In our previous Blog we explained how golfing great Jack Nicklaus successfully managed the images he saw in his mind’s eye to control his thoughts and improve his performances on the course to win 18 Major championships. We also outlined how this approach can be transferred to the business world and thus is equally useful for people seeking to improve their personal performance in the workplace.

Well it is important to understand that using mental imagery this way is only part of the story. That is because as well as the pictures we see in our mind’s eye, we are also constantly talking to ourselves inside our heads and, not surprisingly, we refer to this in psychology as self-talk.

You are talking to yourself right now as you read these words. I predict some people will be saying to themselves, ‘I’m not talking to myself, I don’t speak to myself!’. Yes you do, and gaining control over your self-talk is equally as vital if you want to gain control over your health, happiness and performance. To begin taking control over self-talk, imagine that you are wearing an invisible pair of headphones. The sound coming from the headphones into your ears is your own voice.

Self-talk in the world of elite sport

Rugby record breaker Jonny Wilkinson - used self-talk to optimise performance.

Rugby record breaker Jonny Wilkinson – used self-talk to optimise performance.


A world class athlete who has also described consciously controlling the words (and pictures) in his head before he performed an important part of his job is former England rugby star Jonny Wilkinson.

Jonny has explained how every physical step of his goal kicking routine, had been carefully matched with a mental process. The component parts of this are imagery (pictures) and self-talk (words). For example, when he placed the ball down he was telling himself that he could, ‘make this kick’ (using self-talk). He was also imagining – in his mind’s eye – a similar successful kick that he had made from that position before.

Unfortunately many people on the sports field and in the world of work do not use their thoughts (imagery and self- talk) to their advantage. Instead of controlling their thoughts, they let their A.P.E. dominate, leading to thoughts which are unhelpful, distracting and even damaging.

As we show in our new eBook “The Elite Business Athlete”, the best means of successfully using self-talk in your life and work to combat the A.P.E. Brain is to plan out sequences of key words and pictures to use, when you recognise that you are paying too much attention to unhelpful thoughts. This will allow you to take control of your brain.

For example, when you are sitting at your desk and you recognise you are daydreaming, you might say to yourself, ‘refocus, concentrate’ (using your invisible headphones), and you can visualise an image, like a torch (on your mini-tv screen), as a trigger to refocus your concentration.

The more you practice using these words and picture to control YOUR A.P.E., the easier it becomes to successfully manage and improve your health, happiness and performance.

More about the effective use of self-talk for improved business performance
Learning how to use self-talk to manage your thoughts and improve personal performance in your work and life is another significant element of our Tougher Minds Personal Change Management™ and Leadership programmes.

You can learn more about simple and practical methods for using self-talk, and more about our highly successful programmes, by downloading our new eBook “The Elite Business Athlete”. To download it, click here.

If you feel Tougher Minds can help you or your organisation, or if you would like your business to benefit from our training programmes for business, please click here to contact us.

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