17 minute read • by Rob McPhun
‘Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values (standards),
Your values (standards) become your destiny.’
― Gandhi (the italics are mine!)
Let’s look at how Gandhi’s quote might play out in practice.
Although the PERfecting Conversations Management Model is great for dealing with the external conversations you need to have with others in property, there is often an even more crucial conversation that you must manage as part of the Planning and Preparation stages.
This is the internal conversation that goes on inside your head – you know, the one about self-doubt, your limiting beliefs, and lack of self-confidence.
No amount of specialist property knowledge will help you if you do not address your personal limiting beliefs, your negative attitudes, and the mental challenges you face around creating wealth or applying what you have learnt.
These beliefs about yourself become the thoughts you have, and then the language that is used in your internal conversations.
In the same way that you would have a conversation with someone you meet, there is a semi-constant conversation going on inside your head. The way you handle these internal conversations is just as important, if not more so, than the ones you have with vendors, agents, joint venture partners, and contractors.
Often the dialogue or thoughts in our head are instantaneous or automatic – we do not formally ‘think’ about them they just pop into our minds in a given situation. Some of these thoughts are negative in nature and are known as Automatic Negative Thoughts.
So, let’s look at some common ANTs.
In his book, ‘Change Your Brain – Change Your Life’, Dr Daniel G Amen identifies nine types of negative thoughts that infiltrate our mind if we allow them to. They include:
- All or nothing thinking – These are the ANTs when you think everything is either all good or all bad. It is also referred to as black or white thinking. You do not think about a logical middle ground or grey area. Examples of this type of thought are: ‘There are no deals in my area’ or ‘Deals just do not stack up where I want to invest.’
- Always thinking – This is when you think in words that over generalise, using such terms as ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘every time’ or ‘everyone’. As humans we are drawn to patterns and often think of our past experiences as a template for our predictions about the future. Consider some of the thoughts such as ‘I’ve tried leaflets and landlord letters and they never worked. So, what is the point?’ or ‘Why does everyone always do better than me at getting leads?’
- Focusing on the negative – This ANT makes you see only the negative aspects of situations: ‘I’ve only done two deals this month when I set out to do four,’ or ‘My landlord letters have only resulted in one lead’. You conveniently ignore the fact that the two deals will increase your monthly income by £1000, or that the one lead is a landlord who has a portfolio of ten properties they wish to dispose of.
- Emotional Reasoning – Thinking in words like ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘ought to’, and ‘have to’ are typical with this type of ANT, which involves using guilt to control our behaviour. When we feel pushed to do things, our natural tendency is to push back. ‘I should be going to more property networking meetings’, or ‘I ought to be getting more deals like everyone else’.
- Labelling – When you call yourself or use negative terms to describe yourself, you have a labelling ANT in your brain. A lot of us do this on a regular basis. ‘I’m a failure’, or ‘I’m lazy’. The problem with calling yourself names is that it takes away your actions and behaviours. If you are a loser, a failure, or lazy, then why bother trying to change your behaviour? It is as if you have given up before you have even tried. This defeatist attitude can be ruinous for your body.
Beware of the Red ANTs
Dr Daniel G Amen states these last three ANTs are the worst of the bunch. He calls them the Red ANTs because they can really sting.
- Fortune-telling (catastrophising) – Predicting the worst even though you don’t know what will happen is the sign of the fortune telling ANT. Thoughts such as: ‘What if the deal falls through and I lose lots of money?’ or ‘What if they don’t pay me back and I have to go to court? That will take months and then I won’t be able to retire. And then all my friends and relatives will say I told you so!’. Nobody is safe from fortune telling ANTs.
- Mind reading – When you think that you know what somebody else is thinking even though they have not told you, and you have not asked them, it is called mind-reading. ‘The estate agent will think I am just another investor and ignore me’, or ‘My friends will think I have been scammed if I sign up to work with this coach’.
- Blame – Of all the ANTs, this probably one is the worst. Blaming others or the situation for your problems and taking no responsibility for your own successes and failures is toxic thinking. For example: ‘I do not have enough time to xxxxxx’ or ‘I don’t have any money’ or ‘I can’t get a mortgage’. Whenever you begin a sentence with ‘It is xxxxxxx fault…’ it has the potential to ruin your life. These ANTs make you a victim. When you are a victim, you are powerless to change your behaviour.
I would like to add another ANT to the list above: the one of using emotional language.
Words are very powerful and certain words have an emotional significance, especially if they connect with one of your values. For example, if someone calls you are a liar and one of your key values is honesty, then that is going to provoke an even stronger, immediate emotional response in you. I call it a ‘trigger’ or ‘flash’ point in a conversation, and it often arises in tense situations. I am sure you have experienced when you have been in a discussion with someone and they suddenly become more animated/agitated. When you look back at the conversation you realise you said something that touched a nerve.
I believe that we do the same with our inner dialogue. In effect we use emotive or extreme language when we are talking to ourselves, which prompts an even stronger emotional response.
Thoughts like: ‘The agent will think I am stupid’
‘I am such an idiot for thinking I could invest in property’
‘I’m a failure at this too’
If you hear yourself using emotionally charged language, then it’s time to tone it down and reframe it (see strategy 4 below).
As well as those Automatic Negative Thoughts, your attitude to – and beliefs about – money can have a sabotaging effect too. What you tell yourself about making money is particularly relevant to building a property portfolio. Some common limiting beliefs and thoughts related to creating wealth are:
‘Money is a limited resource’ – the idea that there is only so much to go around, identified by thoughts such as ‘money doesn’t grow on trees.’
‘Money is the root of all evil’ – often given as a quote from the Bible, although the actual quote relates to the pursuit of money, suggesting that having wealth is not in and of itself evil.
‘If it is so easy to make why doesn’t everyone become millionaires?’
‘You have to work hard to make money’
‘It is wrong to make money when other people are so poor’
‘It takes a lot of money to start a property business’
Notice how all of these are thoughts can sound like statements of fact, and if we hear them or repeat them to ourselves too often, we believe them to be true unless they are challenged.
Depending on your background and upbringing the above may come to you as variations of Automatic Negative Thoughts when you start your property business.
How do ANTs and a poor attitude to creating wealth affect your decision making and how can we counter it?
Let’s look at a typical process.
Dr Steve Peters, in his book ‘The Chimp Paradox’, suggests that any ‘event’ – which I am referring to in this process as a negative thought – goes to the chimp part of the brain first which elicits an emotional response. If this emotional response is not countered then it leads to further emotional thinking which often leads to a poor plan. The chimp intention is to protects us, but in fact we may not need such protection and it may prevent us from taking positive action.
If we are not aware or cognizant about what is happening, then the internal dialogue might go something like this:
‘I feel rubbish’ (Emotional feeling)
‘What’s the point?’ (Emotional thinking)
‘I may as well give up!’ (POOR plan)
Returning to Gandhi’s quote, the above is the first part in action.
‘Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions.’
So, we now see how crucial it is to intervene in the dialogue, as soon as the emotional feeling occurs, in order to use rational and logical thinking to promote better outcomes.
So, using this alternative approach, the previous internal conversation would go something like this:
‘I keep trying and there are no deals in my area!’
‘I feel rubbish’ (Emotional feeling)
INTERVENTION > ‘Ok I feel rubbish, however I know that others are getting a response to their marketing campaigns so what can I do differently?’
‘Maybe I could change the wording on my leaflets or try a different geographical area to post them.’ (Logical thinking)
‘I’ll redo the leaflets tomorrow and get them out straight away, with a code on them for the vendor to quote so I can measure if they have worked.’ (Better plan)
It’s clear that this approach produces a very different outcome – one of positive action.
Let’s now look at how you might re-programme your mind to deal with negative chatter.
How to intervene, plan, and prepare for your Inner Dialogue
As you have seen from the above our beliefs affect our thoughts which impacts our words. I therefore believe it helps to develop ourselves across those three aspects of our lives and not treat them in isolation, in order to create more successful outcomes for our goals.
Strategy 1 – Empowering Beliefs
Create your own script of short empowering beliefs and print them off. Read them daily, have them on your mobile phone, printed and displayed on your fridge and around your house, workplace or where you work out. Make them declarations as opposed to affirmations. Your conscious brain can reject affirmations as being untrue. ‘I am a millionaire’ would be ignored by your mind as being untrue if you did not have the money to support that affirmation. A declaration is a commitment to a specific result such as, ‘I am committed to increasing my net worth.’
Strategy 2 – Journaling
Making use of a daily journal will help with getting your thoughts and feelings out of your mind and on to paper. This benefits you in that once committed to paper you can work on them later and they are not distracting you by continually circulating round your brain. It helps removes the emotional aspect and allows you to apply rational thinking. It gives the opportunity for emotional release and helps the brain regulate your emotions. You can then work on a logical plan.
After some time, it also helps as a reference guide that you can look back through to see how you coped with similar situations and previous negativity. This again can boost your confidence.
Strategy 3 – Environment
Create a positive environment for yourself. For example, produce a vision board with pictures of what success looks like to you, but remember that it is not just about material things. Use pictures of you being the person you want to be, and doing the things you want to do. Remove things that are likely to distract you – you will be aware of what those are for you – and work in an area that reduces those distractions.
Strategy 4 – Be your own Mind Coach
Create an inner coach – maybe give them a name and a recognisable voice of a role model you would take advice from or listen to. Think through the questions or challenges that regularly occur and have programmed responses, questions and empowering beliefs prepared. Once a negative thought enters your head, get the inner coach to ask you empowering questions such as: ‘Is that statement / comment / thought true and does it help or hinder me?’ ‘What would be a more accurate thought?’ ‘How can I rephrase the comment / thought / statement as a question that helps me find a solution?’
An example would be the common negative thought ‘I don’t have enough money to invest in property,’ which can be changed to ‘How do I find the money to invest?’ or ‘Who do I know who has invested with none of their own money, and how can I do the same?’
Something as simple as ‘What would XXXX (your named inner coach) say now?’ could be enough to get your positive, solution-focused internal conversation flowing.
Strategy 5 – Use positive emotional language to your ‘Chimp’
Your intervention in the process may have a stronger influence if you use emotional language in a positive way. So, in the example above you might also add at the intervention stage, ‘Imagine how you’ll feel if from the next batch of leaflet drop you get a couple of leads. That would be amazing.’
Your ‘Chimp’ brain is more likely to respond to emotional bargaining than logic. Remember you cannot defeat your emotional brain with logic alone -it is too strong. It is easier to manage and coerce it.
Strategy 6 – Create an Anchor of Positivity and Confidence
This is useful for many situations not just related to property.
Find yourself a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed. Make sure you are comfortable, and you are fully relaxed. Take some deep breaths to further relax yourself. Now remember a time or situation when you felt incredibly confident. It could be a time at work, or whilst undertaking a pastime, or taking part in sport. Fully return to it – see what you saw, hear what you heard, smell what you smelt, and feel how good you felt on that occasion.
Keep going through this memory and as you do so make the colours brighter, the sounds sharper and louder, and the feelings stronger.
Now make it brighter, and louder still, increasing those feelings tenfold.
As you feel it reach its peak press your thumb and ring finger together of your preferred hand together for a few seconds and then release.
Repeat the above steps several times using different positive memories.
You have now created a trigger using your finger and thumb that when pressed together has created an ‘anchor’ of feeling positive and confident.
Strategy 7 – The 54321 Countdown Technique
This technique is promoted by Mel Robbins:
What do you do?
Just start counting backwards to yourself: 5-4-3-2-1.
The counting will focus you on the goal or commitment and distract you from the worries, thoughts, and excuses in your mind.
As soon as you reach ‘1’ – push yourself to move.
This is how you push yourself to do the hard stuff – the work that you don’t feel like doing, or you’re scared of doing, or you’re avoiding.
That’s it. 5 seconds is all it takes.
So, intervene when the negative chatter starts and use the 5 second rule to interrupt your thoughts and take an action which moves you closer to what you want to achieve. It does not mean take massive action (although you can, if you feel inclined!) but it could be as simple as writing in your journal, or making a call, or conducting some research. Action will then translate into motivation to do more.
Strategy 8 – Positive Mental Rehearsal
Use visualisation techniques to mentally rehearse scenarios and conversations you envisage yourself having. Bring these to life by what I call ‘sensualising’ them. Visualisation only uses one of your senses. So, as you visualise add in the other senses – what do you feel? What do you smell? What do you hear? This will bring it all to life in your mind. This will help with developing positive outcomes in your sub -conscious mind, which are stored there for future reference. This promotes confidence when you perform them in a live situation because you will feel like you have successfully done it before.
Strategy 9 – Meditation
True meditation is an art form and needs to be practised constantly to develop the skill. Start off by only trying to focus on your breathing for one minute. That may not sound like long, but to completely free your mind of distracting thoughts for a minute is actually pretty difficult. Make no effort to control your breathing; simply breathe as you naturally would.
Focus your attention on each breath and how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Feel your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly as they move. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, which is very common, return your focus back to your breath.
Consider using technology to help you by downloading an app such as Headspace, or meditation recordings.
Strategy 10 – Take Action, Any Action!
If you are looking to your inner thoughts to motivate you to action, and all you are telling yourself are ANTs (and you may also be self-sabotaging with your attitude to money) then you could be waiting a long time before you actually take action.
Here’s how most people approach motivation:
THOUGHTS ➡ MOTIVATION ➡ ACTION ➡ MORE MOTIVATION
Here’s how motivation really works:
ACTION ➡ MOTIVATION ➡ THOUGHTS ➡ MORE MOTIVATION
I love the quote attributed to Stu Mittleman, world record holder for ultra distance running.
I never ran 1000 miles.
I could never have done that.
I ran one mile a 1000 times.
I know it’s a cliché but just take that first step!!
Many people want to know everything about a subject or strategy before they act. Others want to be perfect at something before they expose themselves to undertaking a course of action. Others do know the subject very well or are actually very good at the strategy, but then the negative inner chatter talks them out of acting.
That’s 10 strategies for you to adopt or adapt to suit you in order to manage the negative chatter inside your head. Use them at the Planning, Preparation and Practise phase to help you approach your conversations both internally and externally.
The above should give you some confidence to address your limiting beliefs and fear of action, helping you change your thoughts and therefore your words so that your actions change for the better.
If you would like to know more or talk through how I can help you then give me a call for a free consultation.