This is part 2 of a 3 part series explaining the Enemy (the thing stopping us from creating our epic work). You can read part one here. If you are new, read my new book: The Art of Instigating; this article will make more sense, I promise.
In the first part of this series, I explained the conventional forces of the Enemy: the Army of Bad Habits (the accumulation of years of individual actions, repeated daily and consistently).
Fighting the Army of Bad Habits isn’t easy, but it’s also the simplest to understand and identify.
The unconventional force of the Enemy is much harder to understand and identify.
The Enemy’s unconventional force is one that uses subterfuge to confuse us into giving up on a project right at the start, or bailing on our project near the end.
It gets us when and where we’re weakest.
The Enemy’s unconventional force is negative self-talk propaganda.
“Negative self-talk propaganda is all the terrible, unproductive, fruitless, worthless, silly things we say to ourselves when we’re building something worthwhile.” [Tom’s Blog]
The self-talk originates in the rational part of our brain (the left side of the brain; although exactly where our rational thoughts come from is still being debated and a topic for another post).
These thoughts are negative because they don’t help you create anything.
Negative self-talk propaganda will rationalize why you shouldn't do anything inventive, productive, or creative for as long as you live.
And, in fact, negative self-talk propaganda will try its hardest to out-rationalize your positive, ambitious side by explaining why anything you decide to create will fail; why anything you long to build will just enter the abyss of unsuccessful; why no matter how hard you try, it will all be in vain.
If you’re hoping for a rational reason why you should instigate, you might as well stop looking, stop instigating, and start following orders, instructions, and rules.
There is nothing rational about building your empire or creating something from scratch and without permission (or at least nothing to out-rationalize why you SHOULDN’T do these things).
The negative self-talk propaganda in your head is very, very good at rationalization; its entire existence is based on subterfuge and undermining your productive thoughts.
It’s propaganda because we've learned, over time, what society (school, family, work, etc.) thinks we should do, and those memories affect and change our internal monologue.
This propaganda is the negative things we say to ourselves as we try to build something epic, something we've seen others do but we know we can do better, or something unique but we’re not sure how others might take it.
It’s propaganda because it’s not true.
Anything you thought could be done can be done.
Anything you think you could do better can be done better.
Anything unique you want to bring to the world deserves to be brought into existence.
Negative self-talk propaganda can’t be destroyed; it can’t be killed and buried like we all wish it could.
It exists, and we have to deal with it every day for as long as we live – no amount of therapy will get rid of it.
The way to deal with negative self-talk propaganda is simple:
- Identify that it exists, that you can’t get rid of it, and that it will be talking to you for as long as you’re on this earth trying to make something worthwhile
- Take action every day to prove it wrong
Negative self-talk propaganda HATES when we take our lives into our own hands, develop our goals, and ship them to the market.
It hates it because it can’t do anything about the persistent effort we give to a singular endeavor.
If you think you should quit, if you think it might not work, if you think it’s stupid…do it anyway.
Go to work.
You’ll find (very quickly) the negative self-talk propaganda fades….
At least for a time.
As with everything worth doing, the Enemy will always be there to try and break us down.
Don’t let it.
Instigate your life’s work.
p.s. what are you working on that the Enemy is stopping you from creating? Have you had to deal with negative self-talk propaganda? If so, how do you deal with it?
Love the idea of focusing on action to defeat negative self-talk.
You could also consider using explicitly positive self-talk and questions to reframe - e.g.
What's positive about your situation right now?
What words could you change right now to create a more positive experience?
Where can you speak with more enthusiasm in your life right now?
Does your tone of voice convey the same message as your words?
What situation could you congratulate yourself on today?
I like it. There is definitely merit in re-framing negative self-talk. The only thing I don't like about it is this: it can end up focusing too much on the problem. We can end up spiraling into an abyss of negativity when we over analyze our own negative self-talk.
I find that constructive action clears the mind of negative thought the best (but it's most definitely depends on the type of person you are).