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Big Wave Surfer João de Macedo on Overcoming Negative Self-Talk After Failure

If your inner monologue undermines your efforts, here are some strategies to overcome negative self-talk once and for all.
by Michael Benninger | Apr 1 2020

In our daily lives, many of us experience an inner voice that echoes a mixture of our thoughts, beliefs, and biases. This voice can influence our actions and play a huge role in determining whether we succeed — or fail — in whatever we attempt to accomplish. Few people are more familiar with this phenomenon than big-wave surfer João de Macedo, whose inner monologue can mean the difference between life and death when he’s in the water. Here’s a quick clip of João dropping into a mammoth wave in Nazaré, Portugal, in 2016.

A few years ago, at a time when João was growing more famous and big-wave surfing was growing more competitive, the Portuguese surfer began to struggle with the pressure he felt from fans, sponsors, and himself. He allowed his negative thoughts to impact his performance, resulting in devastating rides like this one in 2018 at Mavericks, California’s legendary surf spot.

In the latest episode of Blinkist’s new collaboration with Invisible Media, State of Mind, João opens up about his struggle with negative self-talk and explains how he bounced back after sinking into a slump that almost ended his career. João’s story should resonate with anyone who’s ever had a tough time quieting their inner voice, and his current success is evidence that we can influence our self-talk and leverage it to our advantage.

What Is Negative Self-Talk?

Self-talk is a combination of conscious thoughts and subconscious beliefs that we use to understand ourselves, others, and the world around us. For some people, this chatter can be incredibly constructive and push them to excel in their area of expertise. Many others, however, are apt to adopt negative mindsets that don’t accurately reflect reality. This delusion can have a paralyzing effect on people, to the point where we could lose our passion for activities we once loved.

As João puts it, “Self-talk is a very powerful tool … but sometimes we don’t use it properly and that affects us negatively. … If your self-talk is too critical and if you’re putting yourself down, it becomes very hard to recover and appreciate your accomplishments. … You stop seeing the bigger picture, and you’re just too focused on the smaller details.”

Overcoming Negative Self-Talk

Rather than allowing his negative self-talk to end his career, João learned to quiet his inner critic by allowing himself to fail and having fun in the process. Soon, he found even more success as a surfer, and he continues to inspire athletes around the world.

João’s experience of recovery can apply to any of our lives, but there’s more than one way to conquer your inner critic. Blinkist gives you instant access to several strategies you can use to overcome the invisible obstacles negative thoughts put in your path. Here are some tips taken from the pages of today’s top books about coping with negative self-talk.

Tip #1 — Pessimism is an acquired mindset that can be reversed

In Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Martin Seligman explains that people aren’t born being optimistic or pessimistic. Rather, we adopt these mindsets during childhood, and it is possible to fundamentally change the way you talk to yourself by following the author’s “ABC” technique.

Tip #2 — Self-judgments are the expression of unmet needs

According to Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, all forms of judgment result from unfulfilled desires. When experiencing negative self-talk, ask yourself “What unmet need am I expressing?” and replace the self-judgment with a more compassionate statement.

Tip #3 — Practice “positive flooding” during challenging situations

In The Joy in Business: Innovative Ideas to Find Positivity (and Profit) in Your Daily Work Life, Joy Baldridge outlines how readers struggling with negative thoughts can reprogram their brains by repeating a positive statement 20 times in a row every morning and every night for an entire month.

Tip #4 — View yourself as a producer — not a powerless victim

Neil Fiore, author of The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play says it is possible to change your inner monologue by changing your vocabulary. By starting sentences with “I want to,” “I will,” or “I decided to,” you’ll be more likely to achieve your goals.

Tip #5 – Embrace your failures to achieve success

In Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, John C. Maxwell reveals how failure can be beneficial by helping us learn about our weaknesses and pushing us to grow. So instead of feeling down if you don’t achieve your aim, view it as a valuable opportunity to unlock success next time.

You don’t need to be facing the crushing force of an enormous wave in order to experience self-doubt. João de Macedo was on the verge of walking away from a sport he had devoted his life to, but instead, he learned to view his self-talk in a different light, and that saved his career.

If negative thoughts ever overwhelm you, count on Blinkist to help you learn new ways to reverse counter-productive thinking and live with a more positive mental attitude. Our library includes hundreds of self-help books about psychology and success, and one of the takeaways from these books could transform your life — and your self-talk — forever. So stop focusing on your failures and start viewing them as stepping stones to success.

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