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Boosters and Reducers: Curing Your Negative Self-Talk

Do you consistently unlock the champion performer that lies within you? Are you always able to perform your best when it matters the most? Can you bring your A game to your sales opportunities? The answer to these three questions represents the degree to which you engage your “performance intelligence.”

These are the same questions that I have helped world champion and Olympic athletes answer for the past 33 years, and now I am helping insurance advisors answer them. The keys to success are identical.

Every one of you is gifted. However, most of you have not unwrapped your gifts because they are buried under layers of self-doubt, lack of self-confidence or fear of failing. My intent is to show you how to tear away these negative psychological layers, to reveal your true potential and help you flourish.


Performance IQ Reducer No. 1: Being trapped in toxic self-talk

Mental health professionals now understand that the stress you experience does not come from adverse, disrupting events that take place in your job, such as the impact of the Department of Labor fiduciary standard, dealing with toxic and demanding clients, or your competition.

Whether such circumstances actually cause stress is strictly based on the conversations you have with yourself about those instances. These conversations are based on belief patterns that have been ingrained in your mind for years.

Unfortunately, many of us are taught problematic belief patterns by well-meaning parents and other key influencers. Such beliefs always lead to out-of-kilter, stressful reactions. For example:

  • “If I’m not perfect, I consider myself a failure.”
  • “My goal is to always please people, even if I sacrifice what I want, because I need to be liked.”
  • “I should avoid confrontations with my clients, not assert myself, never take risks and always fly under the radar.”


I refer to these kinds of beliefs as “linguistic toxicity.” They always lead to stress-related emotions, such as anxiety, tension, anger, frustration, depression, hopelessness and helplessness.


Performance IQ Booster No. 1: Recognize and reframe your toxic self-talk

Peak Performance = Talent + Knowledge + Experience minus Distractions


As insurance professionals, you may have the knowledge, the experience and the talent to perform well in your profession. However, the key determinant of whether you maximize peak performance and minimize stress is whether you can recognize and eliminate the distractions (i.e., negative self-talk habits) that knock you down.

Put simply, your goal is to recognize thought patterns that trigger stress reactions and how to stop them quickly. You want to move from “linguistic toxicity” to “linguistic nutrition.” Here is an example of a five-step process to deal with this major cause of stress.


1. Recognize a stress-triggering thought: “Will the DOL ruling negatively impact my career and my success?”


2. Have a wide (not tight) rubber band on your wrist, and snap away to stop that thinking dead in its tracks.


3. Take a few deep, relaxing breaths: in through your nose to the count of four, hold it for four, and out through your mouth to the count of seven.


4. Counterpunch that toxic thought with healthy, rational thoughts such as, “I can use my creative thinking to come up with proactive discussions with clients about how important fiduciary rules are for them and how I fully embrace the rules. I will continually be proud of my honorable career of protecting families from risk and giving them peace of mind.”

5. Anchor this healthy thinking by once again taking a few deep, relaxing breaths: in through your nose to the count of four, hold it for four, and out through your mouth to the count of seven.


Performance IQ Reducer No. 2: Using pessimistic explanations to yourself whenever you have a setback

How do you explain disappointing outcomes, such as a failed sales attempt, to yourself? How do you persevere and remain resilient under such adverse circumstances? Do you view such disappointments as overwhelming disasters or as manageable hurdles that can be overcome?

These three questions form the essence of whether your “explanatory style” for adverse events and circumstances is
optimistic or pessimistic. Your explanatory style represents one of the most powerful determinants of your job success or failure. Explanatory style is broken down into three components:


» Your perception of the cause of the unfortunate event or outcome.


» Your perception of the permanence of the unfortunate outcome in your view.


» How pervasive you view this outcome, relative to your overall abilities and skills.


Pessimistic Explanatory Style

When a disappointing outcome takes place, pessimistically oriented people tend to blame themselves (internal cause), believe these events will continue to plague them (permanence), and see this situation as just another example of their inability to be successful (pervasive).

Pessimistic thinkers believe these failures will continue to happen, feel helpless to do anything about it, and see this event as an example of their overall ineptitude.

Pessimistically oriented folks do not take credit when they are successful. They explain this success in a negative way, such as, “That was a lucky break for me because the client was really in need of a product like this.” They see their success as a fluke, unlikely to repeat itself.


Performance IQ Booster No. 2:
Whenever you experience disappointments, give yourself an optimistic explanation

Scientific research has found that, compared with pessimistically oriented life insurance professionals, optimistically oriented ones had half the burnout rates in their first year and made 37 percent more sales. 


Optimistic Explanatory Style

When they are successful, optimistically oriented folks take full credit, believing, “Good things happen to me because of my work ethic and skills.” They believe good things will continue to happen to them for these reasons, and they see this outcome as an example of many areas of their lives where they have the skills and talent to be successful.

The good news is that you are not a prisoner of your past thinking. You are in charge of whether you will have optimistic or pessimistic self-talk after disappointing situations, and you can train yourself to change your thinking and expectations.


Performance IQ Reducer No. 3: Continuing your self-defeating habits

One of my biggest challenges with both athletes and insurance professionals is helping them develop and maintain new habits that will lead to maximized success.

The key to maximizing your Performance IQ and permanently developing healthy thinking habits is what I call the “4-R” process.


Performance IQ Booster No. 3:
Write down a 4-R plan for increasing your own performance IQ, and stick to it

Sample plan: (Write down these four steps and share them with a coworker, spouse, or friend as a partner to help you stick to them.)


1. “I will Recognize my toxic self-talk habits and share them with my partner. Whenever I catch myself engaging in those self-defeating habits, I will immediately stop them, using the process described above.”


2. “As part of the process, I will always Reframe toxic self-talk with nutritious self-talk, telling myself that there are always healthier explanations and descriptions of disappointments that I can give to myself.”


3. “As part of this process, I will Release the negative energy of the past experience that can distract me from the positive energy of the present.”


4. “Whenever I recognize myself interpreting unfortunate events in a pessimistic way, I will Re-energize myself with optimistic self-talk.” 


Jack Singer is the author of The Financial Advisor’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide, and the president of He may be contacted at [email protected]


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