Cleaning out some old filing cabinets, I came across my NLP folders, which contained a lot of articles and ideas and notes and different kinds of programs. mostly from the late 80s and early 90s. Good stuff, still. So, I thought to reread a couple of articles that I had saved.

One of them was on the benefits of positive self-talk as it relates to performance improvement. The ideas were well researched and well presented, and it got me thinking about organizational and team-based improvements as it relates to how we frame things.

These days, the statistics and stories all point to a lot of organizational engagement issues. The numbers are not good and many are frustrated with how things are and how things are working from both the perspective of the worker as well as the management team.

One of the key points in the article was how we “language” things — do we self-talk negatively about the current state of things? For many (or most), the answer is Yes. We talk about problems and fears, we focus on what is wrong and not on moving things forward or making improvements. And this does not lead to improvements in morale or intrinsic motivation or anything really positive — the research says that it leads the other way and that our inner attitudes are shaped by our thoughts.

Experts as well as the research suggest that, “more than three quarters of everything we think is negative, counterproductive and works against us.” And, if anything, this is probably more true today in the workplace than in the good old days of the 1980s…

The brain basically does what we tell it to do (my doctoral degree was in behavioral neurophysiology). So, how we think is critically important to the choices we make. So, how do we change things? How do we reprogram our thinking patterns.

Again, the research says that we need to frame things differently, that we make different choices in how to think about things. It is actually pretty easy to frame things differently and each of us has full control of our own thoughts as well as some degree of influence on other people. You cannot stop thinking of things, but you can choose how that thinking represents itself.

Square Wheels One represents how things really work...

Square Wheels represent how things really work…

My suggestion, after doing the reading, some thinking, and some additional research, is to change our model of thinking.

What we need to do is focus on what we can do differently in the future. Yes, we may be rolling on Square Wheels at the moment,  but what Round Wheels might we try to implement and how might things change or improve if we were to do so?

We have lots of choices and alternatives and the ideas already exist for most of us. If we flub a sales call, our thinking should focus on what we did well (what worked smoothly) and what we could do better next time. If we’re kayaking and flub a drop on the river, the review of that run of the rapid should focus on where we should have been in the boat and what we should have done to navigate that rapid successfully. Heck, in the river, you can even go back and do it again within a few minutes. Doing it successfully builds the confidence you need to run the next rapid well.

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

This is all about how we think about things and the choices we make. Intrinsic motivation comes from building on past successes to generate future ones.

If you are managing people, you can acquire a simple toolkit of cartoons to involve and engage people in talking about possibilities for the future. You can find this facilitation toolkit at

We also have a more formalized toolkit for coaching individuals and groups that you can find at

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