Yes, it seems lame. The positive self-talk business rakes in gazillions of dollars preying on the weak and simple-minded. That's what you think, right? If so, you have a thing or two to learn about the role self-talk plays in your life. Whether you believe it or not, the things you tell yourself impact what you believe you can accomplish. And what you believe you can do, you will. When studying, whether its for an entrance exam like the SAT or just your average midterm, you need to learn the kinds of phrases you should be telling yourself to become mentally capable of learning the material, and get rid of the phrases that take away from this success. Take a peek below at the three negative self-talk statements you need to immediately toss from your vocabulary and grab onto three replacement statements you should tell yourself to maximize your studying when test day looms near.
Negative Statement #1: This Is Too Tough.
Perhaps you're in the "I don't get it" category. When you're studying, the content overwhelms you. The material seems like it's way over your head. In fact, you can't fathom why your teacher bothered to assign it. Or, maybe you're prepping for the ACT exam, and as you move through the Mathematics section, you realize you've never learned some of this stuff before, so you feel like you're battling against an opponent you can't defeat. Fear is one of the five major internal study distractions! Before you know it, "This is too tough" comes out of your mouth, and you find yourself flopped in front of the TV, coasting through Netflix for something that doesn't make you feel ignorant.
Replacement Statement #1: This is tough, but I can learn it.
By acknowledging the difficulty of the material, you allow yourself to be honest. Let's face it; the material you're learning may actually be tough! It's okay to say that something is hard. The problem with the negative statement comes with that little word, "too." If something is "too" tough, it cannot be overcome. By adding the "but" conjunction, you indicate that although the material is difficult, you have a way out: yourself. You are stronger than the material. There is a way to learn it, and you're going to find it. It is not too tough, it's just tough and you will learn it despite all that. End. Of. Story.
Negative Statement #2: I Can't Study Because ____________.
Go ahead and insert any particular excuse you have. Maybe your study aid - lucky pen, a cappuccino, your iPod, laptop, study partner - is gone. Maybe you need complete silence for optimal study conditions. Or, a noisy coffee shop. Your textbook/study guide/prep book is confusing/on the fritz/illegible. You're tired. You're hungry. You're losing it. "I can't" is a big, fat excuse and it can ruin not only your GPA, but your ability to adapt to any situation, too.
Replacement Statement #2: I wish things were different, but they're not and I'm going to study anyway.
Study sessions will not always be perfect. Yes, it would be great if every time you sat down to study, your notes were in perfect order, your backpack was neat, your pencil was working, and you had the perfect mix of ambient noise and study music But guess what: life is unpredictable. You're going to run out of juice on your laptop, and there will not be an available outlet. It'll happen. If you've programmed yourself to "only study" in a particular setting or mood, then your ability to be flexible enough to get the job done goes away. And that's a big miss on your part. Make adaptability part of your studying vocabulary with this restatement, so that no matter the situation, you're always ready to learn what you need to before your exam.
Negative Statement #3: I Hate Studying For This
Hate is a really strong word psychologically, even though we use it in everyday speech all the time. The problem with the word "hate" is that you begin to internalize whatever you happen to label with it. If you say that you hate GRE prep, for instance, then you've given yourself permission to approach your study sessions with a negative attitude. Approaching anything with a negative attitude breeds chaos, dysfunction and a lack of success. Your hate will eventually morph your study sessions into something you will not be able to tolerate (why should you put yourself through anything you hate?), and you will crush your own hopes of getting the score you wanted on the exam.
Replacement Statement #3: I accept that I must study for this.
You don't have to love something or even enjoy it in order to do it. Ask the person who shovels manure on a daily basis if he or she loves the job. Studying may not be your favorite thing to do, but you still need to come at it with an open attitude – one of acceptance. By saying that you accept the studying, you take responsibility for it, and responsibility can breed a certain contentment with it. Someone who shovels manure has come to terms with the position if they've been doing it for a while, and it's the same way with studying. It may not be fun, but it'll give you something that you want: a good grade, a higher GPA, admissions into the school of your choice. So while you may never love it, you can at least accept it and take what it gives you.