Getting ready to make that important phone call?  About to meet the customer face-to-face?  Participating in a big competition? The advice that most inspirational leaders (Napoleon Hill, Paul McKenna and Anthony Robbins) give in situations like these is:

Pump yourself up!  Tell yourself you can do it!  Remind yourself how fabulous you are!

Yeah.  This is what I have heard and practiced in my own life. Be positive and make it happen.

Well guess what?  Turns out while positive self-talk is generally more effective than negative self-talk, it is NOT the best strategy to employ in these situations!


What should you do instead?

Instead of declaring 'You can do it!’ it is in fact better to ask yourself 'Can I do this?’

While this may sound totally counter-intuitive, several studies have confirmed the efficacy of this so-called "interrogative self-talk" (where instead of making statements or declarations, you ask yourself questions).

There are two reasons why this works so well:

Firstly, by asking yourself a question around the task at hand, you are naturally forced to come up with answers.   Answers, I might add, that are in fact strategies for carrying out the task itself.

Say for example, you are getting ready to pitch your idea at an important meeting.  You could tell yourself "I'm the best.  This is going to be easy." and you will likely gain a short-term emotional boost.

If instead, you ask yourself "Can I make a great pitch?"  Research has found that you provide yourself with something deeper and the emotional boost that results lasts a lot longer.64614-Youre-awesome--PandaWhale-Ym8v

The key of course is to not just stop at asking the question.  Answer it  - directly and in writing.

List 5 reasons why you can make a great pitch.  Maybe it's because you remind yourself that you've done it over a dozen times before.  You've spent weeks preparing.  You've researched all the options and talked to all the right people.  You may even give yourself tactical advice such as speaking more slowly.

The specific reasons you come up with (answers to your questions) will remind you of the strategies to stay effective on the task.  This will put you in much better position than just saying mere affirmations.

The second reason why questioning yourself works so well is because you are more likely to inspire thoughts around why you want to do the task in the first place.

What are your intrinsic motivations?  You already know from all the research out there that when you are motivated by your internal desires to do something (i.e. just for the joy of it) vs. external factors (such as money or prizes), you are much more likely to act and perform well.

According to Daniel Pink "Questioning self-talk elicits the reasons for doing something and reminds people that many of those reasons come from within."

So the next time you’re trying to get your child to do something, are pitching that great idea at work or applying for that fantastic job...

Instead of telling yourself that you're awesome - ask yourself 'Am I awesome?' and then list the reasons why you are.

Can you do that?

I don't know.  You'll have to ask yourself.

Reference: To Sell is Human – Daniel Pink


Pooja is a firm believer in the power of the human spirit. If you want it badly enough, there is no dream that’s too big to achieve with the right ATTITUDE, COMMITMENT and HARD WORK. As a life coach, she gets to work with clients and discover what’s truly important in their lives. Pooja creates CUSTOMIZED plans designed to help you achieve your GOALS. She helps you find and live your AWESOME!