A new year, a fresh start. The time of the year when we make promises to ourselves – to exercise more, to save more money, to be the new you – and hope that this time it will stick. When we tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter what we did the year before, it is all about what we do going forward.
As a coach, I encourage my clients to start their transformative work by looking inwards and reflecting on their scripts: fundamental beliefs and assumptions we have about the world and ourselves that guide our approach to life.
I’d like to share an exercise that will help you recognize, understand and reframe these scripts. It is my hope that by doing this exercise, you will gain insight into your existing habits and find ways that will allow you to move forward with your goals.
1. EXAMINE THE SELF-TALK
Think back to the past year and identify three situations where you felt you felt apprehensive, anxious or even alone. It could be a professional scenario, such as making a significant mistake in a presentation, or a social scenario, having a disagreement or a fight with a friend. It can be anything – a situation where you felt like you wanted to withdraw. Take your time to think about it.
Do you have your three situations? Now write down what you said to your self during these situations. Not necessarily what you thought about the other party involved, but your self-talk – write down what ran through your mind and what you said to yourself in that situation.
Make a list of these thoughts. Yes, go ahead and make your list now. Write on a piece of paper or type them out in a word doc.
2. IDENTIFY YOUR SCRIPTS
Have you gone through your three situations? If you are nodding, take the time to re-read your list. Are there any similarities in self-talk across your three situations? Do you see any patterns? Same phrases you used?
Often times there are patterns to your self-talk that become beliefs that limit your actions. They are like a broken record that plays over and over again in your mind and because you’ve become so accustomed to it, you believe it. These are your scripts.
Have a look at your self-talk again. Identify the most common phrases and write them at the bottom of your page.
3. REFRAME YOUR SCRIPT
Reflect on these phrases. How do they make you feel when you read them? For most of my clients, the answer is that the self-talk makes them understand how it has been limiting them and holding them back from achieving positive things for you.
Free yourself by reframing your script. Find a neutral or more positive way of shifting the script. Here are some to get you thinking:
I’m not good enough -> I am enough right now
I always screw things up -> I make mistakes to learn from them
Now that you have identified your scripts and come up with your reframed mindset, practice mindfulness to recognize when it keeps coming up in your mind. When you hear that broken record start to play, say your new script to yourself. Only when you are able to recognize it in the moment will you be able to start letting go.
Write it down somewhere close to hand, like a note on your phone or on a post-it in your notebook or wallet. When you feel frustrated or angry with yourself, look at it to remind yourself to reframe your mindset.
The most important thing is to be patient. You will not be able to stop your old script from coming to your mind over-night. Have compassion for yourself and practice.