By Andrew Leigh


Our words and thoughts are like seeds planted in our mind – the good ones grow and flourish, and we will gain fantastic benefits when they do. But the negative words and thoughts – well they can grow too. And like weeds in a garden, they’ll choke and stunt the growth of our better selves. When the weeds of negative language are rampant in our mind it’s impossible for our abilities and achievements to blossom to their full potential.

It’s time for a little gardening. Some weeding here, some planting there can make a huge difference to our performance and sense of wellbeing. So much so that you’d be crazy not to do it.

How to spot the weeds

Some of the weeds of negative self-talk can be very obvious, and yet just as in a real garden they can grow tall without us even noticing them. And that’s not all – every instance of negative self talk sows its own seeds to make sure that there are always plenty more to come.

Here’s one of the more serious weeds, and what to plant in its place.

Calling yourself names – the Useless Idiot Bindweed

The trouble with calling yourself names is that your subconscious begins to believe it. We make a mistake or do something wrong and immediately we’re telling ourselves we’re useless, an idiot, a klutz – or all three. And that’s when we’re being mild!

The trouble with this kind of talk, apart from it gradually lowering your self esteem, is that it stops you from learning from your mistakes. With this kind of talk you already know why you sliced your golf drive, forgot to make that important call or lost that sale. It’s because you’re an idiot – and you know what? – you’ll just go and do it again as soon as you get chance. This kind of thinking condemns you to a self-supporting cycle of failure and self abuse. We begin to accept it as a truth.

How to weed it – Pattern Breaking

This is a simple technique that will make those self-abusive thoughts wither and die. First of all listen to yourself more carefully to become aware of when they sprout up. When you hear one, say to yourself ‘STOP’ and replace it with a positive thought. It’s helpful here to break the pattern with an action as well as the word. So snapping your fingers, clapping your hands or slapping your leg all work well.

What to Plant

We want to plant something more positive. An affirmation, a simple positive statement about yourself, can be brilliant here. Telling yourself something like: ‘that’s not like me – I’ll do better next time,’ can be very helpful. A good way of designing your affirmation is to listen to your own special ‘idiot’ statement and form the positive opposite. So instead of ‘I’m a clumsy dope,’ you might come up with ‘I am careful and intelligent.’ Don’t worry if you don’t necessarily believe the statement at the moment – we’re planting seeds remember, and the seed is not the fully grown plant. With repetition those seeds will begin to grow.

It’s even more productive to also view your mistake as a learning opportunity. Get into the habit of reviewing the situation that led to your error. This can take a little courage at first, but telling yourself ‘I can learn from this,’ and then applying that learning the next time will really get your own internal garden growing. With practice not only will you be doing things differently and much better, you’ll be starting to value yourself a whole lot more in the process.

So don’t you owe it to yourself to start your gardening now?

See part 2 for more tips on weeding out the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.

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Andrew Leigh helps people achieve better work and business performance, whole-life wellbeing, achievement and change, and fulfilling new life directions.

To find out more about how life coaching can transform your life visit

Copyright 2006 – Andrew Leigh. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way and give author name credit.