Right Picture, Wrong Picture

By: Chau Bao, P.E.
Co-Practice Area Leader – District Services

We, as humans, put great value in the words, thoughts and opinions from our family, peers and even strangers when in fact the most important opinions and words said throughout the day are those to and about ourselves that stem from within. I believe it was Emerson who spoke about how the plans others have for your life will never go as far as the plans you have created for yourself.

We all talk to ourselves. Maybe it’s out loud in front of the mirror, or maybe it remains silently in the inner thoughts of our subconscious. Either way, we are attracted to the strongest impressions in our minds. It’s unfortunate that many of us are better at delivering negative messages to ourselves than positive ones. With every thought we feed ourselves, we either become a cheerleader or a critic. It’s not always the easiest to say nice things to ourselves. Changing your self-talk from negative to positive takes a conscious effort and might be something that you work at continuously. But in time, it can change the entire perception you have of yourself.

The picture we paint in our minds is likely to be fulfilled and too often the paint scheme is influenced by others. The 2-guard position who says to himself, “If I miss this 3-pointer, I will lose it for the team,” has just solidified his fate – a missed shot. He is less likely to make the shot than the player who says, “I’m going to knock this thing down and we will win the game.” These mental scenarios influence our performances at home, school, work, sports, etc. In the business world, the head of company who says to the salesperson as he goes out the make a closing deal, “This is our number one client. Be careful. Don’t mess this up,” is obviously painting the wrong picture. The right picture being, “This is our number one client. I’m sending you out to make this call because I know you can handle it and close the deal.”

The right and wrong pictures can be painted in as simple as one sentence, “I hope I don’t forget.” This has a negative connotation whereas it is much better to say, “I am going to remember.” This list is boundless. As far back as 1911, Dr. Henry Head and Dr. Gordon Holmes, two neurologists, published a series of papers exploring the body-brain connection. They used an example in the kinds of hats that, at the time, were in vogue, which were rather striking and boisterous with long, tall feathers at the top. Holmes and Head noticed that when women who habitually wore these hats walked through doors, they ducked, even when not wearing the hat. Their mental self was wearing the hat, even if their physical self wasn't.

According to my recent Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I am on the introverted side; one that is quiet, practical and analytically natured, who also tends to overlook people and feelings. Introverts generally tend to take things to heart, and I often catch myself saying something that paints that negative picture in my mind. As this happens, I write down what I said and rephrase it to transform it into a positive picture. I encourage everyone to do the same and repeat that positive statement until it becomes a part of you. In reality, the most influential person who will talk to you all day is you, so you should be very careful about what you say to you.