Stay left of your BUT!!

Accountability Books Courage


Key Point: It is important for us to be thoughtful and aware of our self-talk.  Most of us spend an awful lot of time talking to ourselves. Yet we may not appreciate how our self-talk creates vivid images that evoke feelings, which often powerfully translate into self-fulfilling behavior and performance. You’ve likely heard the story about golfer’s who negative self-talk… “Geez, I’m likely going to shank this shot.” And of course, the body is happy to comply. Somehow if one says, “don’t bonk,” our action somehow forgets the “don’t” part.  On the other hand, we know that visualizing an outcome we desire can result in remarkable performance. Audience griping musicians, gold medal winning athletes, life saving surgeons and others often visualize the preferred ending before starting their “performance.” 

Dr. Peter Jensen is an internationally recognized authority on high performance. Since completing his Ph.D. in sports psychology, he has attended seven Olympic games as a member of the Canadian Olympic team and has worked with more than 40 medal-winning athletes and coaches. He is the author of The Inside Edge, which offers advice on improving personal and organizational performance under pressure. Recently Peter posted a white paper that included five things we can do to move the stories we tell ourselves from hindering to helpful. Here are Dr. Jensen’s recommendations: 

“1. Challenge what you believe.

American sociologist Louis Wirth said that the ‘single most important thing you need to know about yourself is what assumptions are you operating on that you never question?’

2. Reframe your inner dialogue.

Consciously work to make your self-talk more ‘action oriented’. Self- talk oriented around ‘what else can go wrong’ or ‘now what?’ is less helpful than seeing a problem for what it is, a puzzle to be solved. The truth is that we all have a long history of solving the problems put in front of us and dealing with change. A quick level- headed look back at how we felt about other changes when they were first introduced and where we are now in relation to them demonstrates that we are very good at this but don’t have to go through it with the same angst we did last time.

3. Breathe!

When you find that your inner stories or choice of words are creating stress or pressure, follow your mother’s advice, step back, take a few deep breaths, and move to a more appropriate mindset.

4. Stay left of your ‘but.’

A hockey coach I know encourages his players to ‘stay left of your ‘but.’ What he means by this is on those occasions where you are telling yourself a story such as, ‘I know I should be 
more patient with her but…” Simply stay left of your but and do what you need to do.

5. Question your self-talk.

Finally, spend some time asking yourself questions about what you’re saying to yourself. ‘Where did this come from? Is it helpful? Do I have to, want to, think like this?’”

Character Moves: 

  1. Start with no. 5. Become much more aware of your self-talk. How do you talk to yourself? What are you saying? Why? Is that how you would talk to your most loved ones?
  2. Really try staying to the “left of your but.” Watch and listen to others (to learn rather than judge). Once people cross over to the right side of the “but,” we often forget what was on the left. The same thing happens inside our heads, hearts and hands. Stay to the left!! 

Staying left in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: You’ll hear phrases like “fake it till you make it,” “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission,” and “you can’t win if you don’t play.” Part of me loves advice like this, it fires me up and motivates. On the other hand, it can also be frustrating because guess what? It demands risk, it’s not easy, and it’s all action-oriented that dares you to “just go for it.” If you notice, it also encourages you to disregard the “but.” When it comes to significant issues like our employment, the absence of a “safety net” in these situations can evoke hesitation… At its worst, it can cause us to stand still. The next time my inner monologue is second guessing itself, I want to remember I’ve gotten this far, so perhaps I can jump more often… At the very least, keep marching forward.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis