“If you think you can or can’t, you are right.”
Henry Ford may not have actually uttered the quote attributed to him, but he certainly exemplified the enduring impact of a can-do attitude. Norman Vincent Peale, legendary proponent of The Power of Positive Thinking, also shared similar insights along with countless others who have made the connection between thoughts and deeds.
Observing the influence what we tell ourselves has on our performance always matters, but never more than when the stakes are high. At that moment, too many succumb to debilitating fears (“What will happen if I fail?”) doubts (“I don’t think I can do this,”), and self-loathing (“I’m not good enough to succeed and never will be.”) And these bitter prophecies fulfill themselves, initiating new cycles of negativity and missed opportunities.
Break the chain of negative self-talk in two simple steps:
1. Identify any self-defeating or negative thoughts that enter your mind.
2. Challenge negative self talk with rational, positive statements.
For example, a teen sitting for the ACT may tell himself that he is going to bomb the math section for some irrational negative reason. However, if he notices the self-sabotage, he can rewrite the script by acknowledging some facts:
I know all the math on the test.
I generally score well on math tests.
I’ve prepared very well.
I have taken many practice tests and have scored better every time.
Positive affirmations like these serve to remind us of the steps we’ve taken to succeed and why we can trust that process. Obviously, you’ll have a lot more rational, positive support for your success on test day if you prepare properly, so don’t forget that critical part of your approach!