“Pull out a blank piece of paper,” the professor said as the class’s lively chatter suddenly fell to a hush.  They were the unenthusiastic recipients of a pop quiz. This particular professor was known for pushing students harder, demanding more, and giving tough tests. The rush of anxiety that swept over the room was palpable.

As you read this, you’re likely not in a classroom faced with a dreaded pop quiz, but doesn’t the thought of one still make you cringe?

What if I told you I was about to give you one right now? Would that change your opinion? What if I told you without even studying, you might get 100% and have fun while doing it?

Here goes…

I’m going to give you a phrase and you tell me what it’s connected to. Ready?

  • Melts in your mouth not in your hands.
  • The quicker picker upper.
  • Bet you can’t eat just one.
  • Just do it!
  • Can you hear me now?
  • There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s…

How’d you do?

If you weren’t sure of any, the answers will be at the bottom. (No skipping ahead to check.)

What’s the point?

The point is unlike a tough college class, you didn’t have to study to remember a single one of those yet you probably still got them all right. You didn’t read a text book or write a research paper. Still you remembered them. Why?

Because words are sticky. We connect words to things, emotions, or situations without even trying. Here’s the catch… the same internal magic that caused you to remember those phrases, even if you haven’t heard them for years, is at work making other connections.

How so? If for example you make a mistake and without missing a beat say or think “I’m so stupid”  or “I’m dumb.” You’ve just made a connection between a situation and a statement about your self-worth. If you try something and it doesn’t quite work out and you say “I’ll never figure this out.” Or, after trying to lose weight the scale won’t budge so you tell yourself “I’ll never be able to lose weight.” You’re making connections that you’ll remember long into the future.

When we associate our mistakes with negative self-talk, we’re short changing ourselves and diminishing our potential. In the future as soon as we encounter a similar situation, we’re quick to remember the phrase we associated with it. Just as fast as we remembered the advertising slogans, we’re beating ourselves up saying we’ll never do better, we’ll always be alone, we’re not worth it, or we’re stupid.

If negative self-talk creeps into your thoughts, replace the phrases with positive, motivating phrases. Instead of saying “I’ll never …” say “My past missteps don’t determine my current of future success.” Catch your negative thoughts. Replace them with encouraging thoughts that help you and don’t tear you down. You words have power! Don’t talk to yourself in a way you’d never let someone else talk to someone you love. Negative self-talk disrespects you, and you deserve better!

The answers for the slogans: Melts in your mouth not in your hands – M&M, The quicker picker upper – Bounty.  Bet you can’t eat just one – Lays Potato Chips. Just do it! – Nike. Can you hear me now – Verizon. There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mastercard.

How’d you do?

The next time negative self-talk tries to creep into your thoughts, remember the slogan pop-quiz. Capture the negative thought and replace it.

As always, I welcome your comments. Join the conversation and tell me what you think.