said yes to me and who and what I’ve said yes to.

Don’t Let the Nos Foil Your Plans

The negativity bias can really wreak havoc on your attempts to meet your goals, master a challenge, or change an unwanted habit. Your brain is more likely to point out all the things you don’t do—or don’t do as well as you could or should—while ignoring your successes. Along with repetition and perseverance, change requires a cheerleader, not a critic scolding you from the peanut gallery.

If you allow the negativity bias to run unchecked, you’re likely to believe there are more nos than there actually are—and that they mean something. You’re likely to perceive anything that doesn’t work or turn out the way you planned as evidence that something is wrong with you or with your plan instead of using it as feedback to help you adjust your course.

Any time you’re trying to change the status quo is a good time to be intentional about counting your yesses. 

Note: Counting your yesses isn’t the same as positive thinking. Although positive thinking sounds like a good idea, it may be more of a hindrance to success than a help. Nor is positive thinking the same as optimism, which is a character trait. Positivity and optimism are desirable, but not to the point where your glasses become so rose-colored you’re unable to see through them.


Part of the series A-Z: An Alphabet of Change.

T Is for Thinking

What exactly is thinking? It turns out this is an area where you can’t trust dictionaries to provide meaningful definitions. If you consider the various definitions of the word—or the process—you’re likely to either be confused or to grab one that fits your existing concept so you (and your not-necessarily-thinking brain) can move on.

I don’t want to get philosophical about it, but I think there’s value in acknowledging the confusion. Being able to think clearly and effectively is essential for anyone who wants to lead a satisfying and meaningful life. It’s the difference between using your brain and letting your brain use you.

Warning! Metacognition* Ahead.

One definition equates thinking and opinion. But that source also equates opinion and judgment, so my opinion is that their thinking is sloppy and can’t be trusted. Are they referring to opinions and judgments rendered as a result of careful deliberation or are they referring to off-the-cuff (and often off-the-wall) moment-to-moment opinions and judgments that result from jumping to conclusions based on little or no evidence?

Another source says thinking is the action of using one’s mind to produce thoughts. This sounds reasonable, but I’m not sure what they mean by “using one’s mind.” Based on the way the two parts of the brain work, we know that the majority of thoughts we have are suggestions from System 1 (the unconscious) rather than the result of conscious deliberation.

Yet another definition equates thinking with having a conscious mind. But there’s a difference between consciousness and both the contents of consciousness (what you’re aware of—see above) and conscious processes. You’re conscious of all kinds of things you’ve never given any particular thought to.

For example, I’m aware that I dislike the color pink and rainy climates. I’m also aware that I’m suspicious of people who prefer rainy climates. But I’m not under the impression that any actual thinking was involved in the development of those so-called “thoughts.”

How Do I Think?
Let Me Count the Ways.

Some of the confusion undoubtedly results from the fact that, as with memory, there are so many different types of thinking that the term needs adjectives to clarify and differentiate them. Variations on the theme of thinking include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Associative thinking
  • Ruminative thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Default-mode thinking
  • Counterfactual thinking
  • Overthinking
  • Positive thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly, rationally, and objectively and to understand the logical connection between ideas. It’s an active rather than a passive process. Because it requires System 2 (conscious) attention, it doesn’t come naturally and isn’t easy. In order to make an important decision or solve a significant problem, you need well-developed critical thinking skills so you can effectively evaluate both the information at hand and the “intuitive” suggestions spontaneously arising from System 1.

Associative thinking is the process System 1 (the unconscious) uses to link one thing (thought, idea, experience, etc.) to another. Associative thinking is much faster than logical, linear thinking, and there are times and places when quick, non-reflective responses are required. But there are some built-in problems with associative thinking. It sacrifices accuracy for speed, so the patterns it sees and the connections it makes don’t always lead to useful conclusions. It doesn’t discriminate very well, preferring clear-cut distinctions rather than shades of gray. And it takes numerous cognitive shortcuts known as cognitive biases.

Ruminative thinking is the tendency to passively think about the meaning, origins, and consequences of negative emotions (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). One negative incident or thought leads to another, and the escalating intensity of negative thoughts can result in depression, aggression, or even an increase in physical pain. You can ruminate about situations, other people, or about yourself (self-rumination). Rumination can feel like problem-solving, but all it does is keep you focused on the problem. The danger is that it can become a habit—and habits are notoriously difficult to change.

Creative thinking (or creativity) is the ability to see what already exists in a new light, to think of new ideas, and to make new things. This is less a talent or gift than an approach to life, and it provides many rewards apart from the products of creativity. Creative thinkers are less likely to be bored, more likely to have greater problem-solving abilities, and are very likely to get more general enjoyment out of life. The key to creative thinking is to know when to use logical, linear (System 2) thinking and when to use associative (System 1) thinking.

Counterfactual thinking is thinking that runs counter to the facts. It consists of imagining outcomes other than the ones that occurred: the way things could have been—or should have been—different from the way they turned out.  Being able to imagine different outcomes is an enormous evolutionary and practical advantage. It’s integral to being creative or inventive and in not continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again. Counterfactual thinking can be either functional (helps you figure out what to do next time) or nonfunctional (leads to blame, stress, anxiety, etc.). And it can be either upward (how could things have gone better?) or downward (how could things have gone worse?).

Default-mode thinking is the opposite of mindfulness. Although you can sometimes direct your mind to focus on what you want it to focus on, at other times it just wanders along a winding path on a trajectory of its own. That’s because whenever you’re not focused on an external task—and even sometimes when you are—the network of brain structures referred to as the Default Mode Network (DMN) is active. Mind wandering isn’t the same as being distracted. In fact, default mode thinking is essential for consolidating memory and maintaining your sense of self (who you are).

Overthinking is often the result of believing you can fully determine—or even guarantee—an outcome based on the amount of thinking you do about it. It often consists of making multiple lists of pros and cons, running through if/then scenarios, trying to gather as much information as possible, or attempting to approach an issue from every conceivable angle. This is not an effective approach to planning or decision making because thinking more or thinking harder doesn’t lead to clarity, only to confusion and possibly a headache. Too much logical, linear thinking can be as bad as too little.

Positive thinking is usually defined as a mental attitude that accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative. Supposedly, positive thinking can help you succeed and better deal with life’s upsets and challenges. However, a considerable amount of research has come to a different conclusion, which is that positive thinking may be more of a hindrance to success than a help. Positive thinking isn’t the same as optimism, which is a character trait. Positivity and optimism are desirable, but not to the point where your glasses become so rose-colored you’re unable to see through them.

*Metacognition means thinking about thinking as opposed to reacting to it or being at the effect of it. The part of the brain that runs you most of the time (the unconscious) initiates both thoughts and actions that serve to maintain your personal status quo. So if you want to change the status quo, you need to determine what kind of thinking you’re doing—or what kind of thinking is “doing” you.


Part of the series A-Z: An Alphabet of Change.

S Is for Self-Talk

Buddha is supposed to have described the mind as resembling a drunken monkey that’s been stung by a bee. The monkey mind is a restless mind. It chatters incessantly, jumps from thought to thought the way a monkey jumps from tree limb to tree limb, is easily distracted, undisciplined, unquiet, and often confused.

If you’re like the rest of us, you probably have many conflicting wants, needs, and goals but little available mental space in which to sort them out. Most of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are not even consciously generated. They’re the result of what neuroscientist David Eagleman calls zombie systems.

Your unconscious (System 1) passes along suggestions to consciousness (System 2) that you experience as impressions, intuitions, intentions, and feelings. If System 2 endorses them—which is most of the time—those impressions and feelings turn into beliefs. If System 2 doesn’t veto or modify the impulses generated by System 1, they turn into actions.

Monkey mind is a result of your brain’s wiring. You can’t eliminate the monkeys, but neither do you have to let them run amok. The best way to get them under some degree of control is to start tuning in to your self-talk.

You’re engaging in some variation of self-talk whenever you:

  • Explain yourself to yourself
  • Explain external events and other people to yourself
  • Assign blame
  • Rationalize
  • Justify
  • Judge
  • React to events and other people
  • Rehash events
  • Mentally argue with yourself or others
  • Come to conclusions
  • Try to make decisions
  • Recall past events
  • Berate yourself
  • Make comparisons
  • Make predictions about the future
  • Encourage yourself
  • Give yourself directions
  • Remind yourself or keep a mental to-do list
  • Rehearse for the future

Much self-talk is not very productive or what you would call positive. But self-talk can have a very powerful effect on you.

Anyone listening in on your internal monologue, particularly in times of nerves, anxiety, or fear, might hear a verbal rabbit hole of unreasonable negativity and self-berating. —Janet Choi

Self-Talk Helps Maintain the Status Quo

The incessant jabbering in your brain is one way System 1 keeps you from veering off course. If you’re satisfied with the course you’re on, thank System 1 for helping you stay on it. If you’re trying to change some aspect of your behavior, however, listening unquestioningly to your self-talk is problematic. It’s part of the ongoing narrative your inner interpreter spins to make sense of your life. It may not seem like a big a deal, but it is. It’s as if you’re being blasted incessantly with so much propaganda from a dictatorial regime that you eventually come to believe it.

Believing your own self-talk can lead to a whole host of additional problems.

Negative Self-Talk Keeps You Down

When your monkeys are in charge, it’s harder to:

  • Remember
  • Concentrate
  • “Do the right thing”
  • Relax
  • Learn
  • Maintain your equanimity
  • Respond to life’s challenges
  • Experience joy
  • Follow through on your intentions
  • Be present

It’s also easier to:

  • Make mistakes
  • Stress out
  • Get depressed
  • Make snap judgments
  • Blow things out of proportion
  • Lose sight of the bigger picture
  • Get into arguments
  • Miss what’s right in front of you
  • Get hijacked by external (often fleeting) events
  • Continue unproductive habits
Frequent Negative Self-Talk Can Lead to Rumination

According to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema of Yale University, the definition of rumination is: a tendency to passively think about the meaning, origins, and consequences of your negative emotions.

Rumination isn’t the same as worry. Worry tends to be focused on the future (an anticipated threat), while rumination tends to be focused on the past or present (some form of loss). Almost everyone ruminates from time to time, but rumination has the potential to become a mental habit you can fall into automatically without thinking about it. And habits are notoriously difficult to break.

Rumination feels like problem-solving but it actually prevents you from solving problems because it keeps you focused on negative events and emotions.

Frequent rumination leaves individuals highly vulnerable to several problematic outcomes, particularly future episodes of depression. —Michael Anestis

You can ruminate about external situations and events and about relationships or you can ruminate over your own perceived mistakes and shortcomings (self-rumination).

Addressing Negative Self-Talk

If your self-talk has a tendency to accentuate the negative, you can help yourself avoid getting sucked into the vortex by practicing self-distancing. All that means is getting a little space between you and your self-talk so you are not stuck inside your own head.

Two ways to do that are:

  1. Avoid Talking to Yourself in the First Person
    If you use the first person when you talk to yourself, switch to the second- or third-person or address yourself by name. This allows you to gain some perspective regarding the situation. Getting into the habit of using second-person, for example, or addressing yourself directly diminishes the voice of your inner critic.
    .
  2. Have a Dialogue with the Wiser You
    Assemble paper, pen, and a timer. Begin by asking your Wiser Self a question about the situation (or feelings) at hand. Allow a written dialogue to evolve between you and your Wiser Self. Ask for suggestions and encouragement. Then use your self-talk to give yourself instructions and support.

Some of the bonuses of practicing self-distancing are:

  • A decrease in rumination
  • An increase in problem-solving ability
  • Disruption of the status quo
  • More self-awareness
  • Greater confidence
Self-Observation

Tuning in to your self-talk is a good way to find out what’s going on in there (inside your head). The problem is that once you start paying attention to your self-talk, you’ll likely feel an overpowering urge to change it. It’s difficult for us to observe anything without having a judgment about it, so observing your self-talk will take practice.

You can develop the habit of paying attention to your self-talk if you get a pocket-sized notebook to carry with you. When you notice your self-talk, jot down the date, time, and a brief summary of (or comment on) your self-talk. The more often you write in it, the more aware you will become of the way you talk to yourself, what you talk to yourself about, and what effect it has on you.

Remember that Self-Talk Radio is always on the air—so you can tune in any time.


Part of the series A-Z: An Alphabet of Change.