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Self-Talk the Only Resolution You Need

This column was first published in the Reading Eagle on January 31, 2023.

Making New Year’s resolutions is losing its appeal as an annual tradition. According to, only 38.5% of U.S. adults set New Year’s resolutions every year; of those, a dismal 9% successfully keep their New Year’s resolutions.

So, what’s a better way? Commit to positive self-talk.

Types of self-talk

Psychology Today describes self-talk as our inner voice that provides a “running monologue” that helps the brain “interpret and process daily experiences.” It can be positive or negative. Positive self-talk frequently leads to good performance while negative self-talk always leads to negative performance.

A Huntington University Exercise Science Program video identifies three-types of Self-Talk:  Positive, Negative and Instructive

Positive — encouraging and optimistic; e.g. you got this, keep prodding forward it will get easier, I promise

Negative — discouraging and pessimistic; e.g. you are not good enough to be in this job

Instructive — guiding and helpful; e.g. the monologue that we hear as we learn a new skill, like how to use an app on our phone

ProfPoll on self-talk

What kind of self-talk do readers talk? That’s the topic of our ProfPoll in which 18 individuals participated.

After sharing the three types of self-talk, I posed three questions

Question No. 1:  Are you aware of the self-talk your inner voice provides?

Never: 0%

Rarely: 6%

Sometimes: 22%

Most of the Time: 39%

Always: 33%

Most respondents say they are aware of the self-talk they hear — Most of the Time at 39% and Always at 33%. Remember, awareness is half the battle.

Question No. 2:  Based on the three types of self-talk described above, which of the three do you hear the most?

Instructive Self-Talk: 44%

Negative Self-Talk: 39%

Positive Self-Talk: 17%

Instructive Self-Talk is the inner voice most heard, followed closely though by Negative Self-Talk. That Positive Self-Talk is a distant third is disappointing but not surprising.

Question No. 3:  Considering your response from the previous questions, please share an example of that type of self-talk (Instructive, Negative or Positive).

I have categorized the responses according to the three types.


“In the morning I frequently self-talk my way through what I need to accomplish that day.”

“When I’m learning a new skill, I talk myself through it as if I were training someone else. “First do this, ok now do that, no wait, more like this I think, yes that’s right, ok next step …”

“When presented with a challenge I talk out the end result and how I can get there.”

“When I’m feeling anxious, I remind myself of the tools at my disposal to try to get the anxiety under control.”


“Unworthy. Never be good enough. Mostly related [to] family issues. What am I doing wrong?”

If something … doesn’t go completely right, I often mutter to myself, “Stupid, stupid, stupid” or “‘my own name,’ you dummy.” The irony is, I have worked for almost 40 years in … fields in which the importance of positive self-talk is always stressed. Despite my own frequent negative self-talk, I’m good at talking with others about the importance of positive self-talk.


“I remember when I was at my biggest weight… Once I became kind to myself and recognized the beauty inside and out, everything fell in place. I took better care of myself and was patient and my biggest cheerleader.”

“Usually complimenting myself on the outcome of a task or project.”

“Now remember, you need to be calm and patient as you drive up (road name). There will be slow trucks. Just take your time.”

“Typically, I use or create [daily] affirmations for myself and for my business. Example: Every day in every way, my world is expanding with promise, productivity, and prosperity!”

All Three:

“I feel I most frequently have a cycle of all three. First, I beat myself up over something I haven’t done well, then I make a plan in my head to try to fix it, and then try to talk positively and reassure myself that it will get better.”

“We’re usually better at helping others practice positive self-talk than we are at helping ourselves be positive self-talkers.”

“Positive affirmations and self-talk does get results — weight loss, productivity, managing anxiety.”

“We are extremely unkind to ourselves — we name-call, demean and support the imposter syndrome.”

Practicing positive self-talk

We’re pretty good at negative self-talk. But, Forbes offers some ways we can develop our positive self-talk:

• self-distancing — using language that creates difference when trying to process internal events, as if it were happening to someone else; it might sound like a mind-game (and it is), but it can make it easier to manage the negative

• broaden-and-build — looking at the big picture, and brainstorming a wide range of possibilities helps maintain a reasonably objective perspective.

• self-affirmations — gives us a larger context about ourselves rather than falling into the trap of harsh self-judgment

• relationship with your parts — seeing “unpleasant emotional states” at arm’s length, so worry, anger, or frustration don’t consume us

• self-compassion — simply put, being kind to yourself, as we are to others

Positive self-talk is the best way to start the new year. It may be difficult at first, but practice still does make perfect, or at least positive.

Next Column:  Passion or Effort — What Drives Your Career?

Dr. Santo D. Marabella, The Practical Prof, is a professor emeritus of management at Moravian University and hosts the podcast “Office Hours with The Practical Prof … and Friends.” His latest book, “The Lessons of Caring” is written to inspire and support caregivers (available in paperback and eBook). Website:; Twitter: @PracticalProf; Facebook: ThePracticalProf.