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Is your inner voice a coach or critic?

What you say when you talk to yourself has an impact on how well you prepare yourself to win, not just on the street but in every aspect of your life

One of the most powerful indicators of your level of self esteem is what do you say when you talk to yourself? I know this sounds pretty simplistic but it is a very important monitor for those who work in high risk professions. Our critical split-second decision making is quite simply getting what you believe you deserve.

If you think you deserve to win you will — if you believe you are a loser, you are.

The most reliable indicator of what you think about yourself is what you say to yourself.

While many think this is touchy-feely stuff, it has become an integral part of the positive psychology movement that includes the science of peak performance... winning!

Wearing your badge and gun means it is essential for you to win — not just on the street but in every aspect of your life — and anything that gives us an edge, from new flashlights, to better firearms, to mental skills that enhance performance under stress are all items we should take advantage of without hesitation.

For the next few days, monitor what you say to yourself.

Do you say “I” or “you” when talking? Do you talk about limitations (“you can’t”) or abilities (“I do”)?

Is your inner voice a coach or critic? Do you find yourself saying a lot of “I shoulds” or “I would if’s” or “why didn’t you do’s?”

All this is important in starting to improve you life and performance. We have to understand exactly where we are before we can move forward — make that commitment to improve, to be happy and more resilient.

Next, make a list of three things you want to improve and ask yourself what you would have to do to be better? Say your list is lose weight, improve your firearms scores, and spend more time with your friends.

My first question to you would be how are you going to know when you have achieved any one of these? How much weight? How much better a shot? How much time and doing what with your friends?

Actually, your list tells me more about your self criticisms rather than what you really want! Too many people are carrying a lot of baggage in their heads that others have given them to carry around.

This comes from friends, mentors, parents, coaches, teachers, supervisors, managers and others who have influence over us and if we believe them we can find ourselves with limiting or destructive beliefs about ourselves.

Sometimes those who think they are helping us are actually hurting us. The first week of the academy we used to tell all the women cadets to buy a grip strength exerciser since the firearms coordinator felt that the reason that so many women failed or performed poorly at the range was because of grip strength.

In talking with one of my favorite professors of sports psychology about women and firearms, she admonished me that shooting should be a positive experience for the women because it’s a fine motor skill. Our academy at the time was turning it into a negative.

When she heard we asked the female recruits to buy an exerciser without ever testing their grip strength, she scolded me that I had just told every woman in the class I thought they were weak. The ones that trusted me the most would be the most injured. Imagine their self talk!

During the next recruit class we emphasized how fun firearms was and that everyone would do well, and suddenly we had the first perfect score ever shot by a woman and the females mean score was one point higher than the males.

The class itself shot the highest class score in our academy history.

If a cadet was shooting poorly, I am confident her self talk was, “I can do better, I can squeeze the trigger more smoothly,” and her performance followed her talk!

Practice Positive Self Talk
So here are some action steps after you have evaluated your self talk. First, actively practice positive self talk. Emphasize what you can do and improve what you think you need to improve by determining measurable goals. Nothing disables self esteem like unreachable goals or expectations.

Improve your shooting score ten points this month, lose ten pounds this month, get back into that sport or activity you did with your friends this season, and understand failing to do these may be indicative of bad techniques, lack of discipline, or outside circumstances, but scolding or denigrating yourself isn’t the answer, saying to yourself you’ve learned from that and now going forward I do this!

Next time we will explore structured self talk exercises and cards, but until then, keep it positive and believe you deserve to win!

Dave Smith is an internationally known motivational speaker, writer and law enforcement trainer who has been an integral part of the Calibre Press family for over 20 years. As a career police officer, Dave held positions in patrol, training, narcotics, SWAT, and management. In 1980 he developed the popular “Buck Savage” survival series videos and was the lead instructor for the Calibre Press “Street Survival” seminar from 1983 to 1985. He was a contributor to Calibre’'s popular “Tactical Edge” handbook and helped pave the way for what “Street Survival” is today. Dave joined the Law Enforcement Training Network in 1989 and was the general manager of Calibre Press until January of 2002. Now president of Dave Smith & Associates, a law enforcement & management consulting company based in Illinois, Dave has developed hundreds of programs across the spectrum of police & security training needs.

Dave is now a Calibre-Press Street Survival instructor and his experiences as officer, trainer, manager, and police spouse lend a unique perspective to the “Street Survival” experience.