Are you ready for a pep-talk?
When I thought about doing this episode and decided to call it a pep talk, I got really excited because one of the songs I’ve had stuck in my head so much recently is Good 4 U by Olivia Rodrigo. It’s probably always on my mind because it’s played in one of my current favorite Zumba videos and the dancer uses pompoms in the routine. So when the idea for a pep-talk popped into my head, I thought about someone using pom-poms to cheer us on and make us feel good and get us all excited. So let’s have a pep-talk today.
The reason why I want to give you and myself a pep talk is because I have noticed, and maybe you have noticed this too. I’m personally referring to it as a Summer slump – are you feeling it? But this is not unique to Summer.
Sometimes we get into a situation where we want to do something. We see the benefit of doing something. We think something is a good idea..
but at the same time, we don’t want to do it.
We have a lot of thoughts or reasons why it wouldn’t work or it’s not a good idea. This is, of course, resistance.
I think another, maybe a more psychological, term for this is cognitive dissonance. It’s when our brains are trying to hold and keep two competing
ideas at the same time. But of course, that doesn’t work in the long term. Or, maybe it does. We probably all live with extended cognitive dissonance.
This is one of my favorite concepts from psychology.
In fact, one time I was at work training and the trainer asked a seemingly obvious question that she assumed everyone would just immediately shout out the same answer to. She asked: what’s the basic psychology principle we all learned in Psych 101. I answered: cognitive dissonance. That wasn’t the answer she had in mind. It was supposed to be nature versus nurture, which of course is also a basic psychological concept.
I love thinking about metaphors for why and how we think and act. For today’s metaphor, I want you to imagine 2 teams playing Tug of War. Do you remember this game from when you were a child? It’s two teams, they’re standing in a line facing each other.
They have a rope. The rope has a piece of tape or string in the middle, and then there’s a mark on the ground and whichever team can pull the rope and get the other team’s section of the rope to pass the mark on the ground is the winning team. They have overpowered the opposing team.
Actually, now that I’m trying to describe it, I’m realizing I don’t actually know the specifics of the rules of tug of war, but I think we can all have that visual, right? You have two opposing sides each pulling with all of their strength to pull the other team onto their side.
This is the metaphor I’m offering for cognitive dissonance.
The Players are Thoughts
When we have an idea in our mind, we have a thought, we have a suggestion and we think, “yeah, that would be really beneficial. Yes. I think I should do that. Yes. There would be so many great outcomes as a result of doing that.” But then there’s the other opposing team of thoughts and reasons that says, “No, you wouldn’t be able to. No, that won’t work. No, you tried that before and it didn’t work. So, therefore it will never work in the future.”
Those are all the competing, opposing thoughts and reasons that may be oftentimes stronger and pull our belief from possible to impossible.
When that happens, we don’t do what we wanted to do. We don’t do the thing that we thought was going to be so beneficial.
Tug of War Pep Talk
Here I am offering all of us a pep-talk. I am standing on the sideline of the mental tug of war, and I am giving encouragement and I’m shouting things to consider to help win this mental tug of war.
This pep talk could quiet the cognitive dissonance and put it to rest.
Generally, a pep-talk might be generic. It might just be, “you can do it! Go for it. You got this!” Those statements might be nice to hear. They are certainly easy for me to say. But unfortunately our brains are often able to refute those generic sentiments.
“You can do it. No, I can’t.”
“You’ve got this. No, I don’t.”
“You’re going to win. I doubt it.”
Our brains are so good at refuting these very well meaning, helpful encouraging statements that we might hear from ourselves or from other people. So my pep talk today is not generic encouragement. It’s actual specific suggestions that can help you overcome those opposing thoughts and reasons on the other side of that metaphorical rope and give you the strength over those opposing thoughts.
Notice the Individual “Players”
The first suggestion that I have for you is to notice when it happens, notice when you start to feel that mental tug of war, notice that you are experiencing cognitive dissonance and get an idea of the specific reasons that you are giving yourself and believing.
If you are in a mental tug of war, this means specifically and individually noticing all the players on each side of the rope. You can notice and label and define: there’s one thought. There’s another reason. There’s another example. There’s another belief.
Specifically identify and call out and label to yourself, each of the players or each of the individual team members on the tug of war rope.
An example of this would be the sentence:
“Well, I did it last time and it didn’t work.”
So that is one reason not to try it this time. That is some resistance. That is a belief that’s pulling you towards the “I’m not going to do this thing that I think is a good idea” side.
Another individual player on that tug of war could sound like
“All these other little details need to be in place before I can move forward.”
That team member might be pretty heavy. It’s pulling pretty tightly and strongly on that rope. A shortened way to say that is “Conditions need to be perfect before I can proceed.”
If you believe that statement, it might carry a lot of weight on that mental tug of war.
Here’s one of my own true life examples when that sometimes comes up for me when I have a mental tug of war about creating this podcast:
“I have nothing new to say. I have nothing good to say.”
That could be two separate player. It might be 2 of them pulling the rope.
One might be: “I have nothing new to say. Everything has already been said.” and the other could be “I have new things to say, but they’re not that good.”
How to Notice Them
Those are definitely pulling their weight in this mental tug of war.
My first suggestion in this pep talk is to really notice those thoughts.
There are a couple of ways that you could notice them. You could just do what we’re doing right now and just mentally bring them up and verbally identify them.
You could do it in a conversation with someone else, maybe a coach, maybe a trusted friend, someone who is going to point out to you: “Hey, did you notice that you’re thinking this, this specific thought, did you notice that you are thinking that?”
A third way you could notice these thoughts is through writing down what you’re thinking. Some people might consider this journaling. Or, if you’re not a journaler, you could call it a thought download. Or, you could call it stream of consciousness writing.
This works so well for me. It is how I uncover and identify a lot of my own resistance.
Why It Is Such a Benefit
The other day I was talking with someone I had just met. She was checking out a few of the journals in my shop and I asked her “do you journal, are you a journaler?” Because some people are, some people aren’t. She told me “no, I don’t journal frequently. I, you know, I don’t want to. That’s not for me. And I said, oh, okay.
She then further the conversation and wondered, “Why do you, why is it such a benefit to you?” I couldn’t answer clearly. The words couldn’t come out of my mouth fast enough. I was just jumbling over my reasons and my descriptions. Now that I’m replaying this conversation, I realize I could have said, well, I have a few podcast episodes on the benefits of journaling. That would have given her a little bit more cohesive and coherent explanation than what I trying to say in the moment.
I really get so many benefits and so many positives from journaling daily. One of those benefits is that it gives me an opportunity to really specify and identify and see in black and white (or usually purple or pink or red – whichever color I’m using that day) -it gives me a way to see in writing what I am thinking.
Writing down my thoughts gives me a chance to identify individually these specific ideas and beliefs and reasons I give myself for why I think I won’t do something or why I think I can’t do something or why I think something will not work.
We’re half way through this non-traditional pep talk now! The first suggestion is to get specific and identify those specific reasons that you are giving yourself and believing that’s causing this cognitive dissonance that’s causing the struggle in your mind. Identify the players on both sides.
My guess is that you probably have many more on the “don’t do it” side.
If we had two teams on this tug of war game, one is the don’t do it. And the other is the “do it” side. You might have some really strong players on the, do it side, but there might be more players on the don’t do it side.
The don’t do it players might be much more experienced and familiar. They might have been practicing together much longer. They might have won so many previous games. They could be stronger. There probably are more of them. Maybe they work in unison.
And now, if you are following the suggestion of the pep talk, they are all single, individuals. Not an overwhelming, inseparable force.
Pep Talk- Part 2
The second part of this pep-talk, now that you’ve identified all the players on those two teams, is to check for accuracy and relevance.
These thoughts and beliefs and ideas and suggestions and sentences that you repeat to yourself – are they accurate?
Let’s go back to the specific individual we mentioned earlier:
“it didn’t work last time, so that’s why I’m not going to try it this time.”
Let’s check the accuracy of that.
Does the past predict the future? Okay. So maybe not a hundred percent accurate.
Is there a correlation from what I tried last time to what I’m thinking about doing this time? Do they even match up?
Was last time’s attempt even a failure? Oh, that is interesting. If we’re saying I tried it last time and it didn’t work. Is that true? Is that accurate? Maybe that was just the first attempt in a series of experiments. Maybe that was just the first round to learn what not to do for the next iteration of this round. Maybe it wasn’t a failure at all.
Another way of checking for accuracy is to consider if you can accurately answer or identify the scale that you’re using.
One of my resistant thoughts is “I don’t have anything new to say.”
New to who? Is it new to me? Or is the scale that I’m using meaning it should be new to someone else?
Do I mean new and unfamiliar? Things can still be new for a little while until they become familiar. Right?
So maybe saying something one time, and when I say it the second time, it’s still new. Maybe even the third time is still in the new range.
That’s really interesting to check. What scale am I using to define new? What’s the accuracy of the word “new” in this example?
This same accuracy check can happen with my thought that “I have nothing good to say.”
Let me see the scale for good. Does the scale go from this is good to this is no longer good? If something is not good, is it getting into bad territory? Who has decided the criteria for something being good or bad. Obviously I have that. Am I able identify it?
That’s an example of how you can check the accuracy of a thought or belief.
We can also check for relevance. Back to the good or new example, with the thought “I don’t have anything new to say.” Is that relevant to me producing my podcast?
Is that the rule? Am I supposed to only say new things?
Maybe I don’t have anything new to say and that doesn’t matter. That’s not relevant.
Maybe the relevant thing is that I post a podcast episode each week and I can say whatever I decide to say whether or not it’s new or good.
Isn’t it interesting how our brains believe those first or strongest thoughts and that stops the conversation? It’s as if one team introduces themselves or just makes an appearance and the other team just drops the rope and forfeits the game without even identifying: “Wait, we’re stronger. We’re better. We want this more!”
Pep Talk Disclaimer
I want to also add a little disclaimer here about giving a pep talk.
As I was thinking about this, I considered specific people who I might want to give this kind of a pep talk to.
I noticed it’s really easy for me to get fired up and give an impassioned pep talk to someone else about what they could do or should do, or what would be so great for them to do. I think the reason why that’s so easy is because I am not experiencing their tug of war. I am someone standing on the outside watching or hearing them describe their struggle or the reasons why they think they can’t or won’t, or shouldn’t do something. Of course it’s easy for me if I’m not in the game. If I’m standing on the sidelines, just like in a tug of war game, it’s easy for me to just shout. “You can do it. You’ve got this, go for it. Just pull harder. You’re stronger than them!” But I’m not the one in the game feeling the struggle. Holding the rope in my hands, feeling the pull from the other side, thinking: “I’m not sure if I’m strong enough, I’m not sure if we can overcome the resistance.”
I’m not using this peppy metaphor as a way to downplay or diminish resistance, doubt and fear. I hope this pep talk gives you some strategies to win your next tug of war game.
The final thing that I want to say about this is even though I am trying to get you all fired up to reassure you that you can overcome your resistance. You can notice the inconsistencies in your thoughts and beliefs, and you can check the accuracy and you can confirm if something is not relevant and therefore can be discarded, I just want to also share that none of this is really a problem.
Having this mental tug of war, having cognitive dissonance is part of our human condition. I am not saying that you should rush to overcome your resistance. I’m saying you don’t have to add more resistance. You don’t have to resist your resistance. It doesn’t need to be battled against or overcome.
I have loved incorporating the lesson that I learned from Tosha Silver earlier this year, that “all delays are beneficial.”
If you notice yourself delaying on something that you think could be helpful or is a good idea, and then you beat yourself up or you blame yourself because of that delay. If you notice, “oh, this is my own resistance that’s holding me back. That’s terrible. Why am I resisting?”
None of that blaming and berating is helpful, right? So I am just sharing that I don’t think this is a problem, unless it’s something that you’re noticing that you’re ready to release, unless you’re thinking, okay, now I am ready to consider my options.
I’m not trying to tell you you should be doing it differently, or it’s so easy to do it differently. I’m just trying to offer, if you are noticing a struggle and you feel like you’re ready to experiment with releasing your resistance or dropping that struggle, here’s how you can do it. Here is your specific pep talk about how to do it.
Encouraging and Educational
You can do it! You’ve got this! You’re stronger than you think! Go You!
Let me know what came up for you as you listened to this Pep Talk! Do you prefer the specific suggestions or the general encouragement?
Did you have any resistance to identifying the individual members of each side of the battle? Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to check for accuracy and relevance?