How many people talk to themselves? As you’re reading this, you might even be saying to yourself, “Who me? I don’t talk to myself.”

There are those who think people who talk to themselves are crazy, but nothing could be further from the truth. People who talk to themselves are competitive and they are often trying to better themselves.

I’m constantly talking to myself because when you do this you are coaching yourself. It’s an opportunity to give yourself some constant, immediate, unfiltered feedback. You have access to yourself 24 hours a day. And the price is right.

Years ago, when I was building Mackay Envelope Company, I had a lot of pep talks with myself. I had to, in order to keep my dream of owning my own company alive. I had plenty of ups, many downs, and needed all the encouragement I could get. And it wasn’t always coming from other sources! So I kept telling myself that things would work out… that I could pull this off… that I was the right person for the job. Forty-plus years and a few zillion envelopes later, I’m glad I listened.

In doing some research on this subject, I discovered that “private speech,” as psychologists call it, starts as soon as kids learn to talk, typically between 18-24 months. It serves two purposes: It (1) helps kids practice language skills and (2) allows them to reflect on daytime experiences. (And let’s not forget how it entertains eavesdropping parents.) In elementary school, kids begin to transition to self-talk or intra-personal communication.

“A lot of parents think that it’s socially unacceptable or weird if a child talks to himself,” says Laura Berk, distinguished professor of psychology at Illinois State University and author of Awakening Children’s Minds. “But in fact it’s normal and typical, and we find that children who engage in task-relevant private speech generally perform better over time.”

I agree 1,000 percent.

Unfortunately, as kids become adults, I’m afraid they grow out of talking to themselves. Maybe it’s because society frowns on it. But the self-talk I’m referring to is not a sign of insecurity, insanity, or schizophrenia.

I talk to myself to help me think and map out my thoughts, to provide feedback, and, probably most important of all, to motivate myself.

Jack Canfield, co-creator of the wildly successful “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books, tells us that research shows that the average person talks to him/herself thousands of times a day! There’s a downside to this research, however: It is 80 percent negative. Things like what you should have done or said instead of what actually happened, your shortcomings, your fears, and so on. Those negative thoughts have tremendous influence over our behavior. But you can change them.

I advise every one of you to continue to talk to yourself throughout your life. I want you to ask yourself: How am I doing? Am I living up to my commitments? I want you to evaluate yourself after a presentation or after a one-on-one with a potential customer. Tell yourself what you could have done better, what you absolutely aced, what you will do on the next call or with the next customer.

As with a lot of things, you have two choices. You can talk yourself into success or failure, into feeling good or bad, thinking positively or negatively. The choice is yours, but you can train yourself to use self-talk as a positive tool. It is up to you to decide whether the conversation in your head is helpful or hurtful. Remember, you can talk yourself out of negative thoughts.

And if you need more than talk, try a little visualization exercise too. Seeing yourself as successful, seeing where you want to go, seeing how you will get there — add that to your self-talk and you can be invincible.

People talk about the brain as a computer. You need to program your brain to motivate yourself. Turn off the autopilot and take control of what you tell your brain to do.

Attitude is everything. You must build up your confidence and positive energy. Focus on the best thing that can happen, not the worst. Too many people talk themselves out of good ideas. Let your thoughts take you where you want to go.

Mackay’s Moral: Great success can come from small conversation.

[Ed. Note: Harvey Mackay has written five New York Times bestselling books, two of which were named among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time – Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware The Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt.  His latest book, Use Your Head To Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You, was released on Feb. 18.  Harvey is a nationally syndicated columnist and has been named one of the top five speakers in the world by Toastmasters International.  He is also chairman of the $100 million MackayMitchell Envelope Company, a company he started in 1960.For two free bonus reports featuring Harvey’s most powerful essays on leadership, goal achieving, business success, and much more, go here.]

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