Welcome to my new series! Motivation Moments is dedicated to helping you live with more purpose, work with greater focus, and lead with maximum influence.

Each week, I will share key insights from the many books, podcasts, blog posts and other content I regularly consume–in brief, bite size chunks. My goal is to give you practical strategies and proven tools to improve your habits, achieve your goals, and build your personal brand.

How’s Your Self-Talk?

Recently, I noticed a provocative quote in an online magazine article that really caught my attention:

“Try to say nothing negative about yourself for three days, for forty-five days, for three months. See what happens to your life.” — Yoko Ono

At first glance, it struck me as self-serving, even narcissistic, until I recalled the research on emotional intelligence that, years ago, I had studied in creating our leadership development training curriculum for our company. One of the key strategies in improving your emotional intelligence, the research concluded, is paying close attention to your self talk. According to Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, most of our daily self-talk is positive and useful in living our lives. But when it becomes negative, self-talk can quickly spiral into a self-defeating internal voice that hijacks your emotions and limits your effectiveness.

How can you tell if you’ve crossed that threshold? Here are three questions to consider:

  1. Do you use phrases like “I always…” or “I never…” in describing negative aspects of yourself? For example: “I’ll never be able to learn Spanish.” If so, commit to treating each situation as unique instead of negatively reinforcing your identity every time you mess up. If you make a mistake, replace “I’ll never get this right” with, “I made a mistake. That’s all. It’s over–let’s move on.”
  2. Do you make sweeping judgmental generalizations about yourself, like “I’m such an idiot?” (I do this every time I forget something!) Self-talk like this that attaches a permanent label and leaves no space for improvement contributes to erosion of self confidence and joy.
  3. Do you accept responsibility for others’ actions? One of the common traits of anxious or unhappy people is a tendency to blame themselves and others for everything. While it may seem humble and self-sacrificing, it’s corrosive and draining when you carry someone else’s burden.

So I’m going to take Yoko Ono up on her challenge. For one week, I’m committing to not saying a single negative word either to–or about–myself — not even self-deprecating humor. Will it have an impact on my life? I’m not sure, but I’m curious to see. Will you join me?