Self-Doubt vs. Positive Self-Talk: The Winner May Surprise You

Self-Doubt vs. Positive Self-Talk: The Winner May Surprise You

“You make it seem so easy…”

That was the opening to a comment someone wrote on one of my recent blogs talking about person-centered care.

I loved that the person shared that because it made me think…maybe I do make it sound too easy.

But you probably know from first-hand experience that true change is hardly a walk on the beach.

Any significant change, whether it’s personal, such as losing weight or quitting smoking, or work related, like eliminating alarms, is tough!

businessman-surfing-300x164WHY YOU NEED TO HANG ON (AND HANG TEN)

Change of any sort means dealing with what the author Dan Pink refers to as an “ocean of rejection.”

As a leader, to spearhead any change you must work with the ebbs & flows of that ocean.

You’ll get knocked down. You’ll think about retreating to the sand where it’s safe.

But research shows your ability to surf those waves is essential to getting your team to accept change. In other words, hang ten, dude!


Often the hardest part is just getting started—diving into that sea of change!

You probably think I’m going to give you some idyllic advice about how it’s all so easy once you just believe. Or that I’ll suggest something that involves you repeating the words, “I think I can! I think I can!” or perhaps tapping your heels together three times.

But just like with that big cold ocean, you can’t just dip a toe in. You’ve got to dive in head first, and believing you can do it, whatever the change might be, is the key to making it happen.

So whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, or eliminating alarms at your community, the question becomes… HOW do you make yourself believe that you can take on this huge change?

You can probably hear those little voices in your head already… I mean really: how can you believe that change is possible when you:

•  have 50 pounds to loose and an obsession with Ben & Jerry’s?

•  consider the cigarettes rolled up in your t-shirt sleeve a fashion statement?

•  have a team that swears every single resident will be fall if you eliminate alarms?

Maybe some other time, but not today!

Believe it or not, I’m going to tell you to listen to all those negative little voices, and then ask them a question…


You may be surprised to learn that social scientists have actually found that questioning yourself is more effective than pumping yourself up with positive affirmations.   (Sorry Stuart Smalley.)

Can we eliminate alarms?” “Will I be able to inspire others to embrace this new approach to alarm usage?”

Interrogative self-talk was found in experiments to be much more effective then positive self-talk, and here’s why:

  1. The thought is that by asking questions, you naturally elicit answers. In those answers are strategies to get the job done. “Yes, we can eliminate alarms. We did it with restraints. I just need to make sure the families are on board because back then they weren’t and that made it tougher.”
  2. Another way interrogative self-talk works is that it makes you realize the intrinsic reasons you are motivated towards that goal.  And it is well known that people are more likely to do well when they are motivated by their own choices rather than outside pressures.


(Easy? Probably not. But easier? Yes!)

The next time you are considering a major change or perhaps introducing the concept of person-centered care to a group of skeptics, ask yourself a question: “Can I motivate my team to change?”

Then sit down and write out why the answer is “yes” using some of these prompts for your answer:

  1. What changes have you successfully introduced in your workplace in the past few years?
  2. Is there a change you made outside of the workplace that inspires you?
  3. What lessons did you learn from those changes?

You may be diving into an ocean of resistance, but these questions—the little voices you already have—can be your life raft, providing you with the tools to not just dream of change, but actually accomplish it.

So hang ten, dude. You’ve got this!


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