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October 22, 2007
What Did You Say?
Talking to Yourself Can Make You Happier
My four-year-old daughter and I were walking through a nature preserve
last year when she stopped, turned around and looked right up at me and
said, “Papi, what did you say?”
said, “Ah, nothing sweetie.”
“But Papi, I heard you say something.”
“Oh, Eliana, I must have been talking to myself.”
And then she asked me the big question, “Papi, why were you talking to
Why was I talking to myself? That was a great question. I didn’t know. I
didn’t even know that I was doing it.
While you might be
smiling right now, you know you do it too. We all do it. If you don’t
believe me, try this quick exercise.
Take a quick break and email me what you have read so far in this
column. You can reach me at
Stop! Now what are you saying to yourself? “Why is he asking me to do
this? I don’t have time right now. I don’t do exercises. I’m not
e-mailing a columnist.” That’s all self-talk. As I said, we all do it.
And we talk fast. We speak out loud at approximately 200 words per
minute. Yet we speak to ourselves at more than 1,300 words per minute.
At this rate we might have over 45,000 thoughts per day. The problem is
that many of these thoughts aren’t helpful.
What does this mean for us? Roy Baumeister, a leading psychology
researcher from Florida State University, found in his research that
people remember bad events more often than good events. So if we are
more likely to remember the bad stuff, and we talk to ourselves at an
incredible speed, how much of what we say to ourselves helps us live a
better life? Are we more successful, and are we happier?
Fifteen years ago my grandfather taught me that the answer can be “yes”
if we choose what to say to ourselves.
was visiting my grandfather in his home in Augusta, Maine. We called him
Bumpa. He was 86. Bumpa was having a rough morning, he was not feeling
well. He had a right to feel bad, as he was a survivor of three major
That morning I walked down the short hallway from the guest bedroom to
the kitchen. I stopped when I heard his voice. I slowly peeked around
the corner and I saw him sitting in his rocking chair. He was staring at
his legs as he was saying, “Legs don’t fail me now. You can do it.
You’ve always been strong. I have a lot to do. Let’s go legs, I’m
Thirty minutes later, Bumpa was outside in his backyard chopping wood.
Here was a man the doctors thought we had lost three times. He lived to
be 90 years old.
My grandfather taught me the power of self-talk.
I’m at my best when I think about all the support I have, the strengths
I have been given, the successes I’ve had and the goals I have now. I’m
at my best when I choose what to think about.
And it was my four-year-old daughter’s question that reminded me to
choose the self-talk that will help me to live my best possible life.
Eliana also helped me remember how much I loved and admired my
David J. Pollay is a
syndicated columnist, a television host, an internationally sought-after
speaker and seminar leader, and the author of “The Law of the Garbage
Truck™.” Mr. Pollay is the founder and president of
TheMomentumProject.com, a strengths-based training and consulting
organization with offices in Delray Beach, Florida and Washington,
D.C. Prior to founding The Momentum Project, he held senior leadership
positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments, and AIESEC. Mr. Pollay
holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the
University of Pennsylvania, and an Economics Degree from Yale
University. E-mail him your stories at
David J. Pollay. Distributed by North Star Writers Group. May not be
republished without permission.
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