Be Your Best

Your Internal Dialog, Using Pattern Interrupts, and The Principle of Maximum Error—Why Each of These Concepts Should Be Very Important To You

by on Jun.02, 2015, under Blog Posts

We all do it.  I do it.  We tell ourselves how ‘bad’ we are all the time every day.  We say to ourselves “I am always late”, “I never can do this right”, “I am terrible at X”, or “there is nothing I can do on this”.  This is what I call Internal Dialog — talking to ourselves about our self.  The problem is with internal dialog is that your brain does not try to decipher or filter what you put into it via your internal dialog — it just processes what you give it ‘as is’.  Essentially, all of your internal dialog results in directions given to your brain, negative or positive.  It’s pretty powerful stuff, but it is so ‘under the radar’ that you really don’t think much about all of this going on.

If you think of your brain as a computer, and it’s a fair analogy to use based on science, negative input creates negative output.  Your brain essentially seeks to become what you put into it.  Not sure if you have ever heard the saying: “You become what you think about”.  I believe this saying was coined by the late Earl Nightingale in the 1950’s.  The nice thing is that you can completely control your internal dialog or self talk, but you have to make an effort and pay attention to it to build up some good positive self talk.  For all the bad things about negative internal dialog, just the opposite is true with positive internal self talk.  Work hard to change your ‘I can’t…”, “I never…”, or “It doesn’t…” dialog to: “I can…”, “I always…” and “It will…” positive statements.

All action starts with a thought. Thoughts are translated by words and pictures, so the words you use with yourself and the pictures you create need to be positive ones for you to consistently achieve positive results regardless of what you are doing.

Pattern Interrupts
Pattern interrupts are a very valuable tool, because even if you work hard on using positive self talk and positive internal dialog, there will be times you start “talking” negatively to yourself.  A pattern interrupt is a technique to catch yourself doing this and ‘jolt’ or ‘interrupt’ this situation, and sort of reset the situation.  An analogy of a pattern interrupt is when you are shopping and a Fire Alarm goes off.  No matter what you were thinking or what type of mood you were in, that fire alarm interrupts your pattern, and your focus and thought instantly change.  Even if you were in a sad mood, when that fire alarm goes off, you are instantly transported out of that mindset to a different mindset.  You can create your own pattern interrupts to reset your mind to a positive position.  Let’s take the example that you are running late to a meeting, and your internal dialog is saying “you are always late, every time”.  All that is doing is telling your brain “you will always be late”.  Using a pattern interrupt, when you catch yourself thinking this, then you can imagine pushing a huge ‘reset button’, and saying to yourself, ‘this is not like me, I am always on time.”  It seems a little corny, but just remember, to your brain, input = output.  You really do have control over how you feel at any given moment.  The proof that you can change how you feel instantly is in the fire alarm example — ever notice that a while after the fire alarm (pattern interrupt) happened, you don’t return to the same state of mind you were in before it happened?  You hit the reset button.

The Principle of Maximum Error
Most negative internal dialog revolves around mistakes and errors, and beating yourself up for doing this or that wrong or poorly.  I came across a very interesting principle, known as Dancoff’s Formula or the Principle of Maximum Error.  Over 50 years ago a scientist named Sidney Dancoff appeared in a leading physics journal.  Dancoff worked on many projects in nuclear physics, including the first atomic bomb, as well as biophysics (the intersection of biology and physical science).  The journal article described a formula (describing microscopic biological processes, but I think applies to all areas of our lives) that says: Optimum development occurs when an organism makes the maximum number of mistakes consistent with survival.  In other words, it is saying that the more mistakes you make, the closer you get to being the best you can be, provided the mistakes you make don’t kill you.  That basically means that nonfatal mistakes should not be avoided, but rather considered good.  That is not to say they will not be painful, but pain most times equates to learning — and learning moves you toward mastery in some way.  Bottom line is that you have a real reason to use positive vs. negative internal dialog when you make mistakes, because the learning from the mistakes is moving you towards being better.

Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford


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